6-the glyphs of the maya

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I am very happy with the way the presentation turned out. However, I’m not so sure it fits well with the rubric fo r the project. To be honest, I was never entirely clear on what the expectations were for this project (due to no fault of your own, I just couldn’t quite get a grasp on it). So like I said, I like the way the presentation turned out. I feel like I teach the basics of Maya gly phs well, and that by the end the reader has a sense of how/why the glyphs were used. I’m also quite proud of how I was able to make a contribution of my own to the field (even if it’s very small). On the down side, I feel it’s a little confusing at times. Let me know i f you get lost anywhere or if something you read makes no sense. Also, there’s a lot of text. I didn’t create the power point with presenting in mind, I created it expecting i t to be used as a self guided lesson. Thus, all the information you need in laid out in the slides. I know it’s not quite what a power point is for, but I wanted to experiment. Reflection

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    I am very happy with the way the presentation turned out. However, Im notso sure it fits well with the rubric for the project. To be honest, I was neverentirely clear on what the expectations were for this project (due to no fault

    of your own, I just couldnt quite get a grasp on it). So like I said, I like theway the presentation turned out. I feel like I teach the basics of Maya glyphswell, and that by the end the reader has a sense of how/why the glyphs wereused. Im also quite proud of how I was able to make a contribution of myown to the field (even if its very small). On the down side, I feel its a littleconfusing at times. Let me know if you get lost anywhere or if something youread makes no sense. Also, theres a lot of text. I didnt create the power pointwith presenting in mind, I created it expecting it to be used as a self guidedlesson. Thus, all the information you need in laid out in the slides. I know

    its not quite what a power point is for, but I wanted to experiment.

    Reflection

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    How Might they be Understood in a ModernContext?

    Colin Kovacic

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    The ancient Maya wereinhabitants of the modern-

    day Yucatan Peninsula They reached their height

    between 200 and 900 AD

    During this time they

    developed one of the mostsophisticated writingsystems in the New World

    First, a history lesson

    (Coe 48)

    Map displaying the physical extentof the ancient Mayan civilization

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d6/Maya_civilization_location_map-blank.svg
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    The Maya utilized a

    system many compare tothe hieroglyphs of ancient

    Egypt (thus they are saidto have a hieroglyphicwriting system)

    While the Maya did usepictures in their writing

    the system itself variedgreatly from that of theEgyptians, as is madeobvious in thiscomparison

    The Writing System

    Egyptian Mayan

    (Coe 16)

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    When written out as plain text the glyphs of the Maya were

    square or rectangular in shape

    They were most often written in columns two glyphs wide,read from left to right and top to bottom (see picture)

    The first glyph, called the initial, often took up the entirefirst and second rows of the double column, making it fourtimes bigger than normal

    The succeeding glyphs were also sometimes twice as wideas a normal glyph, though not twice as tall

    From then on the glyphs would be written as normal

    The Glyphs

    (Senner 205-11)

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    Hieroglyphic texts can be foundcarved into the great Maya

    temples, palaces, andobservatories

    These often recounted Mayamythologies, provided important

    dates in the complex Mayacalendar, kept track of Mayaastrology, and recorded thebirths, deaths, and coronations of

    Mayan kings

    The Texts

    (Schele, Mathews 17-9)

    Inscription from the Temple

    of the Cross, Palenque

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    Although not widely known, the

    majority of Maya inscriptions areactually found on pottery

    These clay codices are so prevalentbecause they survived the burningof other paper and wood codicesby Spanish missionaries

    At one time the codex, foldedsheets of bark paper filled withpainted glyphs and artwork, mayhave been the most commonhieroglyphic record. Since theirburning, however, only threegenuine examples remain.

    Other Texts

    (Coe, Kerr 129)Pages from the Dresden Codex

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    Maya glyphs were not just used as awriting system, they were also

    incorporated into Maya art For example, in carvings the name of a

    King may be intertwined within hisclothing or what may look like

    decoration surrounding a god mayactually be a stylized glyph thatdescribes some aspect of hispersonality or purpose

    In Art

    (Stone, Zender 17-8)

    A piece of artwork from theMaya Classic period. Thepainting depicts the MayanMoon Goddess. What looks tobe a tail is actually the Mayanmoon glyph, incorporated intothe painting in order to help

    identify the deity.

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    The Maya had a VERY complicated calendar system, in

    fact, there were multiple ways to express one date

    The long count used cycles of time to measure the timesince a specific point thousands of years in the past (theymythological beginning of the Maya)

    The other main calendar was the Calendar Round. This

    was a combination of a 260 day lunar year, called theTzolkin and a 365 day solar year called the Haab. Theround measured dates in 52-year cycles.

    You said something about

    a calendar?

    (Senner 204)

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    The reason this dating system is so important is

    because the first ten or so glyphs of an inscriptioncan all be date glyphs!

    Decoding the glyphs for Maya dates was the firststep to cracking the entire system

    Dates and Glyphs

    (Coe 101-09)

    To the left is a traditional Maya

    calendar round. The concentric stonerings represent the months of the Haaband the Tzolkin with a final inner ringwith number glyphs from one tothirteen. These rounds were used allacross the Yucatan to keep track of the

    52 year Maya cycle.

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    The hieroglyphic text was highly valued by the Maya

    Some glyphs were logograms, glyphs that were meant to be readliterally (i.e. a glyph that looked like a skull meant skull)

    Others were phonetic, meaning that the glyph represented asound; sometimes glyphs could be interpreted either way

    The point is, the Maya had enough simple phonetic glyphs towrite without the logograms, which were complicated and tooktime to write.

    For reasons not entirely known, the Maya chose not to give uptheir hieroglyphic writing style. Clearly their system was notsimply a means to record ideas but also a complex extension oftheir beliefs and culture.

    Another Thing

    (Coe, Kerr 54-5)

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    You cant always expect Maya inscriptions to agreewith one another

    In fact, oftentimes they outright dont make senseOne has to understand that there was no distinction

    between history and myth for the Maya. What waswritten was truth, so the king might alter, for

    example, his coronation date in order for it tocoincide with a luckier day or so that he might takecredit for the military conquests of a former ruler

    And one last thing

    (Marcus xviii-xix)

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    So the question is: How might the Maya writingsystem be understood in modern terms?

    Understanding the glyphs in this context can help usunderstand their original use and allow us to relateto an otherwise distant culture.

    In a modern context

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    One thing the Maya saw fit to record was a royalascension

    Well use the ascension of a modern ruler as aparallel: President Obama

    A Modern inscription

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    *Note

    The following slides provide afictional text usingpseudo-Mayan glyphs. The inscription is based on

    the Leiden plaque (Senner 206) but contains noauthentic Maya glyphs (unless otherwise noted). Theinscription is an invention intended to facilitate theunderstanding of the Maya writing system and to

    help draw parallels between our society and that ofthe ancient Maya. The glyphs are my own inventionand are original artwork.

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    Obama was sworn in on January 20, 2008 Keeping with the Maya specificity in

    regards to dates, well list the date as the

    number of millenniums, centuries, years,months, weeks, and days since a certainpoint in history. For us, that would be thebirth of Christ

    The initial would represent that event, sothe glyph could look something like this:

    The figure, Jesus, flanked by celestialbodies and crowned with a halo andwings to represent his heavenly origins.Underneath is the Maya symbol for zero(his age at birth)

    Step One: The Date

    (Senner 205-8)

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    While the Maya used

    representative gods as year,month, and day symbols, were

    going to use more recognizableemblems For millennium: a stylized

    roman numeral M (1000 years) For century: a lion and fleur-

    de-lis representative of the 100

    Years War fought betweenEngland and France For year: The earth completing

    its orbit around the sun (withsymbols for spring andsummer to clarify the timespan)

    Dates cont.

    (Senner 205-8)

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    For month: a moon

    encircling the glyph forblack, indicating a newmoon, a complete lunarcycle (months areconstructed based onlunar cycles)

    For week: Seven sun risesand seven sunsets flankedagain by the moon glyph

    For day: One sunrise andone sunset

    Dates cont.

    Note: the symbols to the left of eachglyph represent numbers: the shell for

    zero, a bar for five, and a dot for one(Senner 205-8)

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    The Maya also had a sort of zodiac, with signs

    they called lords of the night

    This zodiac was used as part of the CalendarRound. They listed the date as such: The lordof the night X was seated in month Y

    This was the way the Maya recorded theCalendar Round date (which, as stated earlier,

    was simply used to corroborate the long count) So, here well write the sign for Aquarius1 (the

    corresponding zodiac sign for this time of year),the Maya glyph for seated2, and a glyph for

    February3

    Another Date

    1 2

    3

    (Senner 205-8)

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    Last, we actually have to write the event

    weve spent so long dating!

    First, well rewrite the glyph for seated Then a glyph for Obama (A kings name

    could have been one emblem glyph, orwritten out phonetically. Here Im using anemblem glyph.)

    An eagle with a crown signifying presidentor chief executive officer (crown meaningchief, eagle representing the executivebranch of government)

    And the titles

    (Senner 205-8)

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    Last well use an emblemglyph denoting the kingdom

    being ruled (the United States)and an authentic Maya glyphfor house (Macri, Looper 253)combined with a glyph for

    white to further specify thelocation (the White House ofcourse!)

    To finish it off

    (Senner 205-8)

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    A record of Obamas inauguration, writtenin true Maya style (if not with authentic

    Maya glyphs) If you happened to notice that the

    millenniums, centuries, years, months, anddays dont quite add up to Obamas real

    inauguration date, dont consider it amistake. Remember, Obama may havethought it luckier to be inaugurated on thefirst of February, and if thats how itswritten, thats how it happened

    There you have it

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    So what do you think? Are hieroglyphs quite as

    confusing as they once seemed? Hopefully not. Then

    again, its good to keep in mind that his was a verysimplified version of the system. To learn the entireMaya system takes years.

    The idea, however, is to understand the glyphs in amodern context. How would we use glyphs today?

    Its certainly different, but is it better or worse thanour system? Would you want to write as the ancientMaya did? The answer to that question could verywell explain the fate of Maya writing: its fall into thecategory of dead languages.

    Conclusion

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    Coe, Michael D.Breaking the Maya Code. New York: Thames and

    Hudson, 1992. Print.

    Coe, Michael D, and Justin Kerr. The Art of the Maya Scribe. New York:

    Harry N. Abrams, 1998. Print.

    Macri, Martha J, and Matthew G. Looper. The New Catalog of Maya

    Hieroglyphs. Norman [Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press,

    2003. Print.

    Works Cited

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    Marcus, Joyce.Mesoamerican Writing Systems: Propaganda, Myth, and

    History in Four Ancient Civilizations. Princeton, N.J: Princeton

    University Press, 1992. Print.

    Schele, Linda, and Peter Mathews. The Code of Kings: The Language of

    Seven Sacred Maya Temples and Tombs. New York: Scribner,

    1998. Print.

    Senner, Wayne M. The Origins of Writing. Lincoln: University of

    Nebraska Press, 1991. Print.

    Works Cited cont.

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    Stone, Andrea J, and Marc Zender.Reading Maya Art: A Hieroglyphic

    Guide to Ancient Maya Painting and Sculpture. New York:

    Thames & Hudson, 2011. Print.

    Works Cited cont.