Tuesday, June 13, 2006

(40) hell scenes, codes, and memory

It is normal to find mnemonic images in hell scenes, whose purpose was to remind people of the consequences of things. The one in the corner of the Tabletop in the Museo del Prado includes the seven Vices, illustrated and labeled for easy memorization.
The collection of birds in The Garden of Delights/El Jardín de las Delicias looks as though it might come from a book of mnemonic images, although it has not been read as a coded message and might only be a mnemonic for remembering that such codes exist. In the mnemonic illustrated here, which could also be used as a code, A is anser (goose), b is bubo (owl), c is corvus (crow), d is draco (dragon), etc. This code is virtually identical to the radio code used by Navajo code talkers in World War II, where English words were alphabetized and then translated into Navajo. Such codes are difficult to decipher even if they are all in a European language.


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