Ancient Maya document analyzed

The Chilam Balam Tekax was written to be used by healers, according to an INAH researcher

Ancient Maya document analyzed
English 01/07/2018 11:57 Mexico City Notimex Actualizada 11:57

The first comprehensive study of the Chilam Balam Tekax – and anonymous text written in 1833 in Yucatan Maya language with Latin letters – was published by María de Guadalupe Suárez Castro, a researcher by the Ethnohistory Department of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH).

According to the Suárez, the Chilam Balam prophetic texts were written by several Yucatán communities since the Pre-Hispanic era until the 19th century, kept in the codex collection of the National Library of Anthropology and History.

Although the Chilam Balam Tekax had always been investigated jointly with the Chilam Balam Nah or Na, the researcher decided to focus solely on the first one, which contains a calendar of saints' days, a solar calendar, a lunar calendar, astrological predictions according to zodiac signs and planets, as well as natural remedies.

The codex was written by Maya scribes who had access to European documents, found in churches and libraries of Franciscan convents.

“The authors were individuals part of the hierarchy of the religious system,” according to Suárez.

Suárez spent five years working on her research, claiming this is the first time the text is studied fully, given there was only a translation made in 1981.

“The text was meant to be used by the ah dzac yah (healers), who were experts in treating maladies and performing birth and death rituals amongst the Maya people of Yucatán,” she said.

Suárez wrote an eight-chapter book on her findings, covering the history of the people of Tekax, the history of the manuscript, the intellectual context of the authors, an analysis of the use of the text, and more.

The Chilam Balam Tekax manuscript had 18 pages yet four of them are missing.

In the early 20th century, the codex was relocated to the United States, where it was part of the collection of William Edmond Gates, an expert in Maya studies, and it faded little by little from history until 1947, when it was acquired by the National Library of Anthropology and History (BNAH).

The original incomplete text is safeguarded by the BNAH yet there are reproductions available to be consulted in some U.S. universities, like Harvard University.