Amatl In Ancient Mexico

The tradition of making bark paper by hand dates back to the ancient Maya and Nahua peoples. The Maya were the only civilization to develop their own written hieroglyphic language. Transactions were recorded on bark paper, which at that time was called hunn.

The Nahua, also known as Aztecs did not have a true written language but a series of pictorial  images. The Aztecs had folding books containing pages of images which are used to help people study and memorize history and rituals, among other things.

The Spanish arrived and Amatl, as it was originally known, was replaced by European paper, but the remote village of Otomi continued to make paper from fig and mulberry tree bark. This is really important, as the arrival of the Spanish caused many ancient papers to be destroyed and all but erased the bark paper making skill.

It is interesting to note that the Amate process is still considered just as important as whatever is painted or written on it.  Noting that my interest in migrants, surfaces, hand making books drew me to working with this paper. 

‘Amate Bark Painting: Facts, History & Designs’. 2020. [online]. Available at: [accessed 24 Nov 2020].

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