Hieroglyphic Writings and Stelae
The Maya themselves did not invent writing, but they did develop the most complex mixed-scripture writing system, made up of 800 glyphs. The origins
of Maya writing may be traced back to the south of Mexico, to a place called Veracruz, as well as to Guatemala’s and El Salvador’s Pacific Coast.
The people who lived there, the Olmecs or Mihezoke people, painted these first glyphs at Tres Zapotes on the year 29 BC, this was the first evidence
of written language in ancient America.
Mayan writing consisted of a relatively elaborate set of glyphs, which were laboriously painted on
ceramics, walls or bark-paper codices, carved in wood or stone, or molded in stucco. Carved and molded glyphs were painted, but the paint has rarely
survived. About 90% of Mayan writing can now be read with varying degrees of certainty, enough to give a comprehensive idea of its structure.
The Mayan script was a logosyllabic system. Individual symbols ("glyphs") could represent either a word (actually a morpheme) or a syllable; indeed,
the same glyph could often be used for both. For example, the calendaric glyph MANIK’ was also used to represent the syllable chi. (It is customary
to write logographic readings in all capitals and phonetic readings in italics.) It is possible, but not certain, that these conflicting readings
arose as the script was adapted to new languages, as also happened with Japanese kanji and with Assyro-Babylonian and Hittite cuneiform. There was
ambiguity in the other direction as well: Different glyphs could be read the same way. For example, half a dozen apparently unrelated glyphs were used
to write the very common third person pronoun
picture of glyph wall from Pelanque for visual
The written and spoken language really is its whole own thread so what I am going to do, is talk about the Stelae from Tikal.
Each in their own, beautiful works of sculpture.
A stele (pron.: /ˈstiːliː/, historically /ˈstiːl/; Greek: στήλη stēlē; plural:
στήλαι stēlai), also stela (plural stelae /ˈstiːlaɪ/) Latin, is a stone or wooden slab, generally taller than it is wide, erected for
funerals or commemorative purposes, most usually decorated with the names and titles of the deceased or living — inscribed, carved in relief
(bas-relief, sunken-relief, high-relief, and so forth), or painted onto the slab. It can also be used as a territorial marker to delineate land
The most ancient text that presents the total set of characteristic traits of Maya writing is preserved in Stela 29 of Tikal, dated 292
AD. Glyphic texts documented the lives of Rulers: their births, accessions to the throne, marriages, wars, burials and other important facts about a
Ruler’s story.Hieroglyphic writing is composed of signs for ideographs, which are units of meaning, words, or parts of compound words; and of
syllables, which are units of sound.
Stelae were also used to publish laws and decrees, to record a ruler's exploits and honors, to mark sacred
territories or mortgaged properties, as territorial markers, as the boundary stelae of Akhenaton at Amarna, or to commemorate military victories. They
were widely used in the Ancient Near East, Mesopotamia, Greece, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and, most likely independently, in China and elsewhere in
the Far East, and, more surely independently, by Mesoamerican civilisations, notably the Olmec and
I find it fascinating that cultures divided by time and distance created similar stelae. Possible Lost Civilization connection? Maybe but for now I
will just go into information on the Tikal stelae.
On Stela 29 the texts were written in blocks of the same size, each containing one or more signs. Within a glyph block there is usually one sign that
is larger than the others: it is the “main sign”. Attached to it, will be affixes, super fixes, prefixes, postfixes, sub fixes and even infixes,
which modify or define the main sign. Maya texts, beautifully painted or sculpted, express complete sentences with nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs,
prepositions, conjunctions and more parts of language composition.
Stela 29 bears a Long Count (22.214.171.124.15) date equivalent to AD 292, the earliest surviving Long Count
date from the Maya lowlands. The stela is also the earliest monument to bear the Tikal emblem glyph. It bears a sculpture of the king facing to the
right, holding the head of an underworld jaguar god, one of the patron deities of the city. The stela was deliberately smashed during the 6th century
or some time later, the upper portion was dragged away and dumped in a rubbish tip close to Temple III, to be uncovered by archaeologists in
edit on 1/6/2013 by mcx1942 because: fix
edit on 1/6/2013 by
mcx1942 because: fix