INAH exhibits the Maya Codex, the Americas’ oldest existing manuscript

The Maya Codex is on display in Mexico City through Oct. 28. Photo: INAH
The Maya Codex is on display in Mexico City through Oct. 28. Photo: INAH

As promised, INAH has put the Mayan Codex on view at the museum of history and archaeology in Mexico City.

The National Institute of Anthropology and History on Thursday inaugurated the temporary exhibition Códice Maya de México: Eslabón, fuente y testigo (Link, source and witness), giving the public the opportunity to examine the oldest legible manuscript in the Americas.

The show is presented as part of the XXIX International Book Fair of Anthropology and History. The exhibit will be on view until Oct. 28.

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Each of the 10 folios that make up the pre-Hispanic manuscript is displayed in a linear sequence.

The Engineering Faculty of the National Autonomous University of Mexico developed a capsule injected with argon gas to prevent microorganisms and control the humidity surrounding the document during the exhibition. Earlier reports that only facsimiles would be displayed were erroneous.

The 1.75-meter-long capsule is designed specifically for the Early Postclassic (900 – 1200 A.D.) manuscript.

INAH said the calendar-style text was created between 1021 and 1154 A.D. The 10 surviving pages of the tree-bark folding book will now be known as the Códice Maya de México, and not the Grolier Codex. It was previously named for the New York City club that first exhibited it in 1971. A Mexican collector named Josue Saenz bought the codex in 1964 and returned the book to Mexican authorities in 1974.

The text contains a series of observations and predictions related to the the planet Venus’ movement.

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The codex may have originally had 20 pages, but some were lost after centuries in a cave in southern Chiapas.

The fact that it was looted and had a simpler design than other surviving texts had caused doubts among experts. But a series of chemical tests proved the authenticity of the pages and the pre-Hispanic inks used to write it.

Source: INAH

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