Confirmed: Mysterious ancient Maya book, Grolier Codex, is genuine

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A page from the Grolier Codex, now confirmed by an international team of scholars to be the oldest bound book found in the Americas. In a rare reversal, archaeologists have determined that a Maya book written almost 900 years ago is genuine–after decades of believing it was fake. The Grolier Codex was so named because it was first displayed in 1971 at the book lovers’ Grolier Club in New York City. Archaeologist Michael Coe, who arranged the 1971 showing, later described its rather questionable history in a book . It was acquired in a spectacularly scammy way in 1966 by a Mexican collector named Josué Sáenz. Coe says that Sáenz told him that a group of unknown men offered to sell the book to him, along with a few other items found “in a dry cave” near the foothills of the Sierra de Chiapas. They would only sell it if Sáenz agreed never to tell anyone or show the book. The collector, intrigued, took a plane to a remote airstrip with two experts, who declared the codex fake. But Sáenz went with his gut and bought the codex. After allowing Coe to display it in New York, he gave it to the Mexican government. There were a number of good reasons to believe the Grolier Codex was fake–beyond the sketchy way Sáenz procured it. Unlike three other Maya Codex finds, it had writing on only one side of each of its 10 pages. Plus, some of the pages appear to have been cut relatively recently. There are odd discrepancies in the book’s calendar system, hinting that a forger might have been trying to imitate a calendar he saw in another Maya artifact. The drawings are also unusual for a Maya document, combining styles of the Mesoamerican Mixtec people with Toltec attire. The Toltec were often hailed by the Aztecs as ancestors, and their art shares many similarities with late Maya art. Though carbon dating placed the Codex’s bark pages during the late Maya period, it was not unknown for looters to find blank pages in ancient Maya caches and cover them in fake hieroglyphs to make them more valuable. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Confirmed: Mysterious ancient Maya book, Grolier Codex, is genuine

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