Skip to comments."Cracking the Maya Code"
Posted on 04/05/2008 12:16:05 PM PDT by Publius6961
Time Line of Decipherment When the Spanish conquered the Maya empire in the 16th century, they forced their new subjects to convert to Christianity and speak and write in Spanish. But long before the Maya used the Roman alphabet, they had created their own rich and elegant script, featuring more than 800 hieroglyphs. Sadly, the glyphs' meanings were lost in the decades following the Conquest. Ever since, scholars have struggled to decode these symbols, pronounce the words they form, and understand the stories they tell. In this time line, follow the centuries-long decipherment, which has only recently reached the point where scholars can read more than 90 percent of the glyphs.Rima Chaddha
Next on NOVA: "Cracking the Maya Code" Tuesday, April 8, 2008, 8pm
It may have been a very nice script -- even a wonderful one -- but why "elegant"? I suspect learning all those glyphs would have been difficult.
The script certainly wouldn't have been "elegant" in the scientific sense -- "gracefully concise and simple; admirably succinct."
That's the thing about political correctness. We want to be fair to all manner of groups, but some people really make fools of themselves in bending over backwards to be accomodating.
The remarkable thing about the progress of deciphering this primitive language is that it was apparently harder and longer-lasting than wartime military codes!
The discovery that the symbols also represent sounds is also quite a feat, if true.
I’d say that the Spanish conquistadors were as primitive and barbaric as the Mayans, if not more.
Sort of silly to say the Spainards “conquered” the Mayan “Empire” since the great Mayan cities like Tikal have been abandoned for several centuries before the Spanish arrived not whithstanding Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto. What was left of the Mayans the Spanish “conquered” were scattered communities in the highlands.
In terms of 700 glyphs. From that I understand the glyphs represented both a symbol, like Chinese, and a phoenetic sound. The Mayans would form words by putting glyphs together. That was probably one of the reasons it was so difficult to decipher.
I went to Tikal in Guatemala. An amazing place. I even climbed the top of the pyramid used in Star Wars. LOL!!!
Thanks indcons and BenLurkin.
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At least with alphabetic writing you could have slaves in mines writing their thoughts on the walls.
With Alphabetic writing, people post their thoughts on bathroom walls. Some things never change.
Paul J.J. Payak of the Global Language Monitor states:
This all being said, I now unequivocally state that as of 1:16 pm (Pacific) on the 22nd day of September (the autumnanal equinox) in the year 2007 AD (or CE, whatever your preference), there were approximately 995,112 words in the English Language, plus or minus a handful.
While brevity and simplicity might be an attribute of elegance in physical sciences, I’d say a 800 word written language would be severely limited in its ability to express complex thoughts and the richness of human experience.
It would be something on the order of: Me Tarzan, You Jane.
This doesn’t denigrate the achievements of the Maya in mathematics and astronomy.
What’s it about?
It recounts the efforts of numerous individuals over time to decipher the Mayan writing and along the way it sheds light on the subjects of language, archeology and the Mayan civilization.
Yes, the Spaniards did not “conquer” the Mayan “Empire”.
They did, however, subdue the powerful Aztec empire which had only been in power for a few centuries. An Aztec “prime minister” in the previous century convinced the ruler that ritual cannibalism would be good state policy. [Middle America had no large animals to use as a protein source.] As a result, “flowery wars” were fought with many captives brought home, sacrified by the thousands and even tens of thousands, and their parts distributed to the population. The Spaniards had little trouble convincing the neighboring Tlaxcallan people that an alliance with the Spanish would be good for them. Thus from 100,000 to 200,000 Tlaxcallan and other Indian allies marched with the Spaniards to overthrow the Aztecs. It’s not nice to eat your neighbors. This is not what is meant by a “good neighbor policy.”
Just because they had 800 glyphs, it does not mean that they only had 800 words. There were probably complex ways of combining them to mean other things. Just for example, something like “Eight Rabbit” did not have to be part of a shopping list for dinner, but rather the name of a specific ruler. Perhaps someone can give additional information on this subject.
Perhaps I was a bit too simplified (eg elegant) in my statement. But isn’t it a hard stretch to combine 800 hieroglyphs to make it an elegantly useful language.
I don’t deny their inventiveness; I do question the professors characterization.
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