Ancient Maya text authentic: experts


Sat, Sep 01, 2018 - Page 7

Fifty-four years after it was sold by looters, an ancient Maya pictographic text was on Thursday judged authentic by scholars.

Mexico’s National Institute of History and Anthropology said the calendar-style text was made between 1021 AD and 1154 AD and is the oldest known pre-Hispanic document.

The 10 surviving pages of the tree-bark folding “book” is to be known as the Mexico Maya Codex. It was previously known as the Grolier Codex.

It could have had 20 pages originally, but some were lost after centuries in a cave in the southern state of Chiapas.

It contains a series of observations and predictions related to the astral movement of Venus.

Mayan texts are written in a series of syllabic glyphs, in which a stylized painted figure often stands for a syllable.

A Mexican collector bought it in 1964, and it was first exhibited at the Grolier Club in New York in 1971. Collector Josue Saenz returned the book to Mexican authorities in 1974.

As it was looted and had a simpler design than other surviving texts, some doubted its authenticity.

“Its style differs from other Maya codex that are known and proven authentic,” the institute said in a statement.

About three other later Maya books survived an attempt by Spanish conquerors to destroy Mayan artifacts in the 1500s.

However, the institute said that because the book was written so early, it had been created in an era of relative poverty compared to the other works.

A series of chemical tests proved the authenticity of the pages and the pre-Hispanic inks used to write it, it said.

While previous studies had supported the authenticity of the text, it was the end of decades of doubts for the book.

“For a long time, critics of the codex said the style wasn’t Mayan and that it was ‘the ugliest’ of them in terms of figures and color, but the austerity of the work is explained by its epoch; when things are scarce one uses what one has at hand,” institute researcher Sofia Martinez del Campo said.