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Identifying a forged maya manuscript in UNESCO's World Digital Library

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Article of journalEberl, Markus; Prem, Hanns J. (Vanderbilt University, Department of Anthropology, Estados Unidos; Abteilung für Altamerikanistik und Ethnologie, Bonn, Alemania). Identifying a forged maya manuscript in UNESCO's World Digital Library.  / Identificación de un manuscrito maya falsificado en la Biblioteca Digital Mundial de la UNESCO Ancient Mesoamerica, 2011 vol. 22 no. 1 p. 155-166. Keywords:
History | Information, Communication, Media
Manuscritos / bibliotecas digitales / cultura maya
16th century


Among the original holdings of the recently opened World Digital Library was a Spanish manuscript on the Maya that supposedly dates to 1548 (initially available at http://www.wdl.org/en/item/2961). It was given the title El modo de cómo hacían la pintura los indígenas (“How the Indians Made Their Paintings”) and contained an explanation of Maya culture accompanied by drawings of Maya glyphs and deities. Detailed analysis shows that the Pintura manuscript is a fake that belongs to the Canek group of forged manuscripts. It is written in the same hand as the Canek forgeries and shares the same stylistic characteristics with this group. Its drawings copy illustrations from the third English or the second Spanish edition of Sylvanus Morley's The Ancient Maya, and from the Madrid Codex. The World Digital Library aims to make significant primary materials from all UNESCO member countries available on the Internet. Forgeries like the Pintura manuscript undermine the trustworthiness and eminence of this project. While the Pintura manuscript was removed from the World Digital Library in August 2009, researchers may find useful the holistic approach that allowed identifying it as a forgery. A historical document is here examined from six angles. What are its physical makeup, its penmanship, and its linguistic properties? Authentic documents should have a traceable history of documentation (here termed a “pedigree”) and their content should be consistent with well-established sources and with culture- and time-specific conventions.

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