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Substitution, Substitution, Substitution: The Many Faces Of Maya Writing

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Chapter Summary

The Maya writing system originated and evolved in an area currently covered by south-eastern Mexico (states of Tabasco, Chiapas, Campeche, Yucatan, and Quintana Roo), Belize, Guatemala, and the western parts of Honduras and El Salvador. The decipherment of Maya writing started more or less with the discovery, description, and publication of important texts in the nineteenth century. This chapter presents several examples of Maya writing in which Maya scribes provided both simple and complex sign combinations to record specific name phrases of local kings. The written renditions of the names of several kings during the Classic Maya period included the sign for jaguar, the most powerful land predator in the area. In Mayan languages, there is more than one word for "jaguar." The human hand is a versatile instrument and the Classic Maya seem to have explored many of the possible postures and gestures.

Keywords: Guatemala; human hand; jaguar; Maya writing



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