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5 Fantastic Free Resources for Learning Maya Glyphs

A selection of free resources for learning Maya glyphs and grammar

Do you have a passion for Maya archaeology and fancy learning how to read Maya glyphs? While there are a number of books you can buy, such as Michael D.Coe and Mark Van Stone’s Reading the Maya Glyphs (buy this on Amazon/Amazon UK), you might also want to check out these 5 fantastic and completely free online resources, especially if you’re on a tight budget.

1) Writing in Maya Glyphs: A Non-Technical Introduction to Maya Glyphs This two-part booklet by Mark Pitts is perfect for beginners and assumes no prior knowledge of linguistics or Maya grammar. Part 1 provides an introduction to the Maya and their writing system, a syllabary of glyphs, guides to reading Maya texts and writing your name in glyphs, some commonly used vocabulary (e.g. Maya titles, professions, family relationships and names of towns), and tips on how to start writing short sentences. Part 2 deals primarily with Maya numbers and the Maya calendar system, which consists of three different cycles: the Tzolk’in, the Haab, and the Long Count. In addition, Pitts also provides some information about sacred days in the Maya calendar as well as links to online calculators for Maya dates and the phases of the moon.

2) Introduction to Maya Hieroglyphs Workshop Handbook This handbook by Harri Kettunen (University of Helsinki) and Christophe Helmke (University College London) is meant to be used in conjunction with their hieroglyphic workshops but it may still be useful for independent learners. It provides a more detailed overview of the Maya writing system and the history of its decipherment as well as the conventions used in transliterating and translating Maya texts. It also covers Classical Maya grammar and looks at the various types of inscriptions and artefacts that Mayanists normally work with. Suggestions for further reading and links to online journals and other useful resources can be found in the appendices. Please note that this handbook is aimed at academics so it assumes some prior knowledge of linguistic terminology.

3) Hieroglyphic Decipherment Guide – Inga Calvin’s hieroglyphic study guide provides illustrations and translations of hundreds of glyphs commonly found in Classical Maya inscriptions. The guide has been formatted for double-sided printing and consists of five thematic chapters: calendrics; verbs; nouns; titles, emblem glyphs and deities; and pottery text. If you’re interested in learning more about Maya history, you may want to download a copy of her guide to the royal Maya Dynasties of the Classical Period, which provides some basic biographical data about each of the known Maya rulers and a summary of the stelae their names appear on.

4) Dictionary of Maya Hieroglyphs – John Montgomery’s dictionary is an online database of over 1,200 glyphs and glyph compounds and users can either browse through the index (which is arranged alphabetically) or run a search. Each entry consists of an illustration of the glyph in question as well as its phonetic transcription, Maya equivalent, grammatical function, translation, and Thompson number. This dictionary is ideal for those who already have some basic knowledge of Classical Maya grammar and want to develop their translation skills.

5) Maya Decipherment – Dr. David Stuart’s blog is essential reading for anyone who is interested in Maya archaeology and linguistics. You won’t find any real lessons on Maya glyphs on this blog but you will find plenty of articles on the latest developments in Maya epigraphy, art, and archaeology as well as links to related blogs and websites. With over half a million views to date, this blog has more than earned its place on this list and can be enjoyed by scholars and non-scholars alike.

Maya glyphs

A selection of Maya glyphs (Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

If there are any books or online resources you’d like to recommend to aspiring Mayanists, feel free to share your thoughts below.

Note: All information on this page was correct at the time of publication.

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About Kelly M (330 Articles)
Kelly McGuire is a translator, editor, writer, and gamer with a passion for archaeology, foreign languages, cultural heritage, and wildlife conservation. She tweets under the username @TRHorizons and is the admin and chief content creator for Tomb Raider Horizons.

2 Comments on 5 Fantastic Free Resources for Learning Maya Glyphs

  1. Wow! Having a look at the first pdf… looks really complex!


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