With the help of hyperspectral imaging, scientists discovered a Mexican codex hidden under layers of chalk and plastic.
After 500 years, the images behind a manuscript in Mexico revealed themselves to the world.
The document bears the name Codex Selden, and it was dated as far as 1560. However, it was considered to be completely blank. It was made out of a piece of deerskin 16 feet long. The material was folded like an accordion, and all its layers were painted with gesso, white paint.
Other Mexican codices contained pictographs that represented words or phrases. They had been later translated and revealed stories about wars and alliances, rituals and genealogies.
The Mexican Codex
Codex Selden came from an area called Oaxaca, and it’s one of the few surviving manuscripts made in America before the arrival of the Europeans.
The deerskin pages had been painted in white and thus appeared blank. However, under the paint, there were dozens of figures in full colors, all of which told a story.
The pictures are painted in yellow, red and orange and represent men and women, with more than 27 people in just one page.
The characters appear standing or sitting, some are walking with spears or sticks, and a part of the women have red hair. Two of figures are thought to be siblings because they are tied with an umbilical cord.
Among the pictures, the scientists recognized a combination of glyphs which may belong to a personal name which also appears in other manuscripts. The experts believe that it belongs to an important person, an ancestral figure for both two known lineages.
As early as the 1950s, the scientists presumed that Codex Selden might also contain pictographs under its white paint. The white color faded from spot to spot and revealed colorful images. It is believed that the color was added because the deerskin was intended for a second use.
Throughout the years, the researchers tried to remove the gesso and managed to reveal part of the images, but the story remained obscure.
Later on, they used infrared imaging to get the general shapes, but the details were fussy. Another technique was X-ray scanning, which also failed because the paintings had been made with organic substances that do not absorb the X-rays.
However, the hyperspectral imaging managed to go through the white paint and collect information from all wavelengths and frequencies in the electromagnetic spectrum.
The researchers have great faith in the capacity of hyperspectral imaging to reveal even more secrets of the ancient Mexican codex, as it permits viewing the images hidden inside fragile manuscripts.
Image Source: Wikipedia