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Maya writing


Subject Linguistics

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631214816.1999.x


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The script of the Maya civilization of Central America (500 bce to 1200 ce , with a classical period from 300 ce to 900 ce ), Maya writing is a logosyllabic system combining logograms and syllable signs in a complex way with a great deal of polyvalence . Because of its vivid graphical appearance the writing is often called ‘hieroglyphic’, in analogy to the egyptian script . It is documented in many monuments such as stone stelae, lintels, altars and the like ( figure 8 ), as well as on bark, wood, jade, ceramics and a few manuscripts, especially the Dresden, Paris and Madrid codices, so called after the cities where they came to be kept. Maya inscriptions have been found in southern Mexico, notably on the Yucatán peninsula, in Guatemala and in northern Belize, the oldest documents having been dated 200-100 bce . The Maya script is the last of the independently created writing systems to be deciphered. Until recently, Maya civilization has been interpreted entirely from archaeological evidence, because Maya writing could not be read. Many Mayanists, epigraphers and other students of writing even doubted that the Maya glyphs were writing proper rather than a limited system of pictorial symbols. The first report on Maya writing to reach the Old World was Bishop Diego de Landa's Relación de las cosas de Yucatán (Account of the Affairs of Yucatán) , written in Spain around ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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