Mystery Maya Codex verified as the OLDEST known text from Ancient America

Researchers have finally confirmed the authenticity of an ancient Maya text which is believed to date back to the 13th century, meaning that it predates ALL major Maya codices such as the  Madrid, Dresden and Paris codices. The study finally solves a long-standing enigma of whether or not the mysterious text was genuine.

Called the Grolier Codex –because it was displayed for the first time ever at the Grolier Club in New York— it was discovered by looters during the 1960’s. Ever since it has been treated with caution by researchers who have disputed its authenticity for decades.

Now, a new analysis of the ancient document not only proves the document is authentic, but it also proves it is the OLDEST known ancient text written in America.

Speaking about the ancient text, anthropologist Stephen Houston from Brown University said: “Its history is cloaked in great drama.”

2394781-grolier-0_1024The Grolier Codex. Wikimedia Commons.


“It was found in a cave in Mexico, and a wealthy Mexican collector, Josué Sáenz, had sent it abroad before its eventual return to the Mexican authorities,” added Stephen Houston.

Along with the ancient manuscript, the looters also found a small wooden mask and a sacrificial knife. These artifacts were not disputed and were deemed as authentic immediately. However, the Ancient manuscript remained an enigma for mainstream scholars who refused to accept its authenticity, mostly because of the way it was discovered.

“It became a kind of dogma that this was a fake,” says Houston. “We decided to return and look at it very carefully, to check criticisms one at a time. Now we are issuing a definitive facsimile of the book. There can’t be the slightest doubt that the Grolier is genuine.”

In order to get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding the Grolier Codex, experts analysed the origins of the ancient text, the illustrations, and iconography, and eventually compared it to other known ancient texts from the Maya.

But perhaps the most important discovery was made when the Grolier Codex was submitted to carbon-dating. Tests revealed tat it predates other Maya codices such as the Madrid, Dresden and Paris codices.

Experts learned that the ancient manuscript was composed sometime in the 13th century.

Interestingly, the analysis also indicates that it would have been nearly impossible to forge in the 1960s. Why? Simply because it would have required aspects of the ancient Maya civilisations that were not discovered by scholars until later in the 20th century.

“A reasoned weighing of evidence leaves only one possible conclusion: four intact Mayan codices survive from the Pre-Columbian period, and one of them,” the researchers write, “is the *Grolier*.”

Donna Yates, a professor at the University of Glasgow and expert in antiquarian art crime  sums up the researchers’ new discovery  in a case study on the Codex:

  • Objections about the calendrics in the Codex can be explained by an accepted alternative function of Maya codices and regional or temporal variations in the mythology of Venus
  • Sharp cuts on the Codex do not indicate modern tools, but rather breaks in the gypsum plaster that was used to prepare the surface of the document
  • The process through which the figures on the Codex were placed conforms to the use of sketch and grid lines seen in Maya murals
  • Radiocarbon dating places the Codex at AD 1257±110 and 1212±40 (although this is the date of the paper, not the images upon it)
  • No modern pigments were found on the Codex, including in the portions rendered in the difficult-to-reproduce “Maya blue”
  • The other items said to have been found with the Codex have been shown to be authentic

Find out more about the historical discovery in Maya Archaeology 3: Featuring the Grolier Codex.

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