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Precolonial Life in Mexico Shown In Newly Discovered Manuscript

Aug 25, 2016 07:29 AM EDT

An untold number of art and writings from the long gone civilization of precolonial Mexico were thought to be lost forever, but one of them has just been uncovered in an exciting discovery for world news.

A team from the University of Oxford's Bodleian Libraries collaborated with researchers from universities in the Netherlands to image and study a historically significant manuscript that had been hidden for 500 years. Their methodology and results were published in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.

Mexican codices that predates the Spanish colonization of Mexico are some of the most important resources in understanding life during that time. Unfortunately, these artifacts are incredibly rare.

Codex Selden, the codex covering the newly discovered manuscript, was created around 1560 and is one of less than 20 Mexican codices available to scholars from its time period. It's one of only five from the Oaxaca (previously Mixtec) region.

Those familiar with Codex Selden have suspected it is a palimpsest (a document that has replaced a previous document) for more than half a century. Earlier testing methods ran the risk of damaging the rare codex -- it wasn't until modern high tech imaging tools came along that the secret of Codex Selden was revealed.

"After four or five years of trying different techniques, we've been able to reveal an abundance of images without damaging this extremely vulnerable item. We can confirm that Codex Selden is indeed a palimpsest," Leiden University's Ludo Snijders said in a release.

"What's interesting is that the text we've found doesn't match that of other early Mixtec manuscripts. The genealogy we see appears to be unique, which means it may prove invaluable for the interpretation of archaeological remains from southern Mexico."

Codices contain detailed histories of their time periods using pictures and symbols. Troves of historical and cultural information are gathered from them. Researchers are continuing to work on reconstructing and interpreting the entirety of the manuscript.

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