Mayan Hieroglyphs and codices
[Note: The background graphics on Grandmother Flordemayo's pages are Mayan hieroglyphics. Some of these include bar and dot symbols. These are Mayan dates, or numbers, known as the long count. The bar and dot symbols represent numerical numbers in multiples of twenty. ]
Using glyphs, the Mayan written language is logographic and phonetic. Logographics give us pronunciation clues, but not a precise meaning. Phonetics is the spelling that represents sounds. The Maya used both to create a writing system packed with information about Mayan religion, politics ,and history. Hieroglyphic texts were carved and painted on sculpture, buildings, pottery and cloth and in ancient books. We have only just begun to decipher Mayan scripts.
While we have many fragments of Mayan manuscripts called codices (codex in singular), only three completed codices exist. They are found in a museums and libraries in Europe. Some tell of religious ceremonies, some of great hunts and others detail the duties of each person in the complex social structure.
Archeologists believe there were hundreds of codices, but Spanish explorers had them destroyed. These codices were found in the Mayan ruins. To read the codices, missionaries used natives to help decipher the messages. They also used clues such as matching glyphs on buildings with those in codices.
Codices were made from the bark of a tree or deer hide. The bark was first removed, then softened in limewater to form a pulp. The Mayans pounded the pulp to form flat sheets and then dried them. The paper was folded accordion style and a cover was often added.
Today, nearly 6,000,000 people speak about 28 Mayan languages now written in the Roman alphabet. The modern language is still used to help unlock the ancient writing system and its many secrets.