The Ancient Maya writing . What exactly is known and unknown

Over time scholars have debated the question of what exactly the hallmarks of civilization are.

Many think about the growth of writing, mathematics, astronomy, stratified society, trade systems, etc. as a measurement of progression towards high culture. ( A foolish argument, in my judgement. By now everyone should be aware that true civilization is earmarked by hot showers and ice in your drink.) However the use of writing traditionally been considered a gauge for determining how long a civilization has evolved from more modest beginnings.

When it comes to the ancient Maya that is certainly true that their system of writing is hailed among the most remarkable achievements of this New that is pre-Columbian World. The capacity to record information in relatively permanent records which may be handed down from one generation to another continuity that is insured the transmission of seasonal and astronomical data. This resulted in the refinement of mathematic systems and, since it ended up, growth of a calendar far more accurate than that used in Europe well into the century that is sixteenth.

While it is certainly true that the Maya writing system was the essential refined in every of Mesoamerica, other cultures eventually caught about the idea. The Aztec and Mixtec cultures adopted a somewhat less sophisticated as a type of record keeping, with strong emphasis on picture-writing instead of the Maya system which was language oriented. In south usa, the Inca developed a complicated system of record keeping using knotted strings which suited their demands in order to keep track of herds of animals, nonetheless they never got around to writing things down.

The Maya, on the other side hand, manufactured paper through the inner bark of certain types of trees, mainly the amate and ficus. Stone bark-beaters, oblong, flat grooved tools about hand-size were used to pound out of the bark that was then bleached with lime, cut into strips and folded like a Japanese screen. A variety of paints were employed to illustrate these “books”, which were painted on both sides and bound between elaborately decorated boards.

Nearly all regarding the Maya books did not survive the Spanish conquest because the Maya writing was deemed to have been inspired because of the Devil, therefore the church and government officials went to extreme lengths to destroy these examples of “paganism”. No telling how hundreds that are many tens and thousands of volumes were burned into the name of Christianity, but three books have survived. Each one is presently reposing in European museums having been delivered to patrons and friends of Spanish conquistadors in the century that is sixteenth. Given the determination of Bishop Diego de Landa, the second bishop of Yucatan into the century that is mid-sixteenth it is a wonder that anything Maya survived. Landa was something of a sword that is double-edged. A great deal of data concerning the day-to-day life of the Yucatec Maya while systematically destroying the very culture he recorded as is legal a scholar he was very interested in all aspects of Maya culture and went so far as to interview informants and record. In a passage that accompanies Landa’s description of Maya writing, he ironically discusses his role within the destruction associated with the Maya libraries: “We found a lot of books within these characters, and we burned them all, which they regretted to a great degree, and which caused them much affliction. because they contained nothing in which there have been not to be observed superstition and lies of this devil,”

No Maya books (called a codex, or plural codices) have now been found in an archeological context.

The climate for the Maya world is really moist and also the mildew so pervasive it really is highly unlikely any have survived. Fragments have now been present in tombs in lot of Maya sites, including Altun Ha in Belize. It has been said the remnants of this consistency was had by the codex of a cigar ash. The so-called Mirador Codex, bought at the early Classic site of El Mirador in Mexico remains unopened at the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico. The paper portion of the book has long since rotted away, leaving just the lime coating as well as the painted characters which may have melded into a solid block. Present technology does not permit further study, however it is hoped that some day a way is going to be found to extract the details contained is it rare treasure trove of Maya writing. Archeologists and epigraphers (students of ancient writing) alike are biting their nails over this one because nearly everything known in regards to the ancient Maya mathematics, calendrics, astronomy therefore the religious pantheon has been recovered by scholars through the three existing codices. Imagine what could possibly be learned from, let’s say, ten books- or one hundred. It really is a thought that is disquieting. We would have such a understanding that is complete of ancient Maya I would certainly be out of a job.

All containing examples of the Maya writing, why is it that scholars have thus far been unable to decipher most of the hieroglyphic symbols with the Maya books, paintings, decorated pottery, carved stone monuments? Next- breaking the Maya code.