Reading signs: Breaking the Maya
Native Village News, 2003
Martha Macri is the founder of the Maya Hieroglyphic Database Project (MHDP), based at the University of California, Davis. MHDP's goal is to make available a comprehensive database of Mayan glyphs (signs) to scholars and serious students. With each entry labeled in numeric code, English, and Maya, it is the only current Maya database to use visual images. "Native people in the Americas really did have written history from an early time," she said. For years, Maya glyphs were an elegant puzzle. It wasn’t until the 1950s that Yuri Knorosov unlocked the phonetic code which is based on syllables, not an alphabet. It took a couple decades more for his theory to be accepted. Macri"s project is meant to help decipher the nuances within the language itself. So far, MHDP has amassed over 40,000 glyph "blocks," distinct images found in ancient stone carvings. About 8,000 images from codex (books) are in a smaller database.