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Acta botánica mexicana

versión On-line ISSN 2448-7589versión impresa ISSN 0187-7151


AVILA BLOMBERG, Alejandro de. Coyote herb, dog poison: Lexical evidence for plant identification in the Codex de la Cruz Badiano. Act. Bot. Mex [online]. 2012, n.100, pp.489-526. ISSN 2448-7589.

Botanical terminology recorded in Codex de la Cruz Badianus has not been studied since the precursory research by Garibay in 1964. An etymological analysis of the plant names, based on recent work on the phonology, grammar and lexical composition of Classical Nahuatl, allows us to propose new identifications for some of the species illustrated in the manuscript, which we have compared with the designations they receive in the contemporary Nahua dialects that have been documented most extensively. The list of plant species that we can determine reliably, supported by lexical, iconographic and ethnobotanical evidence, sheds light on an unexpected biogeographic pattern: the number of genera of southern affinity exceeds by far the total taxa of boreal distribution. We infer thereby that a good part of the pharmacological knowledge of pre-Columbian elites originated in the tropical lowlands, as indicated in analogous manner by the raw materials derived from plants and animals employed in the sumptuary arts. This line of research, which relates Mexico's natural history to the traditional medicine and material culture of indigenous peoples, may provide new clues to clarify the early history of Mesoamerican civilization. To conclude, we examine the role played by the Codex, as the earliest botanical text to be preserved from the New World, in the projects of the Accademia dei Lincei and the course of western science in the 17th century.

Palabras llave : biogeographic affinities; botanical nomenclature in Nahuatl; Codex de la Cruz Badiano; cultural history; lexical analysis.

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