Mayan hieroglyphic script Mayan script

Origin

The Mayan civilisation lasted from about 500 BC to 1200 AD, with a classical period from 300-900 AD. The earliest known writing in the Mayan script dates from about 250 BC, but the script is thought to have developed at an earlier date. Recent archeological finds indicate that the Mayan civilisation started much earlier: around 3,000 BC.

In about 1566, the first bishop of Yucatan, Diego de Landa, compiled a key to the Mayan syllabary consisting of 27 Spanish letters and the Mayan glyphs with similar sounds. This became known as the Landa Alphabet and helped with the decipherment of the script, even though it was based on the false premise that the script was alphabetic.

For a long time many scholars believed that the script did not represent a language at all, or that it wasn't a complete writing system. The first major breakthrough in decipherment came during the 1950s when a Russian ethnologist, Yuri Valentinovich Knorosov, proposed that the Mayan script was at least partly phonetic and represented the Yucatec Mayan language. His ideas were not welcomed by other Mayanists, but he was eventually proved correct.

Further progress in the decipherment was made during the 1970s and 1980s when more linguistics began to take an interest in the script. Today most Mayan texts can be read, though there are still some unknown glyphs.

A gripping account of the decipherment of the Mayan script can be found in Breaking the Maya Code, by Micheal D. Coe.

The Yucatec Maya continued to use the Mayan script until at least the 16th century. Recently, their descendants have started to learn the script once again from the scholars who have deciphered it.

Notable features

The Mayan syllabary

Mayan syllabary

Mayan syllabary

Mayan syllabary

Numerals

Mayan numerals

Sample texts in some of the modern Mayan languages

Huasteco (Teenek)

Patal an inik ani an uxum u wa'tsinal walkadh abal jununúl kin bats'uw an alwa'taláb ani ka pidhan in éy jant'ini' in tomnál; in kwa'al in tsalpádh ani in k'ayá' abal kin k'anidha' in juntal.

Kaqchikel (Kaqchikel Ch'ab'äl)

Konojel ri winaqi' kan kalaxib'en pe ri kolotajïk, ri junan kiq'ij, ri junan kejqalen, junan kich'ojib'al pa kik'aslen, xa achi'el k'a ri kik'ojlen, ri kinojib'al kichajin xa tik'amun k'a chi nimaläj konojel xtikajo' ki'.

Mam (Qyol Mam)

Kyaqiilqe winaq nchi itz'aj tuj kopib'il, juunx kychuwiinqal b'ix kyokleen, kyja'tzan tuj tb'aanal xiinv'il tu'n kyanq'iin tuj b'ank'u'j kyxool.

Q'echi'

Chijunil li poyanam juntaq'eet wankil xloq'al naq nake'yo'la, ut kama' ak reheb' naq wan xna'leb'eb ut nake'reek'a rib', tento naq te'xk'am rib' sa' usilal chirib'ilrib'eb'.

Tojol-a'b'al

Spetsanal ja swinkil ja lu'um k'inali junxta wax jul schonjel, sok ja sijpanub'ali, ja yuj ojni b'ob' sk'u'luk ja jas sk'ana-i ja b'as lekilali, ja yuj ja ay sk'ujoli sok ay spensari t'ilan oj yilsb'aje lek sok ja smoj jumasa.

Tsotsil (Bats'i k'op)

Skotol vinik o ants ta spejel balumile k´olem x-hayan i ko´ol ta sch´ulal i sderechoetik i, skotol k´ux-elan oyike oy srasonik y slekilalik, sventa skuxijik leknóo ta ju jun ju ju vo.

Tzeltal (Batz'il K'op)

Spisil winiketik te ya xbejk´ajik ta k´inalil ay jrerechotik, mayuk mach´a chukul ya xbejka, ya jnatik stojol te jpisiltik ay snopibal sok sbijil joltik, ja´ me k´ux ya kaibatik ta jujun tul.

Yucatec Maya (Màaya t'àan)

Tuláakal wíinik ku síijil jáalk'ab yetel keet u tsiikul yetel Najmal Sijnalil, beytun xan na'ata'an sijnalil yetel no'oja'anil u tuukulo', k'a'abet u bisikuba bey láaktzilil yetel tuláakal u baatzile'.

Translation (of all the above texts)

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

books
  Books about Mayan writing, history and culture
  Mayan language courses, dictionaries and phrasebooks

Links

Information about the Mayan script
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maya_script
http://www.ancientscripts.com/maya.html
http://www.authenticmaya.com/maya_writing.htm

Dictionary of Maya Hieroglyphs
http://www.famsi.org/mayawriting/dictionary/montgomery/

The Mayan Epigraphic Database Project - includes a relational database of Mayan glyphs and an archive of digitally transcribed Mayan texts: http://jefferson.village.virginia.edu/med

Mayan fonts
http://www.dafont.com/font.php?file=mayan
http://babel.uoregon.edu/yamada/fonts/mayan.html
http://www.masterstech-home.com/

Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies
http://www.famsi.org

Mayan Civilization
http://www.crystalinks.com/mayan.html

The Mayan Languages - a database containing more than 40,000 entries for 31 Mayan languages: http://maya.hum.sdu.dk

A Brief Introduction to Yucatec Maya
http://www.mostlymaya.com/yucatec_maya_intro_.htm

A Basic English - Yucatec Mayan Dictionary
http://www.mostlymaya.com/EnglishMayan.html

Yucatán: Identidad y Cultura Maya
http://www.uady.mx/sitios/mayas/

Information about the Junp'iit Maaya (Yucatec Mayan) - includes prounciation some phrases with audio: http://www.unc.edu/depts/ilas/junpiitmaaya/expressions.htm

La Casa en el Arbol - language courses in Mayan (Tsotsil and Tseltal) and Spanish in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico
http://www.lacasaenelarbol.org/escuela-idiomas-mexico/cursos_idiomas.html

Na'atik, Instituto de Lenguas y Culturas - courses in Spanish and Yucatec Maya in Carrillo Puerto, Quintana Roo, Mexico: http://www.naatikmexico.com

Photos of and information about the Maya, Aztec and Inca peoples
http://mayaincaaztec.com

Maya jewelry
http://www.clearlight.com/bolaman/mayaglph.htm

Mayan languages

Aguacateco, Huasteco, Kaqchikel, Ki'che', Mam, Q'eqchi', Tsotsil, Tzeltal, Yucatec Maya

Semanto-phonetic writing systems

Akkadian Cuneiform, Ancient Egyptian (Demotic), Ancient Egyptian (Hieratic), Ancient Egyptian (Hieroglyphs), Chinese, Chữ-nôm, Cuneiform, Japanese, Jurchen, Khitan, Linear B, Luwian, Mayan, Naxi, Sumerian Cuneiform, Tangut (Hsihsia)


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