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Maya Script: A Civilization and Its Writing
     

Maya Script: A Civilization and Its Writing

by Maria Longhena
 

A fascinating handbook revealing the secrets of the symbolic written characters of the ancient Maya people, which provides a vivid portrait of their gods, people, and everyday life.

Maya Script presents about 200 Maya glyphs (symbolic figures). Some are ideograms while others are phonetic signs. The glyphs express people, animals, things, and such

Overview

A fascinating handbook revealing the secrets of the symbolic written characters of the ancient Maya people, which provides a vivid portrait of their gods, people, and everyday life.

Maya Script presents about 200 Maya glyphs (symbolic figures). Some are ideograms while others are phonetic signs. The glyphs express people, animals, things, and such abstract concepts as death. Each one opens a window onto fragments of everyday life, religious beliefs, or even emotions. The complexity of the Maya calendar, mathematical computations, and astronomy reveals a highly developed civilization. This book also features two–color drawings of the glyphs, illustrations from reliefs and Spanish codices, and examples of Maya sculpture and paintings. Concluding the book are a chapter on writing systems of the New World, a bibliography, and an index of glyphs. This informative book is a travelogue back in time for anyone intrigued by ancient civilizations.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780789208828
Publisher:
Abbeville Publishing Group
Publication date:
04/28/2006
Pages:
180
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.20(h) x (d)

Read an Excerpt

Excerpt from Maya Script

Chapter: Astronomy

Moon

The moon glyph recurs frequently in the inscriptions and codices, the moon cycle being central to calendar reckoning. The moon was associated with several divine figures, and it iconography very probably changed over the course of centuries.

In the complex astronomical studies the Maya performed, the most trying calculations were probably those that traced the movement of the moon, which is irregular. In the inscriptions, the dates of the Initial Series were followed by the dates of the Lunar Series, which sometimes included eight glyphs about the satellite’s cycle. One of these pointed out the length of the month, whether it was twenty–nine or thirty days, while another glyph gave the age of the moon at the precise historical moment to which the inscription referred.

The Maya were faced every day with the inevitable necessity of relating the solar calendar to the lunar calendar. To solve this problem, as we can infer from passages of the so-called Prayer Book, they probably used criteria similar to the Metonic nineteen-year cycle.

In any case, archaeology has shown that, starting from the middle of the fourth Century A.D., every astronomical center in the various cities adopted corrections to make the two calendars coincide. In A.D. 649, for their calculations Copán’s scientists began to use a formula that consisted in dividing 4,400 days by 149 moons. This method was probably effective since it was later adopted by all the centers. Thus, these ancient astronomers were able to establish an average length of 29.53050 days for each lunar cycle. Here too the level of precision they reached in their calculations is extraordinary, since we know that the lunar phase consists of exactly 29.53050 days. Seven pages of the Dresden Codex illustrate 405 consecutive lunar phases, which extend over a period of approximately thirty-two years and nine months, arranged in sixty-nine groups, during which the lunar cycles corresponded to the sacred ritual periods.

According to what we mentioned earlier, the moon, like other heavenly bodies, was considered a manifold female goddess, associated above all with fertility. According to both the Maya and the Aztec, the surface of the Moon contained the shape of a rabbit.

Meet the Author

Maria Longhena, a scholar of South and Central American pre–Columbian civilizations and history, is actively engaged in intensive research of Maya written sources. Her studies have been published in international scientific journals and she has been involved in numerous museum exhibitions in Europe, including "Inca–Peru: 3000 Years of History" and "In Search of the American Past."

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