Sunday, September 07, 2008

Breaking the Maya Code

For those of you, who, like me, are interested in the Mayan hieroglyphs and the stories they tell about the ancient Maya civilization, a 2-hour documentary is slated to be available DVD on September 16, 2008. Apparently a brief 50-minute version of this was aired back in April on NOVA, which I unfortunately missed. The film is based on Michael Coe's book, Breaking the Maya Code, which I have read, documenting the history of how the ancient Mayan hieroglyphs were deciphered.

It was long thought that the Mayan glyphs were a form of picture-writing, perhaps similar to what the Mexica, or Aztecs, used. However, a Russian scholar, Yuri Knorosov, living in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) in the USSR in the 1950s, who had never even visited the Maya ruins and worked only from pictures and paper copies, had discovered that the Mayan glyphs, like those of ancient Egypt and Sumeria, were partly phonetic, giving clues to their pronunciation and correct decipherment.