Talk:Maya script

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The biggest obstacle to decipherment was the scholar JJ. Thompson, who torpedoed all efforts to find phonetic correspondences in the script. His death in 1975 allowed researchers to pursue their ideas without fear of sacrificing their careers. Cbdorsett 15:09, 12 Feb 2005 (UTC)

This has been very often repeated, but IMO is too much of an oversimplification. Other factors include cold war politics, and the fact that some of the early attempts at phonetic decypherment were hardly as obviously useful at the time as they the approach would prove to be over time. J. Eric S. Thompson was certainly caustic in defending his notions in his declining years, but "sacrificing their careers" seems to me too harsh; from what I'm aware of, disagreeing with Thompson seemed more likely to provoke a snarky review from him than losing a position. Or are their specific examples of the later? I liked the attitude one professor who had had a corrispondance with Thompson over some points in the codices who said something like "Wow, I feel honored to corrispond with the greatest living Mayanist. Even better, we have a disagreement -- and I know I'm right!" Cheers, -- Infrogmation 18:50, 12 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Pulled out pending verification[edit]

(Note that the Slander and libel from User:Mark Dingemanse's comments have been herein deleted ... purposely. No one enjoys much reading such garbage.)

No one enjoys watching a tantrum either. Evertype 22:09, 2005 Apr 25 (UTC)

The following dubious content was added by Roylee (talk · contribs) — mark 15:50, 23 Apr 2005 (UTC)

A distinct "African substratum" underlies early Maya writing, and today all experts are in agreement that the Mayans inherited their ancient writing system from the Olmecs (Schele & Freidel, 1990 [[1]]; Soustelle, 1984 [[2]]; Winters, April 1997).
Though the Mayan writing system is often called hieroglyphics, from a vague superficial resemblance to Ancient Egyptian writing, it is altogether different.
  • Schele & Freidel, A Forest of Kings: The Untold Story of the Ancient Maya, 1990 ([3])
  • Soustelle, Olmecs, 1984 ([4])
  • Winters, The decipherment of Olmec writing, Central States Anthropological Society, Milwaukee, April 1997 [5]

Roylee, I only tried to explain why I pulled several paragraphs out of the article. The reason is... well... what you call slander and libel. Let's just say that I perceive your editing pattern to be <insert slander and libel comment here>; and that I'm not the only one. I tried to talk with you about this on your talk page, but you just blanked your talk page. — mark 19:45, 23 Apr 2005 (UTC)

  1. Just to check to make sure, upon reviewing my talk page history I found NO reference to Maya hieroglyphics. Nothing there done ever so deserved this statement made from you:
"The following dubious content was added by Roylee (talk · contribs), whose editing pattern mainly consists of attempts to edit fringe theories into Wikipedia in a self-supporting way."
  1. In fact I don't remove Wikipedia Information as you do.
  2. If I were to find a statement on any Talk Page defamatory in any way, yes, I will delete it, simply because reading it is hurtful ... and posting such filth is wrong.
  3. However must you realize that we humans are all emotional. When you REMOVE another's post and publicly belittle them in merits and/or work, they certainly do feel negative emotions. Tact is important if you wish to avoid angering any reader attempting at an honest contribution.
  4. Tact is NOT what you displayed when you wrote:
"...full of so-called weasel words...."
" were using a misleading edit summary. ... furthermore adding a misinformed statement...."

The obvious insinuation in your statements is that the information I am posting purposefully attempts to mislead and/or manipulate readers, but this is a most flagrant lie. I don't use "weasel words." I don't attempt to "mislead" or "misinform" readers. ALL my work is precisely referenced.

Everything which I post involves me completely. I go through great lengths to research, cite and meticulously post ALL my sources. If it happens that you don't see a reference, it's only because someone else deleted it. Please refrain from blatantly accusing me of lying ... or purposely making "false statements." Check out the Page Histories sometime, especially before blindly accusing someone of something they are obviously innocent of.

-- Good Bye, Roylee

Roylee, I posted the statement you are referring to after learning more about your edits. I think I was a bit rude, but I don't think I was wrong. I was a bit rude and impatient because, as you say, emotions do play a role in all this. I am sorry for being rude.

I dont think I was factually wrong, however, because a lot of your edits really consist of (1) adding a non-mainstream theory referenced from some dubious website, (2) adding allegations that constitute or directly border on Original Research by extensive use of weasel words (please read that article if you think that's offensive), and (3) going to other articles to add the same information, referring to the former article and citing something you added yourself there. For example, I found the exact same paragraph about Mende and shipbuilding in four different articles: Suez Canal, Mende tribe, Maritime history, and Shipbuilding. That's what I mean by "editing theories into Wikipedia in a self-supporting way".

Needless to say, I couldn't agree more with you when you say that "Tact is important if you wish to avoid angering any reader attempting at an honest contribution." I might have misjudged you, but then please don't blank on sight when honest questions are posted on your talk page.

Finally, this conversation should take place on user talk pages. Since you apparently don't want my words on your talk page, I invite you to my talk page. I will not continue this conversation here. — mark 03:11, 24 Apr 2005 (UTC)

The statements pulled out are correct apart from the claim about an "African substratum", which is of course contrary to all accepted research (but nonetheless sometimes made by Afrocentrists, who attempt to explain the "Negroid" features of the Olmec La Venta heads by some kind of transatlantic Kushite migration.) - Mustafaa 20:53, 25 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Thanks for looking into it. I have taken the verified statements back to the article. — mark 21:14, 25 Apr 2005 (UTC)
I have been asked for my opinion on recent matters here. (1) There is certainly no "African" substratum in Mayan writing. (2) Suggesting that there is "fringe". (3) It doesn't matter how many references a person has, if the references are fringe bollocks the material doesn't belong in the Wikipedia. (4) Roylee's understanding of "slander and libel" appears to me to be deficient. (5) The Latin Alphabet: Circumstantial Evidence for Egyptian Origin was most certainly fringe. (6) The recent discussion on Mende and its Talk page doesn't fill me with admiration for Roylee's steadiness as a Wikipedian either, any more than the invective seen hereabove (and which I suppose I shall also receive in due course). Evertype 22:09, 2005 Apr 25 (UTC)

Influence of the Olmecs overstated?[edit]

The article currently contains

The Maya may seem to have inherited some elements, and likely the entire basis, of their ancient writing system from the Olmecs.

I think this is overstating the case for the particulars of writing. Yes, the Maya considered the Olmecs to be the source of much of their culture - but as far as I've been able to discern, they didn't develop writing. To the contrary, The Code of Kings (Schele and Mathews, 1998) says

Early kings, called /ahaw/, also began to portray themselves on stone mountains erected in the plazas at the feet of the pyramid-mountains. During the last third of the Preclassic period, the idea of writing developed as a way of describing who was shown on these monuments, as well as when and where the actions occured. This was the beginning of history for the Maya. (pp 17-18)

--moof 07:28, 16 September 2005 (UTC)

Ok... so, like, what about Maya hieroglyphics?[edit]

At least 90% of the article is about the "history of Maya decipherment" or the fact that the ability to read it was lost. There are virtually no details on Maya writing other than saying "it's essentialy a logosyllabic system". There isn't even a clear image of a single logograph!

While I don't insist on a detailed exposition on the entire writing system (it's probably a wee bit too complex to be addressed in a top-level article like this) I would expect to see some basic details and perhaps a simple syllabary. After reading the article I don't even know if it's written left-to-right, up-to-down, etc. The article on Egyptian hieroglyphics is far more informative, and takes the more useful approach of explaining the writing system instead of going into a discourse on the people who deciphered it.

Unfortunately, the majority of this article's content is practically useless (could be shortened to "Madness, confusion, and academia reign supreme in the land of the Mayanists") unless one is already familiar with the people and events involved.

  • What is the "old school" and where did it come from?
  • Why was there ongoing conflict over the course of several decades?
  • Did Thompson hold back the 1950s decipherment efforts, and if so, why?
  • Why did it take so long to decipher the writing given the existence of a written syllabary? Why was it far more difficult to decipher than Egyptian hieroglyphics? Syllabic writing systems are typically unambiguous, so what's so funky about this one?
  • Is it true that literally nothing could be read before the "1970s breakthrough"?
  • What about efforts pre-Knorosov?
  • Why was "a historically-oriented approach" (whatever that is) essential, as opposed to simply trying to decipher the text using Knorosov's ideas?
  • "Although it was now clear what was on many Maya inscriptions, they still could not literally be read." Why couldn't they be read? What are the monument inscriptions actually about?

I can't answer any of these questions. I only know enough about the subject to be able to say that the decipherment history as given here is peculiarly slanted, and there are many missing details and relevant facts. 17:27, 8 April 2006 (UTC)

Hm, I think you have some good points. About 2/3rds of the article at present looks like a fair start for an article "History of the decypherment of Maya hieroglyphics". The article has much room for improvement. -- Infrogmation 22:52, 8 April 2006 (UTC)
I barely started a rewrite, and will contitue later. While we're at it, why not change the title? "Maya hieroglyphics" sounds illiterate. kwami 03:51, 9 April 2006 (UTC)
Okay, not very complete, but now at least it's more than a stub. I'm also planning on moving the article to "Maya script", pending feedback. "Maya writing system" and "Maya hieroglyph" would also be acceptable, though of course they aren't hieroglyphs, so the latter is iffy. kwami 08:56, 9 April 2006 (UTC)

Oh, sigh. you have very good points. this is sad and also embarassing. those in academia get so caught up in academia. the reason the article focuses on people so much is because the book everyone has read is "Breaking the Maya Code" by Michael Coe. the wiki article is basically a summary of the book, but seems to leave out all the important parts about the language. it's a good story, but not necessarily relevant. a good introduction is here - there are dictionaries and syllabaries on these pages, once you get used to the layout. maybe someday we'll all get the time to edit this one right.—The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs) 15 April 2006.

Actually, the reason this article contained a disproportionate coverage on the decipherment process is not because of sole familiarity with popular accounts, but the result of the labours of a particular editor who was personally acquainted with a few of the scholars involved, such as Schele. This editor greatly expanded upon the topic a few months ago now, but the description of the writing system itself has indeed lagged behind. This inattention is due not so much to purposeful neglect or disdain, but rather more a matter of a smaller number of interested editors working through a larger number of related articles- remember that unlike other published works the state of a wikipedia article at any given moment is an imperfect draft, and rarely represents all that the community may wish to say on the matter. I'm sure that this particular article has been on the "to do" list for a few of us here, and it's encouraging to now see Kwami's start on working this into the shape it deserves.--cjllw | TALK 02:24, 15 April 2006 (UTC)
an article about the Maya script is also necessarily much more an article about decipherment than for most other scripts, simply because the decipherment is very recent and ongoing. You can buy primers in Egyptian hieroglyphics in museum shops, but in this case, I suppose we are very much looking at emerging knowledge. dab () 18:16, 21 June 2006 (UTC)
my two cents: part of the problem is that the knowledge of the language and that of the script are inexorably intertwined, and there's far from a complete understanding of either. I believe that most of the basic syllabary is established, but there's all sorts of logographic and place-indicator glyphs and who knows what else that are part of things, too. Egyptian hieroglyphs, in comparison, are a relatively small, known, and complete set. --moof 19:16, 21 June 2006 (UTC)
I'm not sure that's an accurate characterization, moof; while I admit that I too am one of those people who have read "Breaking the Maya Code" (and some other stuff I've found on the web and elsewhere), it seems to me that the claims of 80% legibility for Maya writing is pretty significant. Maybe not as complete as what has been done for Ancient Egyptian, but it seems that a considerable chunk of the inscriptions can be read now... (by the way, I added that little diagram of reading direction, feedback welcome.) babbage 07:54, 1 April 2007 (UTC)


I'm deleting the Ancient Egyptian banner, as this article is not part of Wikipedia:WikiProject Ancient Egypt. Evertype 08:20, 25 August 2006 (UTC)

Very true.Maunus 09:00, 25 August 2006 (UTC)
Looks like the bot enlisted to add that banner to talk pages for that project is getting a little carried away, and it was presumably mistaken. The banner's been removed now.--cjllw | TALK 09:06, 25 August 2006 (UTC)
It also flagged Mesoamerican writing systems. It seems to trigger on the word Hieroglyph, I've contacted the Botmaster.Maunus 09:10, 25 August 2006 (UTC)


Just a stranger in these parts, and not sure how (if I indeed can) revert. I assume the vandalism is due to this being linked to a featured article, and not some of the earlier stuff on the talk page. I wish someone would encyclopedia on things I don't know so I can read them.Stevebritgimp 17:30, 27 December 2006 (UTC)

Thanks for catching and fixing the vandalism left a couple minutes before. Check the article history for older versions. That particular vandal already had two warnings so I gave them a block-- but yes, vandalism can pop up anywhere, especially in pages linked from the main page. See Wikipedia:Vandalism for more info. Thanks again. Cheers, -- Infrogmation 17:52, 27 December 2006 (UTC)

Separate Maya Decipherment article?[edit]

Perhaps we could split this article into one on decipherment, and one on the script itself? The history of the process of decipherment (and the personalities involved) could be handled in the article on decipherment, and the current article could be reshaped to describe how the writing system itself works? babbage 09:08, 1 April 2007 (UTC)

Yes, I think that a seperate article on the history of the script's rediscovery and progress in decipherment would be worthwhile. Eventually there'd be ample scope for quite a few more subarticles as well, given the breadth of the subtopics and the volume of research materials available. But certainly, the narrative of how Mayanists have come to know what they know is one worth recounting in wiki.
And thanks Babbage, BTW, for the img showing the typical reading direction- very clear!--cjllw | TALK 00:38, 2 April 2007 (UTC)

Ek'Balam Hieroglyphs[edit]


As a note, there's a shot of some painted hieroglyphs (And, if anyone ever wants to fix my egregious spelling error, please feel free) that I saw when I was at Ekbalam last year. I noticed all the writing in this article is of the carved variety, so maybe this would be useful. Elijahmeeks 01:10, 4 April 2007 (UTC)

Thanks for that, and agree that more imgs of painted rather than inscribed glyphs would be useful. Pity that this isn't an up-close shot of the glyphs themselves, but it may have to do if there are no others.--cjllw | TALK 02:33, 4 April 2007 (UTC)
I've moved the file to Commons : thumb. -sche (talk) 07:28, 1 May 2012 (UTC)

Guatemala mayan languages[edit]

What is the evidence that supports that the maya script "may" have been used to write languages other than Yukatek o Ch'olan? Could you provide a source?

JP —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Jppira (talkcontribs) 04:16, 17 April 2007 (UTC).

There are texts in Tzeltalan found at Toniná, Chontal from Itzimté and possibly Itza' in the Madrid Codex.. see:

Bibliographic style[edit]

I found the names of authors under references printed ALL IN CAPS (example, not shouting) unusual. It's not common Anglo-American style practice, although I think it may be how it is done in some European academic styles. Does anyone mind if I decapitalize this section? -- llywrch 00:03, 20 August 2007 (UTC)

Hi Llywrch. I suppose that I would prefer that the present formatting style be left as-is, though I confess it was me who set it up here (the authors' names are in Small Caps, not all caps). While there is of course no universal formatting style for bibliographies and lists of references cited, the vast majority —in print, but also online— do provide some sort of visual cue for the reader, to make the keywords (ie authors' names) easier to pick out from what would otherwise be an undifferentiated mass. Often this is done by outdenting the 1st line of a ref, or sometimes bolding/underlining the keywords, or (as here and in quite a few of the sources I habitually use, including english-language ones) by capitalisation, or frequently some combination of these. The generic wikipedia reference listing style is almost alone in not providing some sort of visual aide or courtesy to the reader looking for a particular reference in a list, which IMO is a little deficient. This is particularly the case where the list is a long and wordy one, and when an individual reference can wrap over several lines.
The use of {{aut}} on the authors' names is intended in this way, as a reasonably simple method to achieve this effect. Possibly its aesthetic appeal may depend on particular browser & font settings (as much as personal preferences), but I think it does achieve the purpose. Perhaps if there was a straightforward, template-based method to achieve an outdent-indent layout (that could cope with word-wrapping) then that would be preferable, but the standard citation templates don't handle this. Elsewhere I have experimented with a more manual layout to achieve this effect (eg here), but it is a manual method.
I think that so long as it's consistently implemented within an article, there's no compelling reason to change it. Happy to consider any strong views to the contrary, and I did appreciate your asking for comment first. Cheers, --cjllw ʘ TALK 03:00, 20 August 2007 (UTC)
It is now specifically advised against to use {{aut}} inside a citation template, since it messes up the metadata (as does having a link inside them for authors instead of using authorlink). This also prevents linking the footnotes with the bibliography using {{sfn}}. Unless someone objects, I'll change this. Allens (talk | contribs) 11:21, 9 June 2012 (UTC)

Knorosov's role[edit]

I've taken out (pending further discussion) the recently added passages that characterise Knorosov as playing the major role in the decipherment. This is what was added:

The major role in deciphering mayan hieroglyphic writing was played by Yuri Knorosov.[1] In 1952 he published a paper "Ancient Writing of Central America" arguing that the so-called "de Landa alphabet" contained in Bishop Diego de Landa's manuscript Relación de las Cosas de Yucatán was actually made of syllabic, rather than alphabetic symbols. He further improved his decipherment technique in his 1963 monograph "The Writing of the Maya Indians"[2] and published translations of mayan manuscripts in his 1975 work "Maya Hieroglyphic Manuscripts".

This characterisation is not backed up by the provided reference (this Britannica online article). That EB article actually says that he "played a major role in the decipherment" (emphasis added), quite a different thing altogether. It is not in dispute that Knorosov made highly significant contributions, or that his methodological insights in the 1950s eventually and seminally paved the way to decipherment success. I think the article already gives him credit for this, though of course more detail could be added. However, the actual (and still ongoing) process of decipherment turned out to be a much more collaborative venture, and was far from being a 'one-man show'. Proskouriakoff's insight that the texts referred to historical figures and her analyses of the corresponding glyphic ordering are likewise described as instrumental and "revolutionary", even by sources such as Coe that champion Knorosov's role. Other authors writing on the topic, like George Stuart, also make a point of crediting Proskouriakoff and others with major breakthroughs. I think that the original text, noting that the decipherment's eventual success stems from a combination of factors, is more accurate.

As an aside, the Britannica article is rather generic, and I don't think it's all that useful as a source. Numerous other readily available and more specialist sources provide better and detailed info, IMHO.--cjllw ʘ TALK 03:01, 28 September 2007 (UTC)

Then let's say "a", but the article as it stands doesn't provide any acknowledgement of Knorosov's contribution into the decipherment. As if he wrote only one "supposing" work and everything else was done by other contributors. So, please, don't remove references to his 1963 and 1975 works and reworded now reference to Britannica. And please don't remove requests of inline citations, there are too few such citations in the article. 16:00, 28 September 2007 (UTC)

peer review for rongorongo[edit]

I've asked for peer review for rongorongo, and I'd appreciate the input from anyone here. Knorozov's worked on both! We've gotten rid of (most of?) the kookery, and hopefully it's now close to being a worthy article.

Thanks, kwami (talk) 09:13, 4 March 2008 (UTC)

Sure kwami, will try to have a look in the next day or two. --cjllw ʘ TALK 10:48, 4 March 2008 (UTC)

Japanese Kanji?[edit]

I note a few references to "Japanese writing" and "Japanese kanji," however is this appropriate, seeing as Japanese kanji are none other than characters imported from China? In fact, without Chinese characters the Japanese wouldn't have a writing system, seeing as the meaningless syllabic kana are but over-simplified Chinese hanzi. Chinese characters themselves have different usages, meanings and pronunciations even within China, so I don't think the credit of a writing system with various pronunciations etc. should be given to that of Japanese writing. Credit where it's due: Chinese characters and their usage predates Japanese writing.KogeJoe (talk) 05:43, 11 December 2009 (UTC)

We're talking about the system, not the history. We don't know that the Maya invented writing either. kwami (talk) 07:46, 11 December 2009 (UTC)
Yes, it is the "system" which resembles modern Japanese. The use of both logographic and phonetic graphemes is salient, as is the variation in the use of okurigana. For that matter, one might also consider the use of special "left-hand mouth" characters in colloquial written Cantonese as another example of how logograms and phonetic elements are combined. Q'eqchi7 (talk) 15:30, 10 July 2012 (UTC)

too much POV history on decipherment[edit]

I find that there is in the page a theme regarding the contention between a purported old and new school of thought about decipherment; it all seems rather irreleveant - what matters is the script itself, rather than the history of how it came to be understood - certainly it merits a paragraph or so, but as it is, it's the main body of the page. It also feels very POV, the 'evil old school' vs the 'wonderful new school'.

Toby Douglass (talk) 11:04, 30 March 2010 (UTC)

Join the club![edit]

The list of researchers is pretty pointless. This is an article about the script, not about the club. If you are not in the text or in the bibliography, too bad for you. (talk) 23:06, 14 March 2012 (UTC)

I agree. It claims it lists 'current leaders' in the field, yet has 2 deceased researchers. Below, it claims 'many more' researchers are apparently research leaders. There is no indication what the list is based on, and nothing in the bibliography gives a clue either. I am going to remove the list, and kindly invite editors intimate with the subject to come up with criteria for inclusion before redoing the list. Regards, Pim Rijkee (talk) 03:21, 29 April 2012 (UTC)

Let's try to be consistent about Maya/Mayan[edit]

Regarding W's Mesoamerican guidelines, "", let me say a bit more about using "Mayan" to talk about language and "Maya" to talk about everything else. The script we are talking about here is certainly part of Mayan language. To underscore my point, please consider these examples:

(1) We are currently uncertain about which languages and dialects the Mayan script may have been used to write; however, Yucatecan and Cholan dialects were certainly among them. If only we could go back in time and ask those Mayan writers in person!
(2) School teachers in Punta Gorda must sometimes teach English composition to Creole, Q'eqchi', and Mopan students in the same classroom. The Maya writers evidence error patterns significantly different from those of the Creole writers.

In other words, when we are talking about a script, a text, or any writing which is clearly related to some Mayan language, then we should use phrases such as "Mayan script", "Mayan text", and "Mayan writing". Of course, if the writing is not related to Mayan language per se, then phrases such as "Maya writing" or "Maya text" would be appropriate.

Q'eqchi7 (talk) 15:47, 10 July 2012 (UTC)

  1. ^ Yuri Knorosov at Britannica
  2. ^ (Russian)Yuri Knorosov