• warning: Parameter 1 to theme_field() expected to be a reference, value given in /nfs/c02/h01/mnt/42743/domains/mstrmnd.com/html/includes/theme.inc on line 171.
  • recoverable fatal error: Object of class stdClass could not be converted to string in /nfs/c02/h01/mnt/42743/domains/mstrmnd.com/html/sites/all/themes/custom/basic/node-blog.tpl.php on line 109.
  • recoverable fatal error: Object of class stdClass could not be converted to string in /nfs/c02/h01/mnt/42743/domains/mstrmnd.com/html/sites/all/themes/custom/basic/node-blog.tpl.php on line 109.
  • recoverable fatal error: Object of class stdClass could not be converted to string in /nfs/c02/h01/mnt/42743/domains/mstrmnd.com/html/sites/all/themes/custom/basic/node-blog.tpl.php on line 109.
  • recoverable fatal error: Object of class stdClass could not be converted to string in /nfs/c02/h01/mnt/42743/domains/mstrmnd.com/html/sites/all/themes/custom/basic/node-blog.tpl.php on line 109.
  • recoverable fatal error: Object of class stdClass could not be converted to string in /nfs/c02/h01/mnt/42743/domains/mstrmnd.com/html/sites/all/themes/custom/basic/node-blog.tpl.php on line 109.
  • recoverable fatal error: Object of class stdClass could not be converted to string in /nfs/c02/h01/mnt/42743/domains/mstrmnd.com/html/sites/all/themes/custom/basic/node-blog.tpl.php on line 109.
  • recoverable fatal error: Object of class stdClass could not be converted to string in /nfs/c02/h01/mnt/42743/domains/mstrmnd.com/html/sites/all/themes/custom/basic/node-blog.tpl.php on line 109.
  • recoverable fatal error: Object of class stdClass could not be converted to string in /nfs/c02/h01/mnt/42743/domains/mstrmnd.com/html/sites/all/themes/custom/basic/node-blog.tpl.php on line 109.
  • recoverable fatal error: Object of class stdClass could not be converted to string in /nfs/c02/h01/mnt/42743/domains/mstrmnd.com/html/sites/all/themes/custom/basic/node-blog.tpl.php on line 109.
  • recoverable fatal error: Object of class stdClass could not be converted to string in /nfs/c02/h01/mnt/42743/domains/mstrmnd.com/html/sites/all/themes/custom/basic/node-blog.tpl.php on line 109.
  • recoverable fatal error: Object of class stdClass could not be converted to string in /nfs/c02/h01/mnt/42743/domains/mstrmnd.com/html/sites/all/themes/custom/basic/node-blog.tpl.php on line 109.
  • recoverable fatal error: Object of class stdClass could not be converted to string in /nfs/c02/h01/mnt/42743/domains/mstrmnd.com/html/sites/all/themes/custom/basic/node-blog.tpl.php on line 109.
  • recoverable fatal error: Object of class stdClass could not be converted to string in /nfs/c02/h01/mnt/42743/domains/mstrmnd.com/html/sites/all/themes/custom/basic/node-blog.tpl.php on line 109.
  • recoverable fatal error: Object of class stdClass could not be converted to string in /nfs/c02/h01/mnt/42743/domains/mstrmnd.com/html/sites/all/themes/custom/basic/node-blog.tpl.php on line 109.
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31011.1053

The challenge for Mayan scholarly studies is simple: what's left to study after thousands of years, continual looting, a gripping moisture the jungle provides and the wars of collapse and then conquests. Many of these polities of Central America were abandoned for centuries, or trafficked rarely. What's survived in written form from the Americas' (it is poorly yet logically claimed) only literate civilization?  Not much, few codices (books of recorded data) and mostly what has survived the jungle in these forms of glyphically rendered stone and baked clay - a predominance of dates and what appears at first simplified deity or lordship worship verses, hymnals. As in most dominant indigenous cultures carefully studied by the explosion of graduate studies in the last century, the language is recorded in somewhat complete dictionaries per 'dialect' through spoken word translation. Although narrative myths exist in spoken Maya, some scattered in ethnographies, only a few complete narratives were recorded at the Spanish conquest, none are in their original written or carved glyphic transmission, and unfortunately thousands upon thousands of Mayan books are lost, a few hundred even burned by a fearful Jesuit as retribution for locals continuing to practice their local religions while also attending mass. Now Dennis Tedlock has achieved what might have seemed impossible only decades ago, he's brought the first study of Mayan literature to a masterful book form.  Although a blight of evidence might have hindered research, it also may have been a proverbial blessing in disguise. Scholars have had to work with pottery and monumental stela, and both have coded, expressive manners of storytelling; since stela, lintels etc. were integrated into sky viewing structures, they offer more complete understandings of the language's use of time and math, even interrelations between phases, and even some unusual keys: differing perceptions in meaning but not gesture, violating, or perhaps liberating them from the closed structure of western languages.  Using available data, some of which he's translated himself (a crucial one - an expansive take on the Popol Vuh), Tedlock incorporates his knowledge by impersonating unconscious strategies of Mayan and pools a vast array of master thinkers like Coe, Marcus, Taube, Marcus, Schele, Stuart, Aveni, B. Tedlock, Rice, Houston, and Kerr and assembles, in piles almost - into their spheres of specialty, translations of key artifacts and styles of writing, utilizing leaps with data they've already hinted at, but Tedlock makes certain overarching leaps: he states naming conventions across boundaries (a use of 'hereafter' that results in several 'eureka's). He shows the Maya possesed powerful storytelling strategies that any culture would could and should explore, both in literate and non-literate ways, and he extols visual specifities exclusive of translation.  He takes an open risk visual evolutions he's spotting are values that travel along a logical route, thus building skeletons of ideas from orchestrated proof. He includes astronomical data to many entries and it boosts his arguments since these chosen stories' shapes clearly expand into the night sky, some are cleverly illustrated with sky views and gradient milky ways including discussions of decaying orbits, spans of sky appearance, the goals of which are astounding once the language's overarching methods seep in (a spoiler that shouldn't be ruined here). A chapter about Mayan graffiti is pivotal, you can sense the literacy of non-royals, non-astronomers, thus the Maya convincingly hint that their language was suffusive, beyond any ideas (or ideals!) of literacy we cling desperately to in the west. This slight chapter even questions Western visual literacy by comparison. Accompanying the juicy textual discoveries are some exquisite visual strategies possible only in book form - the venn between anthropology, archeology and linguistics - connective starscapes, visually-based translations of both layout and deciphered mirroring. Sometimes these illustrations are maybe a bit asutere, but the gravity of shapes and forms in play and the historical correlations are proven (look below for only a hint): and above too, the cover's bare-bones stela-ish design is a preview of things to come inside. And the number he chooses as a timeframe, 2000, shows how unsensual our millenial epochal stopwatches are, how constrictingly dull our calendrical bookends can seem. Tedlock's book should be read by all slightly interested in the past and future of languages, and he's carefully prepared it for anyone without knowledge of the Maya with a run-through introductory chapter of conventional practice in Mayan dating and grammar. Tedlock's book is a time-extended lingual guide and much, much more. A must read.

2000 Years of Mayan Literature, Dennis Tedlock, University of California Press, 2010

A must-read 43 page transcript of Dennis and Barbara Tedlock's unedited interview for the Nova documentary Breaking the Maya Code.

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