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Ancient Maya codex not fake, new analysis claims

If authentic, Grolier text could claim spot as oldest book in Americas

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7:00am, September 26, 2016
grolier codex

GENUINE GODS  A book called the Grolier Codex — once regarded as a fake by some scientists — may be the oldest known manuscript of ancient America. Deities depicted on the book’s 10 surviving pages include a death god with a decapitated captive (left) and a bird/serpent god.

A bark-paper document with a weird backstory and once suspected to be a forgery is the real deal, researchers say. If true, that increases the likelihood that the plaster-coated book covered with painted images and writing is the earliest known manuscript from ancient America, dating back to the 13th century.

No forger could have known how to reproduce all the bookmaking techniques, colored inks and deities pictured in what’s known as the Grolier Codex, concludes a team of researchers who specialize in the Maya and other ancient American societies. For instance, an illustration of a mountain god includes a flaring, cleft head or headdress. Other images of this god were first discovered at Maya sites several decades after the Grolier Codex turned up in the 1960s.

“Even a good faker would not have known about the mountain god’s headdress,” says Maya researcher David Freidel of Washington University in St. Louis, who was not involved in the study.

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