Out of the historical darkness: A methodological approach to uncover the hidden history of ethnohistorical sources
Indiana 23.2006:15-49
Keywords: ethnohistory, Yucatec Maya Books, document history

##The colonial period has left us with a corpus of indigenous ethnohistorical sources of unknown origin. In many cases, the document history is restricted to the date of discovery by scholars in forgotten remote village archives in the ]9th and 20th centuries and a roughly estimated date of origin. Authorship is frequently unknown. The historical significance often remains rather vague and leads to highly varied interpretations. The methodological challenge of elaborating an appropriate set of research instruments to detect the hidden history of those documents "from within" has been tackled in various ways - with different kinds of documents of different cultures, epochs, and languages. The most famous of these are probably studies on the origin of the Bible. In each case, researchers worked with an individually formed set of analytical instruments. While reconstructing the documentary history of the colonial Yucatec Maya Books of Chilam Balam, the question arose whether there is a universal "toolkit" of analytical instruments that can be used for the analysis of anonymous historical sources in general. The article will demonstrate how different instruments can be combined to reconstruct the documentary development of anonymous sources. providing a better understanding of the profile of the author(s) and a sense of their historical significance. Finally, the results of our research will serve as an example for discussing the possibilities and risks of the methodological approach and its universal character.##