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Sat Nov 5, 2016, 06:56 AM

Once thought a fake, the Grolier Codex is our oldest surviving record of Maya civilization

Once thought a fake, the Grolier Codex is our oldest surviving record of Maya civilization

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Pages from the Grolier Codex, rare surviving fragments of the Maya past. (Enrico Ferorelli)



he Maya were, at their height, one of the world’s great civilisations. In the “classic” period, from AD 250–900, Maya cities with monumental architecture and huge populations spread across a large area through what is now Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and western Honduras. Extensive trade networks connected the Maya to the rest of Mesoamerica, producing the dynamic landscapes and bustling ports reported in early Spanish accounts.

Much of what we know of the Maya comes from codices – screenfold books made of paper from the bark of a fig tree. Pages were coated in a white stucco wash and then painted by scribes with text, which was often accompanied by images. The Spanish in the 16th century reported a flourishing manuscript tradition comprising histories, prophecies, songs, genealogies and detailed information on the movements of the heavenly bodies.

Of the thousands of books produced throughout the Mayas’ long history, however, only three Maya codices were known to have survived, all written in the “postclassic” period after AD 900 and brought to Europe sometime after the conquest. They are named after the cities where they were archived: Dresden, Madrid, and Paris. Now, after years of debate over its authenticity, we can add a fourth manuscript – the Grolier Codex.

The last Maya codices

Information in the surviving codices is presented as either tables or almanacs. Tables record historical events in the absolute calendar system used by the Maya, known as the Long Count, in which time is reckoned after a fixed date. Our Gregorian calendar reckons similarly in that years are counted after the birth of Christ. The Maya counted from a day which in the Gregorian calendar is August 11, 3114 BC. Almanacs on the other hand are organised around the 260-day calendar used throughout Mesoamerica for keeping track of named days for various events. Unlike the Long Count, this 260-day calendar is cyclical, like our own repeated cycles of named weekdays and months.


More:
http://www.rawstory.com/2016/11/once-thought-a-fake-the-grolier-codex-is-our-oldest-surviving-record-of-maya-civilization/

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