Songs of Dzitbalche

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The [Book of the] Songs of Dzitbalché (Spanish: [El libro de] los cantares de Dzitbalché), originally titled The Book of the Dances of the Ancients, is the source of almost all the ancient Mayan lyric poems that have survived, and is closely connected to the Books of Chilam Balam, sacred books of the colonial Yucatec Maya. The sole surviving copy of the Songs of Dzitbalché was written in alphabetic Mayan in the 18th century.

The author identifies himself as Ah Bam, an elder of the town of Dzitbalché. He appears to say that the book was originally written in 1440. Manuscripts of this era were often copies of copies of copies, so scholars have to look at internal evidence for clues to the original date of composition. Many of the poems appear to be much older than the manuscript, and contain ancient ceremonial and ritual material. Other poems are songs of love, philosophy, and spirituality. Many of them appear to have had a musical accompaniment.

The Book of the Dances of the Ancients, its original name, was changed to the current title by its first translator.


The first full Spanish translation was crafted by Barrera Vásquez in 1965. In 1982, Edmunson produced an English version, followed by Curl's on-line publication in 2005 of selected pieces from the codex. Bowles, in 2013, composed English-verse translations of all of the songs in his Flower, Song, Dance: Aztec and Mayan Poetry.

See also[edit]


Barrera, Lourdes (1999). "En el teatro prehispánico se funden dos mundos: la magia del color de las flores, de los animales, y la magia del perdón". Sala de Prensa, Noticias del día (26 February 1999) (in Spanish). Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes. Retrieved 2007-04-03. 
Barrera Vásquez, Alfredo, ed. (1965). El libro de los cantares de Dzitbalché. Serie de Investigaciones, 9. México DF: Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia.  (in Yukatek Maya)(in Spanish)
Barrera Vásquez, Alfredo, ed. (1979–81). El libro de los cantares de Dzitbalché: Una traducción fiel de los Documentos. Mérida: Ediciones del Ayuntamiento de Mérida, Yucatán.  (in Yukatek Maya) (in Spanish)
Bolles, David; Alejandra Bolles (2004). "A Grammar of the Yucatecan Mayan Language" (revised online edition, 1996 Lee, New Hampshire). Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc. (FAMSI). The Foundation Research Department. Retrieved 2007-04-03. 
Bowles, David, ed. (2013). Flower, Song, Dance: Aztec and Mayan Poetry. Beaumont TX: Lamar University Press. ISBN 978-0985255282. 
Cocom Pech, Jorge Miguel (1999). "La literatura maya contemporánea en la Península de Yucatán". In Lorraine A. Williams-Beck (ed.). Calkiní: Una historia compartida (in Spanish) (online extract at ed.). Campeche: H. Ayuntamiento de Calkiní, Ediciones Nave de Papel. Retrieved 2007-04-03. 
Curl, John, ed. (2005). Ancient American Poets. Tempe AZ: Bilingual Review Press. ISBN 1-931010-21-8. 
Edmonson, Munro S. (1982). "The Songs of Dzitbalche: A Literary Commentary" (PDF). Tlalocan. 9: 173–208. ISSN 0185-0989. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-02-11. Retrieved 2013-03-31. 
Garza, Mercedes de la (1980). Miguel León Portilla; Adrián Recinos, eds. Literatura maya (in Spanish). Caracas: Biblioteca Ayacucho. ISBN 84-499-1302-0. 
Tun Chuc, Jorge Jesús (2005). "Dzitbalché en la historia". Municipio - Dzitbalché (in Spanish). Retrieved 2007-04-03. 
Valencia Solanilla, César (2001). "Los cantares de Dzitbalché: Los rituales del amor y de la muerte". Revista de Ciencias Humanas (in Spanish). 27 (Nov. 2001): 41–47. ISSN 0121-9677. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-04-03.