An Introduction to the Study of the Maya Hieroglyphs
BUREAU OF AMERICAN ETHNOLOGY
AN INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY
OF THE MAYA HIEROGLYPHS
SYLVANUS GRISWOLD MORLEY
GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE
LETTER OF TRANSMITTAL
- Smithsonian Institution,
Bureau of American Ethnology,
Washington, D. C., January 7, 1914.
- Smithsonian Institution,
Sir: I have the honor to submit the accompanying manuscript of a memoir bearing the title "An Introduction to the Study of the Maya Hieroglyphs," by Sylvanus Griswold Morley, and to recommend its publication as a bulletin of the Bureau of American Ethnology.
The hieroglyphic writing developed by the Maya of Central America and southern Mexico was probably the foremost intellectual achievement of pre-Columbian times in the New World, and as such it deserves equal attention with other graphic systems of antiquity.
The earliest inscriptions now extant probably date from about the beginning of the Christian era, but such is the complexity of the glyphs and subject matter even at this early period, that in order to estimate the age of the system it is necessary to postulate a far greater antiquity for its origin. Indeed all that can be accepted safely in this direction is that many centuries must have elapsed before the Maya hieroglyphic writing could have been developed to the highly complex stage where we first encounter it.
The first student to make any progress in deciphering the Maya inscriptions was Prof. Ernst Förstemann, of the Royal Library at Dresden. About 1880 Professor Förstemann published a facsimile reproduction of the Dresden codex, and for the next twenty years devoted the greater part of his time to the elucidation of this manuscript. He it was who first discovered and worked out the ingenious vigesimal system of numeration used by the Maya, and who first pointed out how this system was utilized to record astronomical and chronological facts. In short, his pioneer work made possible all subsequent progress in deciphering Maya texts.
Curiously enough, about the same time, or a little later (in 1891), another student of the same subject, Mr. J. T. Goodman, of Alameda, California, working independently and without knowledge of Professor Förstemann's researches, also succeeded in deciphering the chronological parts of the Maya texts, and in determining the values of the head-variant numerals. Mr. Goodman also perfected some tables, "The Archaic Chronological Calendar" and "The Archaic Annual Calendar," which greatly facilitate the decipherment of the calculations recorded in the texts.
It must be admitted that very little progress has been made in deciphering the Maya glyphs except those relating to the calendar and chronology; that is, the signs for the various time periods (days and months), the numerals, and a few name-glyphs; however, as these known signs comprise possibly two-fifths of all the glyphs, it is clear that the general tenor of the Maya inscriptions is no longer concealed from us. The remaining three-fifths probably tell the nature of the events which occurred on the corresponding dates, and it is to these we must turn for the subject matter of Maya history. The deciphering of this textual residuum is enormously complicated by the character of the Maya glyphs, which for the greater part are ideographic rather than phonetic; that is, the various symbols represent ideas rather than sounds.
In a graphic system composed largely of ideographic elements it is extremely difficult to determine the meanings of the different signs, since little or no help is to be derived from varying combinations of elements as in a phonetic system. In phonetic writing the symbols have fixed sounds, which are unchanging throughout, and when these values have once been determined, they may be substituted for the characters wherever they occur, and thus words are formed.
While the Maya glyphs largely represent ideas, indubitable traces of phoneticism and phonetic composition appear. There are perhaps half a dozen glyphs in all which are known to be constructed on a purely phonetic basis, and as the remaining glyphs are gradually deciphered this number will doubtless be increased.
The progress which has been made in deciphering the Maya inscriptions may be summarized as follows: The Maya calendar, chronology, and astronomy as recorded in the hieroglyphic texts have been carefully worked out, and it is unlikely that future discoveries will change our present conception of them. There remains, however, a group of glyphs which are probably non-calendric, non-chronologic, and non-astronomic in character. These, it may be reasonably expected, will be found to describe the subject matter of Maya history; that is, they probably set forth the nature of the events which took place on the dates recorded. An analogy would be the following: Supposing, in scanning a history of the United States, only the dates could be read. We would find, for example, July 4, 1776, followed by unknown characters; April 12, 1861, by others; and March 4, 1912, by others. This, then, is the case with the Maya glyphs—we find dates followed by glyphs of unknown meaning, which presumably set forth the nature of the corresponding events. In a word, we know now the chronologic skeleton of Maya history; it remains to work out the more intimate details which alone can make it a vital force.
The published writings on the subject of the Maya hieroglyphs have become so voluminous, and are so widely scattered and inaccessible, that it is difficult for students of Central American archeology to become familiar with what has been accomplished in this important field of investigation. In the present memoir Mr. Morley, who has devoted a number of years to the study of Maya archeology, and especially to the hieroglyphs, summarizes the results of these researches to the present time, and it is believed that this Introduction to the Study of the Maya Hieroglyphs will be the means of enabling ready and closer acquaintance with this interesting though intricate subject.
F. W. Hodge,
Dr. Charles D. Walcott,
Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution,
Washington, D. C.
With the great expansion of interest in American archeology during the last few years there has grown to be a corresponding need and demand for primary textbooks, archeological primers so to speak, which will enable the general reader, without previous knowledge of the science, to understand its several branches. With this end in view, the author has prepared An Introduction to the Study of the Maya Hieroglyphs.
The need for such a textbook in this particular field is suggested by two considerations: (1) The writings of previous investigators, having been designed to meet the needs of the specialist rather than those of the beginner, are for the greater part too advanced and technical for general comprehension; and (2) these writings are scattered through many publications, periodicals as well as books, some in foreign languages, and almost all difficult of access to the average reader.
To the second of these considerations, however, the writings of Mr. C. P. Bowditch, of Boston, Massachusetts, offer a conspicuous exception, particularly his final contribution to this subject, entitled "The Numeration, Calendar Systems, and Astronomical Knowledge of the Mayas," the publication of which in 1910 marked the dawn of a new era in the study of the Maya hieroglyphic writing. In this work Mr. Bowditch exhaustively summarizes all previous knowledge of the subject, and also indicates the most promising lines for future investigation. The book is a vast storehouse of heretofore scattered material, now gathered together for the first time and presented to the student in a readily accessible form. Indeed, so thorough is its treatment, the result of many years of intensive study, that the writer would have hesitated to bring out another work, necessarily covering much of the same ground, had it not been for his belief that Mr. Bowditch's book is too advanced for lay comprehension. The Maya hieroglyphic writing is exceedingly intricate; its subject matter is complex and its forms irregular; and in order to be understood it must be presented in a very elementary way. The writer believes that this primer method of treatment has not been followed in the publication in question and, furthermore, that the omission of specimen texts, which would give the student practice in deciphering the glyphs, renders it too technical for use by the beginner.
Acknowledgment should be made here to Mr. Bowditch for his courtesy in permitting the reproduction of a number of drawings from his book, the examples of the period, day and month glyphs figured being derived almost entirely from this source; and in a larger sense for his share in the establishment of instruction in this field of research at Harvard University where the writer first took up these studies.
In the limited space available it would have been impossible to present a detailed picture of the Maya civilization, nor indeed is this essential to the purpose of the book. It has been thought advisable, however, to precede the general discussion of the hieroglyphs with a brief review of the habitat, history, customs, government, and religion of the ancient Maya, so that the reader may gather a general idea of the remarkable people whose writing and calendar he is about to study.
|Chapter I.||The Maya||1|
|Manners and customs||7|
|II.||The Maya hieroglyphic writing||22|
|III.||How the Maya reckoned time||37|
|The tonalamatl, or 260-day period||41|
|The haab, or year of 365 days||44|
|The Calendar Round, or 18,980-day period||51|
|The Long Count||60|
|The introducing glyph||64|
|The cycle glyph||68|
|The katun glyph||68|
|The tun glyph||70|
|The uinal glyph||70|
|The kin glyph||72|
|U kahlay katunob||79|
|Bar and dot numerals||87|
|First method of numeration||105|
|Number of cycles in a great cycle||107|
|Second method of numeration||129|
|First step in solving Maya numbers||134|
|Second step in solving Maya numbers||135|
|Third step in solving Maya numbers||136|
|Fourth step in solving Maya numbers||138|
|Fifth step in solving Maya numbers||151|
|Texts recording Initial Series||157|
|Texts recording Initial Series and Secondary Series||207|
|Texts recording Period Endings||222|
|Texts recording Initial Series, Secondary Series, and Period Endings||233|
|Errors in the originals||245|
|Texts recording tonalamatls||251|
|Texts recording Initial Series||266|
|Texts recording Serpent Numbers||273|
|Texts recording Ascending Series||276|
List of Tables
|Table I.||The twenty Maya day names||37|
|II.||Sequence of Maya days||42|
|III.||The divisions of the Maya year||45|
|IV.||Positions of days at the end of a year||48|
|V.||Relative positions of days beginning Maya years||53|
|VI.||Positions of days in divisions of Maya year||55|
|VII.||Positions of days in divisions of Maya year according to Maya notation||55|
|VIII.||The Maya time-periods||62|
|IX.||Sequence of katuns in u kahlay katunob||80|
|X.||Characteristics of head-variant numerals 0-19, inclusive||103|
|XI.||Sequence of twenty consecutive dates in the month Pop||111|
|XII.||Comparison of the two methods of numeration||133|
|XIII.||Values of higher periods in terms of lowest, in inscriptions||135|
|XIV.||Values of higher periods in terms of lowest, in codices||135|
|XV.||The 365 positions in the Maya year||141|
|XVI.||80 Calendar Rounds expressed in Arabic and Maya notation||143|
|XVII.||Interrelationship of dates on Stelæ E, F, and J and Zoömorph G, Quirigua||239|
|Plate 1.||The Maya territory, showing locations of principal cities (map)||1|
|2.||Diagram showing periods of occupancy of principal southern cities||15|
|3.||Page 74 of the Dresden Codex, showing the end of the world (according to Förstemann)||32|
|4.||Diagram showing occurrence of dates recorded in Cycle 9||35|
|5.||Tonalamatl wheel, showing sequence of the 260 differently named days||43|
|6.||Glyphs representing Initial Series, showing use of bar and dot numerals and normal-form period glyphs||157|
|7.||Glyphs representing Initial Series, showing use of bar and dot numerals and head-variant period glyphs||167|
|8.||Glyphs representing Initial Series, showing use of bar and dot numerals and head-variant period glyphs||170|
|9.||Glyphs representing Initial Series, showing use of bar and dot numerals and head-variant period glyphs||176|
|10.||Glyphs representing Initial Series, showing use of bar and dot numerals and head-variant period glyphs—Stela 3, Tikal||178|
|11.||Glyphs representing Initial Series, showing use of bar and dot numerals and head-variant period glyphs—Stela A (east side), Quirigua||179|
|12.||Glyphs representing Initial Series, showing use of head-variant numerals and period glyphs||180|
|13.||Oldest Initial Series at Copan—Stela 15||187|
|14.||Initial Series on Stela D, Copan, showing full-figure numeral glyphs and period glyphs||188|
|15.||Initial Series on Stela J, Copan||191|
|16.||Initial Series and Secondary Series on Lintel 21, Yaxchilan||207|
|17.||Initial Series and Secondary Series on Stela 1, Piedras Negras||210|
|18.||Initial Series and Secondary Series on Stela K, Quirigua||213|
|19.||Initial Series and Secondary Series on Stela F (west side), Quirigua||218|
|20.||Initial Series on Stela F (east side), Quirigua||220|
|21.||Examples of Period-ending dates in Cycle 9||223|
|22.||Examples of Period-ending dates in cycles other than Cycle 9||227|
|23.||Initial Series, Secondary Series, and Period-ending dates on Stela 3, Piedras Negras||233|
|24.||Initial Series, Secondary Series, and Period-ending dates on Stela E (west side), Quirigua||235|
|25.||Calendar-round dates on Altar 5, Tikal||240|
|26.||Initial Series on Stela N, Copan, showing error in month coefficient||248|
|27.||Page 12 of the Dresden Codex, showing tonalamatls in all three divisions||254|
|28.||Page 15 of the Dresden Codex, showing tonalamatls in all three divisions||260|
|29.||Middle divisions of pages 10 and 11 of the Codex Tro-Cortesiano, showing one tonalamatl extending across the two pages||262|
|30.||Page 102 of the Codex Tro-Cortesiano, showing tonalamatls in the lower three divisions||263|
|Page 24 of the Dresden Codex, showing Initial Series||266|
|32.||Page 62 of the Dresden Codex, showing the Serpent Numbers||273|
|Figure 1.||Itzamna, chief deity of the Maya Pantheon||16|
|2.||Kukulcan, God of Learning||17|
|3.||Ahpuch, God of Death||17|
|4.||The God of War||17|
|5.||Ek Ahau, the Black Captain, war deity||18|
|6.||Yum Kaax, Lord of the Harvest||18|
|7.||Xaman Ek, the North Star God||19|
|8.||Conflict between the Gods of Life and Death (Kukulcan and Ahpuch)||19|
|9.||Outlines of the glyphs||22|
|10.||Examples of glyph elision, showing elimination of all parts except essential element||23|
|11.||Normal-form and head-variant glyphs, showing retention of essential element in each||24|
|12.||Normal-form and head-variant glyphs, showing absence of common essential element||25|
|13.||Glyphs built up on a phonetic basis||28|
|14.||A rebus. Aztec, and probably Maya, personal and place names were written in a corresponding manner||29|
|15.||Aztec place names||30|
|16.||The day signs in the inscriptions||38|
|17.||The day signs in the codices||39|
|18.||Sign for the tonalamatl (according to Goodman)||44|
|19.||The month signs in the inscriptions||49|
|20.||The month signs in the codices||50|
|21.||Diagram showing engagement of tonalamatl wheel of 260 days and haab wheel of 365 positions; the combination of the two giving the Calendar Round, or 52-year period||57|
|22.||Signs for the Calendar Round||59|
|23.||Diagram showing section of Calendar-round wheel||64|
|24.||Initial-series "introducing glyph"||65|
|25.||Signs for the cycle||68|
|26.||Full-figure variant of cycle sign||69|
|27.||Signs for the katun||69|
|28.||Full-figure variant of katun sign||70|
|29.||Signs for the tun||70|
|30.||Full-figure variant of tun sign||70|
|31.||Signs for the uinal||71|
|32.||Full-figure variant of uinal sign on Zoömorph B, Quirigua||71|
|33.||Full-figure variant of uinal sign on Stela D, Copan||71|
|34.||Signs for the kin||72|
|35.||Full-figure variant of kin sign||73|
|36.||Period glyphs, from widely separated sites and of different epochs, showing persistence of essential elements||74|
|37.||Ending signs and elements||78|
|38.||"Snake" or "knot" element as used with day sign Ahau, possibly indicating presence of the u kahlay katunob in the inscriptions||83|
|39.||Normal forms of numerals 1 to 19, inclusive, in the codices||88|
|40.||Normal forms of numerals 1 to 19, inclusive, in the inscriptions||89|
|41.||Examples of bar and dot numeral 5, showing the ornamentation which the bar underwent without affecting its numerical value||89|
|Examples showing the way in which numerals 1, 2, 6, 7, 11, 12,16, and 17 are not used with period, day, or month signs||90|
|43.||Examples showing the way in which numerals 1, 2, 6, 7, 11, 12,16, and 17 are used with period, day, or month signs||90|
|44.||Normal forms of numerals 1 to 13, inclusive, in the Books of Chilan Balam||91|
|45.||Sign for 20 in the codices||92|
|46.||Sign for 0 in the codices||92|
|47.||Sign for 0 in the inscriptions||93|
|48.||Figure showing possible derivation of the sign for 0 in the inscriptions||93|
|49.||Special sign for 0 used exclusively as a month coefficient||94|
|50.||Examples of the use of bar and dot numerals with period, day, or month signs||95|
|51.||Head-variant numerals 1 to 7, inclusive||97|
|52.||Head-variant numerals 8 to 13, inclusive||98|
|53.||Head-variant numerals 14 to 19, inclusive, and 0||99|
|54.||A sign for 0, used also to express the idea "ending" or "end of" in Period-ending dates||102|
|55.||Examples of the use of head-variant numerals with period, day,or month signs||104|
|56.||Examples of the first method of numeration, used almost exclusively in the inscriptions||105|
|57.||Signs for the cycle showing coefficients above 13||110|
|58.||Part of the inscription on Stela N, Copan, showing a number composed of six periods||115|
|59.||Part of the inscription in the Temple of the Inscriptions, Palenque, showing a number composed of seven periods||115|
|60.||Part of the inscription on Stela 10, Tikal (probably an Initial Series), showing a number composed of eight periods||115|
|61.||Signs for the great cycle and the great-great cycle||118|
|62.||Glyphs showing misplacement of the kin coefficient or elimination of a period glyph||128|
|63.||Examples of the second method of numeration, used exclusively in the codices||131|
|64.||Figure showing the use of the "minus" or "backward" sign in the codices||137|
|65.||Sign for the "month indicator"||153|
|66.||Diagram showing the method of designating particular glyphs in a text||156|
|67.||Signs representing the hotun, or 5-tun, period||166|
|68.||Initial Series showing bar and dot numerals and head-variant period glyphs||174|
|69.||Initial Series showing head-variant numerals and period glyphs||183|
|70.||Initial Series showing head-variant numerals and period glyphs||186|
|71.||Initial Series on Stela H, Quirigua||193|
|72.||The tun, uinal, and kin coefficients on Stela H, Quirigua||194|
|73.||The Initial Series on the Tuxtla Statuette, the oldest Initial Series known (in the early part of Cycle 8)||195|
|74.||The introducing glyph (?) of the Initial Series on the Tuxtla Statuette||196|
|75.||Drawings of the Initial Series: A, On the Leyden Plate; B, on a lintel from the Temple of the Initial Series, Chichen Itza||197|
|The Cycle-10 Initial Series from Quen Santo||200|
|77.||Initial Series which proceed from a date prior to 4 Ahau8 Cumhu, the starting point of Maya chronology||204|
|78.||The Initial Series on Stela J, Quirigua||215|
|79.||The Secondary Series on Stela J, Quirigua||216|
|80.||Glyphs which may disclose the nature of the events that happened at Quirigua on the dates: a, 9. 14. 13. 4. 17 12 Caban 5 Kayab; b, 9. 15. 6. 14. 6 6 Cimi 4 Tzec||221|
|81.||The Initial Series, Secondary Series, and Period-ending date on Altar S, Copan||232|
|82.||The Initial Series on Stela E (east side), Quirigua||236|
|84.||Texts showing actual errors in the originals||245|
|85.||Example of first method of numeration in the codices (part of page 69 of the Dresden Codex)||275|
Aguilar, Sanchez de. 1639. Informe contra idolorum cultores del Obispado de Yucatan. Madrid. (Reprint in Anales Mus. Nac. de Mexico, VI, pp. 17-122, Mexico, 1900.)
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—— 1906. The Temples of the Cross, of the Foliated Cross, and of the Sun at Palenque. Cambridge, Mass.
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—— 1910. The numeration, calendar systems, and astronomical knowledge of the Mayas. Cambridge, Mass.
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—— 1894 b. A primer of Mayan hieroglyphics. Pubs. Univ. of Pa., Ser. in Philol., Lit., and Archeol., III, No. 2.
Bulletin 28 of the Bureau of American Ethnology, 1904: Mexican and Central American antiquities, calendar systems, and history. Twenty-four papers by Eduard Seler, E. Förstemann, Paul Schellhas, Carl Sapper, and E. P. Dieseldorff. Translated from the German under the supervision of Charles P. Bowditch.
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—— 1910. Explorations in the Department of Peten, Guatemala, and adjacent region. [Continued.] Ibid., No. 3, pp. 131-170.
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