The mysteries of the Mayan language

Mayan SymboleThe language of the ancient Mayan symbol for a long time, but in these days of the Internet helps them to complete this titanic work and write the history of this mysterious Meso-American civilization.

For centuries, scientists have little understanding of the Mayan records, but their elegant astronomical and calendar calculations. Maya dominated much of Central America and southern Mexico for thousands of years before their civilization mysteriously disappeared for about 600 years before the Spanish conquistadors. Maya began to reveal its secrets in the 1950s and 1960s, a process that accelerated in the 1970s. But much of this language, preserved mainly in the form of carved stone, remained a mystery for centuries in hiding in the ruins in the middle of the jungle and the closed rooms of museums.

As long as it’s not entered the University of Texas archaeologist David Stuart – now one of the world’s leading experts on the Mayan language. “I had a lot of boxes of records and notes in my office, and I’m never going to publish my every little supervision. But I thought that if I had a blog, I could talk to him about the new discoveries, and it would pull out some old material from my dusty folders. “

So five years ago, Stewart launched Maya Decipherable – for researchers and enthusiasts in which anyone could publish new writings, improve translations and discuss the subtleties of Maya – all to make the story of this ancient civilization. Work on the project will take years, but with the help of the internet it has become faster pace than ever.

Due to the fact that the Spanish conquistadors at the time tried to erase all the written evidence of the “heathen” tribes Maya, their stories almost nothing is known. Early studies of their culture laid the myth that it was a peace-loving people who have paid great attention to science and ritual. They also gave rise to the misconception that the Mayan date highly revered so-called “Long Cycle” – which corresponds to December 21, 2012 – as the date for the end of the world.

This idea of the Maya was mostly nonsense. They were just as self-serving and generally unpleasant people, like any other people of the time. They waged war, seized the territory and were inhumane towards their enemies. They did not believe in the Day of Judgment: the date in their calendar was just the beginning of the next “Long Cycle”.

But even in the dark ages of their civilization, the Maya scribes took notes about the great events, kings and noble people in a language that has not changed much over the years. “Modern Maya may recognize some of the words, but they do not understand the text,” says Professor Stewart. “This is about the same as if the ancient scribes wrote in classical Latin, and modern Mayans speak Romance languages.”

Another problem is that the Mayan language was no less an art than a formal system. And if the text was formal, it art – no. “The scribes, who carved and painted glyphs, tried to be creative and artistic,” says Stewart. “But once you start to distinguish between emerging patterns, they become predictable.” This requires not only knowledge of modern Maya languages, but also the artistic sophistication that Stewart describes as almost intuitive in understanding how a particular scribe tried to express themselves.

For example, although in the ancient Mayan language there was a picture of the word “k’uh”, which means “god”, “god”, the word is in some texts were written phonetically as two syllables. “Take the syllable” Ky “and the syllable” hu “in” k’uh. ” The first syllable is represented as a bird’s nest, because the word for “bird’s nest” – a “Ky”. The sign “hu” – a picture of the head iguana, as the word for “iguana” is “xy”. Here you see not the semantics, phonetics you look at, “explains Professor Stewart. In this case, the translator working on the text, you need to know what to ignore the value of each of the individual pictures, words and instead use their sounds to get “k’uh.”

“When we have more or less figured out the system, we were confronted with thousands and thousands of surviving letters,” he says. All they require translation, and it is “exactly what we ever since and we have.”

When Stewart began his career over 30 years ago, he came in contact with a handful of people around the world who knew what he was doing, with the help of letters written by hand. “The big technological improvement for us was once a copying machine,” he says. “Epigraphists always wanted to get a copy of the letter.”

And now Stewart acrobystitis images and photographs of the glyphs in his blog for everyone who has access to the Internet. Comments can be left to them from anywhere in the world. Researchers from the remote areas that had previously been cut off from the opportunity to participate in the work, are now equal partners. According to estimates, more than 30 colleges are currently studying and translating letters Maya. And thanks to the internet we now have the chance to work together to uncover and record the history of one of the most mysterious civilizations of ancient America.

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