Maya were one of the only Native
American groups to develop a system or writing. There is some evidence
that asserts the borrowing of ideas for the system from the Olmec.
This has yet to be scientifically proven to my knowledge, so the credit
here shall remain with the Mayan.
Pictographs are a
very basic system of writing and almost universally the first type developed
by a culture. The Mayan system probably began in this way, but eventually
progressed into a syllabic system. This type of system made each
vowel and consonant combination a separate and specific symbol. Finally,
the system combines syllables into complex pictographs known as hieroglyphics.
(Glyphs for short).
Once this level of sophistication is attained,
any language can be written using the same symbols as long as the types
of sounds match the Mayan sounds. This is common for most languages
with only a few exceptions.
Here is a picture of a Mayan scribe. A scribe is someone who knows
how to write. This was quite an accomplishment because Mayan symbols
are extemely hard to differentiate. To the untrained eye they appear
to be complex bubble letters. Here is a scribe who might have been
seen recording astronomical or religious information with his porcupine
Symbols are called "Glyphs". These symbols
are either carved into stone, or written on Mayan books called "Codices".
These were vividly colored and lengthy histories, stories, legends, and
astronomical data combined for centuries. With such a wealth of knowledge
one can easily see the advanced civilization with which we are dealing.
Unfortunately, this knowledge has not survived. Spanish priests and
missionaries were responisible for its preservation and its destruction.
Initially, the priests were actively attempting
to translate the codices into Spanish. As the attempts at covervsion
were not completely extinguishing the older "pagan" religion, and the codices
contained religious ritual directions, the priests gathered the codices
together and burned them. There are 4 codices, of countless hundreds,
which survive today. We know little of the Mayan civilization when
we had an excellent opportunity to know much. best sources of glyphs today
are found on stone carvings in Mayan ruins. Here is an example.
Hot Mayan Links
Writing for the serious student-
Write your name in Mayan Glyphs-