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Maya writing is based on glyphs. Thanks to the epigraphic study, this beautiful writing has been deciphered. Graphic documents have provided the great bulk of information we have about the Maya.

Of the pre-Hispanic civilizations and cultures of America, the Mayan civilization is the only one we can say that had writing. Other Mesoamerican cultures such as Toltec or Aztec share a calendar, and as with the Andean of the Incas, there are indications that they had a basic writing, but can not be classified as such.

Mayan writing

Maya writing is based on glyphs, governed by a syllabic system in combination with idiographic glyphs (logograms). This means that there are syllabic glyphs and others that represent an idea with an icon.

If we want to compare it with some other writing on the Planet, It would be Japanese writing that most closely resembles it.

Glyph shown in syllables

The easiest to decipher in the Mayan writing were the dates, based on the Mayan numerology of points and bars. This caused that for many years it was mistakenly thought that non-numerical glyphs were only idiographic and were gods, representations that accompanied numbers.

They thought that the writing was calendar dates, astronomy accounts, numerical cycles, they thought it was only calculations, not words.

Discover the Mayan writing, a great legacy of the ancient 1
Calendar beads on the wall of a bedroom. Xultún, Guatemala. Font
Mayan numeration. Font

In the sixteenth century the Franciscan Diego de Landa made an attempt to develop a Mayan alphabet transcribed into Spanish. These notes, without being precise in the knowledge of the Mayan writing, served as false clues in the decipherment of the Mayan epigraphy by the English archaeologist J. Eric S. Thompson and the Russian linguist Yuri Valentinovich Knórosov.

It is not until 1960, following Russian studies Yuri Knórosov about a probable syllabic and non-idiographic system, which Tatiana Proskuriakova concludes in her investigation of the glyphs of Piedras Negras (Guatemala) that the written are biographical chronicles of rulers. In this way he discovers that there is narration, there is a story, there is written history.

Undoubtedly, the Mayan people form one of the great civilizations of the History of Humanity.

Discover the Mayan writing, a great legacy of the ancient 2
Notes of Fray Diego de Landa of the Mayan writing

What supports did you use eMayan to write ?

The Maya used several media to record his writings: codices on amate paper (made from plant tissues of tree bark), vases ceramic the same walls murals of the buildings, engraved in stone in stelae and about objects of jade, wood or obsidian.

The glyphs of Piedras Negras which Tatiana Proskuriakova investigated were engraved in stone, were stelae. Each physical support was used for different forms of expression, they collect a different type of story:

Site Museum of Palenque Alberto Ruz Lhuillier, Chiapas
Painted ceramic vessel. Without glyphs in this case.

Why are so few Maya documents written?

Several factors are the cause of the little material that has arrived well preserved for research. El tropical climate of the Mayan lands did not help anything to the conservation of the paper they used. Many wakes have arrived so eroded that they could hardly be read, and many painted murals were blurred.

The constant destruction at the time of colonization of everything that represented Mayan knowledge and culture greatly diminished the Mayan legacy. You just need to remember the Peanut Auto de fe. Another factor was the common misfortune that invades the entire planet: the depredation of the human being, the pillage, the spoliation.

And let's not forget the tiempo, that everything erodes irreversibly if one does not have the care, the interest and the love to preserve it.

Codices written on amate paper. Font

In what Mayan language are they written?

The majority of written records are from the so-called Classic Period, which includes 250 BC per year 900 d. C. It was the period of maximum splendor of the Mayan civilization, of the great lineages, battles, art, discoveries, advances, developments ...

The Mayan languages They have been studied for a long time, they are a group of several. There is almost general agreement about the 8 large sub-groups coming from a common root, which is like the Latin for Romance languages.

Within this classification, Cho'lan is considered the language Classic Maya, the one most related to hieroglyphics, but it is not the only one of which there are records. Of the maya Yukateka and Maya Tzeltal there are also written records. Linguists and epigraphists propose that classical Cho'olti'an was used as the language of the elite.

Discover the Mayan writing, a great legacy of the ancient 3
Map Mayan languages ​​sXVI according to P. Mathews. Reproduction.
Family Mayan languages ​​sXVI according to John Roberston and Stephen Houston. Reproduction.

Who were the scribes in the Mayan world?

La deed as knowledge, it has not been available to all humans in our History. It was an art for a select few, all belonging to the ruling elite, of course. The princes learned the art of writing, were blessed with this gift of the gods.

Notaries in the Mayan world signed some of their works. They recreated and adorned so much in their calligraphy that sometimes it has become difficult to compare glyphs of the same meaning (equal in spelling). Within Mayan cosmology, the god of wisdom, knowledge, arts and writing is represented by a mono.

I love this monkey projection, since I see the human being as resated monkeys.

Discover the Mayan writing, a great legacy of the ancient 4
Photo of Rogelio Valencia

FAMSI (foundation for the advancement of Mesoamerican studies) puts for everyone's knowledge a Mayan epigraphy manual. Click here

Time brings us new surprises that will broaden our knowledge about the Mayan civilization.. Surely they remain to discover glyphs, murals, steles and vessels that remain hidden in the Mayan vestiges that devour the jungle. Mayan writing will continue to whisper ancient stories.

Good way,

Discover the Mayan writing, a great legacy of the ancient 5
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