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Mayan Writing Andrea M. Ranada Mayan Writing Andrea Ranada.

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1 Mayan Writing Andrea M. Ranada Mayan Writing Andrea Ranada

2 The Maya Scribe Typical appearance: Hair wrapped with a head cloth
A “stick bundle” attached to the head cloth The occasional stick-like tool included in the headdress A sarong tied at the waist (its length may vary). The scribe is writing on an open codex with jaguar-skin covers (Late Classic plate) Rabbit God writing a codex with what appears to be a quill pen. Detail from and 8th century vase Scribes had a special status in society Some kings and queens were also scribes The Maya worshipped the gods of writing, one of them being Rabbit God.

3 Mayan Writing Surfaces

4 Limestone Limestone is abundant in the Yucatán peninsula
Freshly excavated limestone is fairly soft and easily manipulated, but eventually hardens upon exposure to air The picture on the left is from the Tablet of the 96 Hieroglyphs at Palenque on limestone.

5 Volcanic Tuff Found at Copán (limestone was rare in this region)
Extremely durable under the humid conditions of the area Produced remarkable three-dimensional sculptures The picture above depicts the Moon Goddess with the Rabbit God. It is from a bench in the scribal compound of Copán.

6 Plaster and Paper Plaster (calcium carbonate) is commonly used on the walls of ancient Mayan architecture Plaster can be found on the surface of all four Maya codices, suggesting that the scribes did not directly write on the paper, but more on plaster-like surfaces Amate is the paper used by the Maya; it is made from the inner bark of wild fig trees Papermaking process: Boil inner bark fibers Soak it in lime Layer fibers in grid formation Compress to combine the layers into a sheet The blank reverse of pp8-10 of the Grolier Codex. The damage on the pages reveals the fibrous structure of bark paper.

7 Other Surfaces Jade Pottery Wood Bone Shell
Jade: The back of an Early Classic pendant Pottery: The text around the rim indicates that this is a vessel for chocolate drink. Wood: Sapodilla wood lintel from Temple I in Tikal Bone: A human captive’s femur; it bears the portrait of his captor Shell: conch-shell trumpet bearing pictures of the Moon God (right). The text refers to ceremonial bloodletting.

8 Mayan Writing Tools Carving and Incising Tools
No evidence that it was made of metal Most likely stone chisels were used on monumental stone On bone, wood, and shell, hafted obsidian blades were probably used Brush and Quill Pens Brush pens supposedly similar to traditional Chinese brush pens Quill pens were used for more thinner lines and more precise designs Inkpots and Inks The Maya used conch shells cut in half lengthwise as inkpots Black and red pigments were typically used on the codices Conch-shell inkpot with hematite paint remains

9 The inner bark of wild fig trees were used to form the sheets of paper.
Horizontal sheets were made and folded accordion-style to form the Maya books These folded sheets had script and illustrations on both sides and possibly wood or leather served as covers. The Maya books served a general purpose of presenting calendrical and celestial systems, including but not limited to: Venus cycle tables Eclipse tables Pictures of ceremonies & deities Multiplication tables A 260-day sacred almanac The Maya Codices Pages of the Dresden Codex. It presents long calendrical calculations and multiplication tables

10 The numbers 1-13 permutate with the 20 day names, so that a particular day will occur every 260 days
One bar means 5, and a dot means 1. The 260-day count

11 The Paris Codex Katuns (20 years) Tuns (360 days)
The grand cycle is 13 katuns, and after 13 katuns, history is supposed to repeat itself. The codex only documents 11 katuns (at least 2 pages are missing). The center of each codex page has an image of the deity that rules that katun (one katun is documented per page). Hieroglyphic text about prophecies and rituals frames these images. Page 24 of the Paris Codex. It shows Maya constellations

12 The Madrid Codex Also known as the Tro-Cortes, because at some point the codex split into two parts (1st part Tro, 2nd part Cortes) and was found at separate occasions in Spain This codex seems to be purely about divination It does not contain astronomy, prophecies, or multiplication tables, but it does contain a 260-day almanac. Pages 14 and 15 of the Madrid Codex. The top third are two 260-day almanacs where gods perform ritual acts. The procession of day signs on the bottom cross the rain serpents and form a 260-day count

13 The Grolier Codex A recent discovery
Only half (10 pages) of it has been found It primarily deals with the 582-day Venus cycle Each page deals with one part of the cycle Each part has a sinister deity dominating that part of the cycle The deities are sinister because the Mesoamerican mentality considers all aspects of the planet as “ill-omened”. Page 6 of the Grolier Codex. The Death God is on the left, in the act of decapitating a captive, represents Venus as the Evening Star

14 The Dresden Codex Consists of several 260-day almanacs as well as Venus, eclipse, and multiplication tables. The almanacs were divided vertically into t’ols Each division corresponds to a sacred Maya year (tzolkin) Each year is a period of 260 days, or a tonalpohualli Each t’ol has a calendrical glyph with hieroglyphic text within four glyph blocks above it Each calendrical glyph indicates a day in the sacred calendar, and right below it is an image of a god or some sort of protagonist, such as the Moon Goddess. Page 7 of the Dresden Codex. There are various almanacs here based on the 260-day count. Above each seated god is a block of 4-6 glyphs describing a ritual action, and naming the god as the actor.

15 Conclusion The purpose of Mayan writing, specifically in codices, is to document celestial events and calendrical systems. The Grolier and Dresden codices deal with more astronomical instances. The Paris Codex concerns katuns and tuns. The Madrid Codex remains purely divinatory. The content of the four codices all truly represent the remarkable achievements of the ancient Maya. Top left (ah k’u hun) Top right (Yiban) Middle right (the ah k’u hun of) Bottom right (kalom)

16 The End

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