Author Archives: Christian Prager

About Christian Prager

Nach dem Studium der Altamerikanistik und Ethnologie, Vor- und Frühgeschichte sowie Klassische Archäologie habe ich im Fach Altamerikanistik mit einer Dissertation über Göttervorstellungen in der Klassischen Mayareligion promoviert und arbeite seit 2014 als wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter im Projekt "Textdatenbank und Wörterbuch des Klassischen Maya"
Kognitive Studien von Religion (wie kognitive Mechanismen die Innovation und Transmission von Religion beeinflussen); Kulturelle Transmission (wie Menschen kulturelles Wissen erwerben, es im Gedächtnis speichern und kommunizieren); Religionsethnologie mit den Schwerpunkten Phänomenologie und Religionsgeschichte Mesoamerikas, insbesondere die vorspanische und kolonialzeitliche Mayakultur; Zeitmechanik und Zeitvorstellungen der klassischen Maya; Mayaschrift und Ikonographie als System und in ihrer Funktion als Medium des kulturellen Gedächtnisses; Dokumentation und Publikation von Schrift- und Bildquellen der klassischen Mayakultur; Eroberungs- und Kolonialgeschichte des amerikanischen Kontinents, besonders Yukatan; Geschichte des Faches und die Biographien dessen Fachvertreter

A Possible Logograph XAN “Palm” in Maya Writing

Research Note 5


Christian Prager1 & Elisabeth Wagner1

1 Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität, Bonn

This research note concerns an undeciphered sign in Maya monumental inscriptions that is not included in Eric Thompson’s (1962) standard reference for identifying elements in ancient Maya writing (Figure 1).1)Maya hieroglyphic signs are classified on the basis of Eric Thompson’s (1962) standard catalog, hereafter designated with a capital T before the sign number (e.g., T552). Occasional citation of “Z” or “G” prefixes (e.g. G28, Z1350) refer to William Gates’ (1931) or Günter Zimmermann’s (1956) sign classifications. Martha Macri’s (2003) alphanumeric three-digit code is used to refer to graphemes that are not included in the aforementioned catalogues. Following a recent suggestion by David Stuart (2016), we employ the traditional spelling of days and months as recorded in contact-period documents.

a b
c d e f

Figure 1. Abstract renderings (a, b) and attested forms of the possible logograph XAN “palm”, in typological order: c) Tres Islas Stela 1; d) Copan Stela 49; e) Palenque Platform of Temple XIX, West Side; f) Comalcalco Urn 26, Pendants 10A/10B; g) COL “Walter Randall Stela”; h) Codex Dresdensis 25c (Drawings by Christian Prager).

The sign was first classified under the name A27 by Nikolai Grube (1990) in his revision and extension of Thompson’s original work; the graph exhibited in Grube’s study is taken from the undated Copan Stela 49, which has been attributed to the Early Classic period (Grube 1990:126). In Martha Macri’s sign classification, Grube’s grapheme A27 has later been cataloged as ZZ9 (Macri and Looper 2003, Macri and Vail 2009), and we will further argue in this working paper that Macri’s sign XQB is actually a codex variant of A27/ZZ9. The above-named authors neither provide a description of the sign icon nor propose a semantic or a linguistic interpretation. However, several Late Classic examples attested in the hieroglyphic inscriptions at Temples XIX and XXI at Palenque led David Stuart to the conclusion that the icon of A27 represents some type of tri-lobed flower with crossed bands in its interior (Stuart 2005:19, 101). He observed that A27 is used in the partially deciphered architectural term CHAK-?-NAH-li > chak ? naahil “red ? House”, the question mark standing for A27 (Figure 2).

Figure 2. The use of the sign A27 in the context of the hitherto undeciphered architectural phrase CHAK-?-NAH-li, Palenque Temple XIX Platform, West Side (drawing by Christian Prager).

However, Stuart (2005:101) does not propose a possible meaning or a linguistic decipherment of the element in question, assuming that the hieroglyph itself refers to a building. He thus associates it with an inner structure that may have been built within Temple XIX based on archaeological evidence of postholes around the platform bearing the inscription under discussion.

As noted by Stuart, the sign A27 is usually combined with the prefixed color term CHAK “red” and a suffixed ni or na syllable. Early variants of A27 on the undated Copan Stela 49 (Figure 3) and Tres Islas, St. 2 ( (Figure 4) underscore that the Late Classic crossed-band element of A27, which is formally similar to T552, is most likely a simplification of an interlacing ornament or plaited band pattern (Figure 1a). Elements diagnostic of the Late Classic variant of A27 thus are the tri-lobed foliage and the crossed or plaited band element in its interior. On the alfarda panel of Temple XIX at Palenque (Figure 5), the graph A27 is rendered in such a way that it at first glance looks like two separate graphs, of which the lower one could be confused with a lobed version of the sign T552, usually read AT. However, there is no known substitution in the corpus of Maya texts that would support identification of A27 as an elaborated allograph of T552, making a decipherment of A27 on the basis of T552 highly unlikely.

Figure 3. Earliest variant of the sign A27 on Copan Stela 49 (drawing by Christian Prager after David Stuart [published in Schele and Grube 1991]).

Figure 4. Earliest variant of the sign A27 on Tres Islas Stela 2 (drawing by Christian Prager after Ian Graham [published in Schele, Grube, and Schele 1994:94]).

Figure 5. The architectural term CHAK-A27-NAH-hi on Palenque, Temple 19, Alfarda Panel (drawing by Christian Prager after a drawing by David Stuart).

The dictionary project’s recent revision of published inventories of Maya graphs yields that a previously unrecognized codical variant of A27 is also contained in page 25c of the Codex Dresdensis (Figure 6).2) It is part of the compound CHAK-Z1350a-ni, and as such it is most likely identical with the expression CHAK-A27-NAH-li discussed above. In the New Year pages of Codex Dresdensis, the sign is shown in a sequence of stative expressions for negative qualities of the new year: according to this section of the Codex, the year will bring yah ajan “woe to the maize god” (i.e., crop failure), k’in tun haab “year of drought”, and the mysterious compound CHAK-Z1350a-ni as a third, and most likely also unlucky aspect (Grube 2012, Schele, Grube, and Schele 1997).

Figure 6. Hieroglyphic text exhibiting the term CHAK-Z1350a?-ni in COL Codex Dresdensis, Page 25c (drawing by Christian Prager).

The codex the variant of A27 shows a crossed band element in its interior with tri-lobed foliage on top (Figure 1d). This very graph has already been catalogued by William Gates (1931), who classified it as the sign G28a. Günter Zimmermann (1956) lists this element as the sign 1350a, whereas Yuri Knorozov (1963, 1967) labels it as an independent sign under the nomenclature 359. The Novosibirsk project misidentified the grapheme as variant of the sign for K’IN “day” (Evreinov, Kosarev, and Ustinov 1961), however, and a Mexican research team devoted to the study of the Maya codices labelled it as B12b (Rendón and Spescha 1965). Based on the infixed crossed-band element, Gates, Zimmermann, and Thompson suggest that this rare codex sign is simply a spelling variant of the graph G28 = Z1350 = T552 (the syllable ta and logograph AT). This view is also shared by Macri, who uses a different nomenclature and classifies the codex variant of A27 as XQB (Macri and Vail 2009:152).

a b c d

Figure 7. A comparison between examples of the glyph sequence CHAK-Z1350a-ni: a) in Postclassic form (Codex Dresdensis, page 25c); and its late Classic renderings from b) Tayasal (Vase “T7B/6-22”); c) Cancuen (Ballcourt Marker 2); d) Palenque (Alfarda Panel of Temple 19 (drawings by Christian Prager).

However, we deviate from the aforementioned authors and propose that Zimmermann’s tri-lobed sign with the infixed cross element, variously referred to as Z1350a or XQB, is actually the codex variant of Grube’s graph A27. In accordance with the sign’s morphology and the graphs occurring with it in the glyph block, we argue as a working hypothesis that the hieroglyphic compound CHAK-Z1350a-ni on page 25 of the Codex Dresdensis is the same as that recorded in texts found at Palenque and elsewhere, in which the syllable ni is suffixed to A27 (Figure 7).

A survey of the literature shows that the glyph A27 and its codex variant Z1350a have so far evaded an accepted decipherment. As a purported allograph of T552, the codex version has tentatively been read ta or TAN by Gabrielle Vail, who nonetheless does not provide a translation or interpretation of the compound in question ( Nikolai Grube and Linda Schele propose that Z1350a represents a word ending with -n, given that the syllable ni is suffixed to it (Schele and Grube 1997:206). To date, however, this sign has eluded decipherment. In this note, we would like to propose a reading based on an iconographic analysis of the graph icon, the sign’s affixation, and its textual contexts. Furthermore, affixation pattern and use indicate that A27 is a logograph ending in -n.

Graph Icon

Some formal similarities of A27 with graphic variants of the logograph TE’, te’ ‘tree, wood’ (Figure 7) have lead us to the working hypothesis that the graph icon A27 is related to vegetation-related imagery. The rendering of the upper part in particular, with lobes with fine parallel lines at their tops, suggest that it is a conventionalized and simplified rendering of branches and roots of trees and shrubs.

a b c d

Figure 8. Graphs with striped lobes representing roots and trees: a) abstract rendering of A27; b) example from COL “Walter Randall Stela”; examples of T514 from c) Yaxchilan Lintel 35; d) Tortuguero Monument 6 (drawings by Christian Prager).

These elements represent branches and twigs when appearing on the top of a graph. If they occur on the graph’s underside, they represent roots, as in various renderings of T514 and T87, and T78:514 TE’ (Figure 8). One late example from COL “Walter Randall Stela” exhibits branches and twigs on the bottom, although the context shows that it is simply an allograph of A27 (Figure 14e). These striped lobes seem to be a generic feature of graph icons derived from depictions of trees. This formal similarity leads us to assume that A27’s icon represents a certain plant or plant-part, in particular the crown or roots of a tree or shrub. Building on this first working hypothesis, the second distinctive feature, the plaited- or crossed-bands design at the bottom, brings us to the second working hypothesis of the sign’s relation to plant-fibers used by the (ancient) Maya for the production of plaited objects like mats, baskets, etc.

A search through the literature for such plants and materials in Maya material culture has pointed us to the guano palm. The term “guano4)Guano or huano derives from a Taino term meaning “dried palm leaves”. palm” encompasses various New World genera of palms used for thatch and for plaiting mats, baskets, hats and other objects among the Maya. Studies of both ethnobotany (Caballero 1993, 1994, Cuevas 1909, Lentz 1991, Martinez-Balleste, Caballero, Gama, Flores, and Martorell 2002, McSweeney 1995, Ortíz Paiz 1999, Standley 1930) and traditional building methods (Wauchope 1938:104ff.) indicate the importance of palms, which in addition to the guano also includes the corozo, coyol, and cohune, among other palms. Besides their leaves being important for material culture, the Maya also used and continue to use extracts from the plant in traditional medicine and to snack on their fruits. The importance of palms and their manifold uses is recorded not only in the ethnographic record, but also in a number of ethnohistorical sources (Caballero 1993:210-211, 221-223). Archaeologically, various genera and species of palms are well-attested by pollen and macrobotanical remains, including seeds and wood, as well palm fibers, mostly preserved in the form of plaited mats. Based on these findings, a number of studies (Caballero 1993:211, Lentz 1991, McKillop 1996) have already discussed the importance of palms in the ancient Maya subsistence economy, since these plants provided a significant resource for both food and non-food products.

a b

Figure 9. a) Botanical painting of the sabal palm (from Martius, Mohl, and Unger 1823: Tab. T) in comparison to b) its graphical representations in Maya writing (drawings by Christian Prager).

The fan palms of the genera Sabal and Coccothrinax seem of particular interest for our discussion, since both display characteristics that also appear in the graphic rendering of A27. These prominent features are the tri-lobed, upper part of A27’s icon and a design of plaited bands at its base. As has already been mentioned, the upper part seems to be conventionalized rendering of the crown of a tree; in the case of the palm, it evokes the tree’s fan-shaped leaves (Figure 9a and b) (Martius, Mohl, and Unger 1823: Tab. T). The plaited bands in the lower part of A27 may not only allude to the prominent use of the palm leaves, but also to the distinctive pattern in which the leaf stripes are arranged at the base of the palms’ stems (Figure 9a). Their stubs feature the highly distinctive look of the palm, especially in the state after which the leaves have been broken or cut off from the stem. To summarize these observations, we hypothesize that the graph icon of A27 is a simplified representation of a guano or other (fan) palm, thus rendering a prototypical image of a palm as a graph in Maya writing. Commenting this paper, Albert Davletshin suggested that the graph may allude to the icon of an unfinished woven basket with unplaited ends representing the image for “palm leaves, guano” used to plait baskets and mats.5)Electronic mail dated 31st October 2016.

Lexical Evidence

Although a complete phonetic substitution for the sign A27 has yet to be identified, it mainly occurs in the inscriptions with a suffixed ni syllable (Figures 3, 7 and 12). At Cancuen graph A27 is also attested with a final na (Figure 14d). Because this final ni/na does not appear in all spellings and thus appears to be optional, we presume that it represents a post-posed phonetic complement, indicating that the phonemic value of A27 ends in the consonant –n. However, two exceptions from this common -n suffixation pattern have been attested so far (Figure 10).

a b

Figure 10. Two examples of A27 with final -ma. a) [.]-BALAM A27-ma on Resbalon, Hieroglyphic Stairway 3; b) u-CHAN-na CHAK A27-ma u-yu > uchan chak A27-ma uy “guardian of Chak A27 kinkajou” on Kerr 1439 (drawings by Christian Prager).

Both examples with a final ma are exhibited in nominal phrases occuring on Resbalon, Hieroglyphic Stairway 3 and another is found on the ceramic vessel Kerr 1439. Interestingly, in the latter example the usual animal term bahlam or “jaguar” (Figure 7b and c) is replaced by an animal spelled u-yu denoting kinkajou or (CHL ‘uyuj / uyú “kinkajou; mico de noche”) (Josserand and Hopkins 1988). Later we will argue that the term ‘chak A27’ represents a specific attribute or quality of the animal associated with that expression. The other example with ma occurs in a personal name at Resbalon exhibiting most likely an eroded colour term *CHAK, a jaguar head for BALAM followed by A27-ma. However, the reading order remains dubious. Only two examples with final ma are known so far: due to the larger number of final ni/na syllables we argue that -n and not -m represents the final consonant of the logograph in question. The final ma is either a phonological variation or a suffix of unknown function.

Building on our proposed iconographic identification of A27’s graph as the representation of a palm or palm leaves, we searched for lexical entries in Mayan languages that end in -n and designate this plant. In his ethnobotanical study on the use of palm among the Yucatec Maya, Javier Caballero lists a number of Yucatecan terms for various genera and species of palms, which are also summarized under the generic term for palm uch’ibalil xa’an, of which xa’an alone is used for the Sabal palm (Sabal ssp.) (Caballero 1993:216, Figure 4). These entries yield a number of taxa which use xan or xa’an as a generic base for more specific terms, including various genera of palms used for thatch and commonly classified as “guano palm” (Caballero 1993:218-219, Figure 5) (Table 1). Apart from its use in native botanical terms, xan, xaan, or xa’an also designates adobe and other structural elements made from this material (Table 1). However, Davletshin comments to us that the two Mayan words “adobe” and “guano, palm” are not related. He writes that the word for “guano” is reconstructed as *xa7ng for proto-Mayan. Xan “adobe” seems to be a so called Mesoamerican wanderwort; Davletshin notes that it is reconstructed as *xaan for Eastern Mayan languages and as *xan for Lowland Mayan languages (including Chontal and Cholti). It also seems to be related to Colonial Nahuatl xaam-(i)-tl, poss. -xaan ‘adobe’, etc., also pointed out by Lacadena stating that xan “adobe” may be loan from Nahuatl. If the reading XAN “palm” proves to be correct the probable disharmonic spelling XAN?-ni or KaK-Ki agrees with expected pattern of a *CV’C root in Proto-Mayan and Ch’olan context (*xa’n > xaan > xan). Thus, the two reconstructions ‘adobe’ and ‘guano’ differ in vowel quantity and in the final consonant, a relation is unlikely.

YUK xa7n ‘guano, especie de palma;hojas cubren casas de paja’
LAC šiw-šaan ‘palm’
ITZ ša’an ‘techo de palma, palma de guano’
MPN ša’an ‘palm tree’
pCh *xan ‘palm’
CHR xan ‘palm’
CHL xan ‘palma grade’ [sic!]
TZE xan ‘palma’
TZO šan ‘palma’
TOJ xa7n / ša’an ‘palma’
CHJ xan (sic) ‘palma’
pM *xa7nh ‘palma’
MCH xa7n ‘petate de palma’
POP xanh ‘palma’
TUZ xa:q xa7nh ‘hoja de palma real’
TEK xa7j ‘palma’
MAM #xaah ‘palma’
MAM #xa7j ‘palma’
AWA xa7j ‘palma’
PQM xaan [from Ch’olan] ‘palma’
CHT #xan ‘adobe’
CHL xan ‘adobe; pared de tierra’
TZE xan ‘adobe’
CHJ xan ‘adobe’
QAN xan ‘pared, adobe’
AKA xan ‘adobe’
AWA xan ‘adobe’
AWA xaan ‘adobe’ ‘terrón’
IXL xan ‘adobe’
USP xan ‘adobe’
KCH xan ‘adobe, pared’
KCH xaan ‘adobe’
KCHq xaan ‘adobe’
KCHc xaan ‘adobe’
KCHk xaan ‘adobe, pared’
SIP xan ‘adobe, terrón’
SAK xan ‘adobe, pared’
TZU xaan ‘adobe’
KAQ xan ‘adobe, pared’
KAQp xan ‘adobe’
KAQc xan ‘adobe, pared’
KAQi xan ‘adobe’ ‘pared’
PQMp xaan ‘adobe’
PCH #xan ‘ladrillo’
PCH xaan ‘adobe’
QEQw xan ‘ladrillo’
QEQc xa:n ‘palma, ladrillo [adobe (no se usa)]
QEQl xa:n ‘palma, ladrillo [adobe (no se usa)]
PQMj xaan ak’al ‘adobe’

Table 1. Linguistic evidence for xa’n > xaan > xan “palm” in Mayan languages (Kaufman and Justeson 2003:1119,419).

Summary and Working Hypothesis

Basing on both graph-icon and lexical evidence, we propose a working reading of A27 as XAN ‘palm’. At this moment this proposal is only supported by the fact that this term must end with -n. In order to test the usability and plausibility of this proposed decipherment, we examine here all currently known occurrences of A27 in ancient Maya texts and their respective contexts.


Most examples of A27 are found in texts from Palenque, all in the hitherto undeciphered collocation CHAK-XAN?-NAH-li > chak xan?=naahil that refers to or designates a specific type of building or construction. In this compound, the color prefix chak most likely alludes to the orange-red color of dried palm leaves. Additionally, in Yucatec, Ch’olti’ and Ch’orti’ chak also means “big, great, giant, intense” (Houston 2009:30-31). As such, we argue that the now deciphered term CHAK-XAN? > chak xan? “red palm” refers to such dried palm leaves or simply means “giant palm”. If this interpretation proves to be correct, the occurrence of the previously discussed collocation CHAK-XAN?-ni for chak xan? or “red or dry palm” in context of the new year auguries on page 25c of the Codex Dresdensis, together with k’in tun haab “year of drought” and yaj ajan “woe to the maize god”, may allude to a time of intense torridity causing the palm trees to wither and other crops to die.

As David Stuart (2005:19, 101-102) has assumed, mentions of the generic architectural term chak xan?=naah in the inscriptions of Temples XIX and XXI at Palenque may refer to interior structures erected inside the respective temples. We therefore assume that the term chak xan?=naah refers to a kind of inner sanctuary built of perishable materials, namely a structure consisting of wooden or bamboo poles that was covered with a roof of dry guano palm leaves that rose over the sculptured platform, forming the base (okib) of the sanctuary (Taube and Houston 2015:219-220). As a note aside, it can be assumed from this context that okib was the emic term for a structure’s footing, i.e., a building platform (Stuart 2007:226). Also noteworthy is that palm provided not only material for thatch, but apparently also wood for wall poles, as Robert Wauchope (1938:38) observed for traditional houses at Champoton, Campeche. The same author also reported the use of small stems of escoba palm (Crysophila argentea) as wall poles in the Petén (Wauchope 1938:68).

Further, since David Stuart already noted the “evident parallels between pib naah and chak .. ? ..naah, it stands to reason that the Temple XIX term in some way names an area or space within the superstructure, if not the building as a whole” (Stuart 2005:102). These two generic architectural terms relating to spaces or structures built in the interiors of the Palenque Triad point to two types of sanctuaries. The first is the well-known pib=naah built of stone and stucco, which denotes inner sanctuaries regarded as symbolic earth ovens or sweatbaths that represented the birthplaces of the Palenque Triad gods in the three temples of the Cross Group, dedicated by K’inich Kan Bahlam. The second type, the possible palm leaf thatched chak xan?=naah, with stone masonry used only to construct its base, is attested from a group of temples dedicated at Palenque by Ahkul Mo’ Naab for the Triad gods; these buildings’ dedication, proper names and possessors are recorded in the inscription of Temple XIX (Stuart 2005:101, Fig. 73).

Figure 11. Detail of map of Palenque showing the locations of Temples XIX, XXI (chak xan?=naah) (drawing by Ed Barnhart,

On the basis of this evidence, an association with chak xan?=naah can only be confirmed for Temples XIX and XXI. But the Temple XIX texts record the dedication of three chak xan?=naah, one for each Triad deity. Since each one of the Triad Gods usually has his own temple and sanctuary, we assume that there is a third structure with a similar interior sanctuary, which perhaps housed a sculptured and inscribed platform like those in Temples XIX and XXI. Assuming that these structures would be arranged in an approximately triadic formation surrounding an open space similar to the Cross Group temples, either Temple XXa or the as yet unexplored Temple XXII could be possible candidates for this third structure (Figure 11).

With respect to the attribution of different types of structures to the patron gods, this second building type chak xan?=naah may have symbolized a traditional Maya house and prototypical dwelling of each patron god after he was born in his proper pib=naah. The first dedication of the three patron gods’ primordial houses, which occurred under the auspices of the Early Classic ruler nicknamed “Casper” by scholars, is recorded retrospectively in the inscription on the right margin of the Temple XXI panel, whereas Temple XIX’s inscriptions record these structures’ renewed construction and dedication as Temples XIX, XXI and probably a still unidentified temple (cf. Stuart 2005:101, Fig. 73).

Native Botanical Terms

Epigraphic and linguistic data strongly suggest that graph A27 renders the prototypical image of the guano or fan denoting the generic botanical term XAN for “palm”. In written sources, at least one text refers directly to the palm as object of interest, or at least to an object made of xan or fan palm. On the ceramic vessel Kerr 4996, a painted inscription accompanies a courtly audience scene and records the payment of tribute or tax by three lakam officials to Tayel Chan K’inich, a ruler of Motul de San Jose (Figure 12).

Figure 12. The main text on Kerr 4996 (drawing by Christian Prager).

A speech scroll between the central text box and the king’s face indicates that the main text field contains the “transcription” of the king’s speech to the three seated officials bearing the title lakam, an epithet most likely referring to administrative or tax officials (Lacadena García-Gallo 2008) or district governors (Tokovinine and Beliaev 2013:175). After the Calendar Round date 1 Cimi 4 Pax [], this text explains that the payment of three lakam officials is set before the king of Motul de San Jose, Tayel Chan K’inich (tz’a[h]paj u lakam ux? lakam yichnal tayel chan k’inich k’uh ik’ ajaw) (cf. Tokovinine and Beliaev 2013:175-176, Tokovinine and Zender 2012:Tab. 2.2). The text is read linearly from left to right and continues after the Ik’ emblem glyph in the second line, although many portions are unreadable due to erosion and overpainting. This problematic section contains a series of phonetic spellings that are difficult to read and understand, including ka-ta-wa wa-wa-tzi CHOK?-wi-li > kat-aw w-awaatz chokwil, followed by ka-XAN?-la te-e-le for ka-xanal te’el. We speculate that ka-xanal? te’el “our palmy sticks” may relate to palms, palm leaves, or object made of palm, potentially mentioned as tribute or tax items. Unfortunately, however, the context of the second part of this speech generally evades decipherment, and further research based on examination of the original vase is needed.

Terms for Objects Made of Palm Leaves

Mats of plaited fibers are well attested in the archaeological record as part of burial furniture, either as underlay (e.g. at Tikal Burial 116, all royal burials at Copan) (Fierer-Donaldson 2012:246-247, Trik 1963:10), a cover for the corpse (e.g. at Copan, Burial 08-01) (Fierer-Donaldson 2012:208-210, 246-247), or an underlay and wrapping for grave gifts (e.g. El Zotz’, Burial 9) (Garrison, Houston, Newman, and Román 2015:158-159). Thus, the term xan is likely used in the phrase bolon baak xan on Copan Stela 49 to designate a burial bundle or burial location (Figure 3). We originally interpreted this term as a possible reference to a burial mat or bundle, or a container for bones made of plaited or woven material (Wagner and Prager 2006). Indeed, bolon baak xan in this context may designate such a container made of palm leaves or fibers that was deposited at a supernatural place or enclosure referred to as “wind god – deer” nohol pik’, apparently a tomb or shrine (Prager and Wagner 2008).

a b

Figure 13. Jun Ajaw and Yax Bahlam seated in front of Itzamnaaj holding bowls with pulque (chih). The inscription between Itzamnaaj and Yax Bahlam reads mi jay xa’n? ukal “not of clay, (but) of palms is his mouth” (Rollout photograph by Justin Kerr, Kerr 732; drawing by Christian Prager).

A problematic context with sign A27 is found on a ceramic vessel of unknown provenance (Kerr 732) (Figure 13). The image yields a mythological scene at the court of Itzamnaaj who receives the Hero Twins Jun Ajaw and Yax Bahlam. Speech scrolls in front of their faces indicate that the glyph frames exhibit their spoken words. The left frame between the twins is partially deciphered and reads me-k’e DOTTED.HEAD > mek’ ? “embrace the …!”. The dotted portrait glyphs following mek’ has neither been classified nor deciphered so far. The second frame between Itzamnaaj and Yax Bahlam reads mi-ja-ya XAN?-ni u-ka-la > mi jay xa’n? ukal “not clay, (but) palms is his mouth”. The text seems to be readable, but the meaning remains elusive to our understanding: the twins notice that Itzamaaj is an effigy made of palms instead of clay?


The term xan occurs in several personal names associated with both men and women. On Kerr K2707, for example, A27 occurs in a noble lady’s proper name, IX-SAK-TE’ XAN?-ni > Ix Sakte’ Xan?, which is painted as a caption in front of her portrait (Figure 14a). It remains open to speculation whether the name of this lady, Ix Sakte’ Xan?, derives from a possible ancient Maya term for the silver palm. This latter term designates various palms of the genus Coccothrinax, a fan palm which is also native to the Maya area and characterized by leaves with a dark blue-green top side and a whitish or silver-colored underside (Gilman and Watson 1993).

a b c
d e f

Figure 14. The use of A27 in various Late Classic personal names: a) the female name IX-SAK-TE’ XAN?-ni > ix sakte’ xan? on Kerr 2707; b) the captive titles u-CHAN-na CHAK XAN?-ni BALAM-ma K’UH [Machaquilá] AJAW > uchan chak xan? bahlam k’uh … ajaw on Cancuen Ballcourt Marker 2 and c) the same epithet on Tayasal Vase “T2B/6-22”; d) the toponymic title AJ-XAN?-na MO’ > aj xan? mo’ (Cancuen Panel 1); e) the female name phrase IX-XAN?-ni BALAM > ix xan? bahlam on the Walter Randall Stela; f) 12-XAN?-na-ji A-pa-ka-la-TAN-na > 12 xan? naaj aj pakal tahn on Comalcalco Pendant 10B (all drawings by Christian Prager).

A27 also features in personal names that end with a term for an animal, which are usually preceded by an adjective and/or one or more terms denoting objects, plants, body parts or another animal. These names designate specific kinds of animals, often supernatural beings (Colas 2004:68-73, 82-85, 91-92, 173-176). Similar patterns may also be observed in cases of names containing the A27 glyph we are proposing as XAN, whose consistent occurrence as the penultimate element in these names supports the proposal that it indeed denotes a plant. One such example is the name of the Machaquila ruler CHAK-XAN?-ni BALAM-ma > chak xan? bahlam (Figure 14b). This individual is mentioned on Cancuen Ballcourt Marker 2 as captive of an unnamed noble performing a ballgame in 796 AD with another noble who was an ally of Taj Chan Ahk (cf. Zender and Skidmore 2004). Each of these nobles is referred simply to as u-CHAN-na > uchan, “the guardian” of a king, one of them the aforementioned king of Machaquila. The same statement and name appears in a caption in front of an enthroned ruler depicted in a courtly audience scene painted on Vessel T7B/6-22 from Burial T7B-1, excavated in Structure T104 at the northern site core of Tayasal (Chase 1985:195, Fig. 3) (Figure 14c). Since the caption is connected by a wavy line with the illegible main text above the scene, we suppose that the now lost inscription mentions the unknown noble allied with Taj Chan Ahk of Cancuen as the main protagonist of the depicted event. Unfortunately, the name of the other individual directly facing the enthroned ruler is also illegible in the illustration available to us. Perhaps the individual laid to rest in Burial T7B-1 was either the depicted ruler, designated the captor of the Machaquila king and ally of Taj Chan Ahk, or the individual depicted on the vessel facing the ruler in a pose of reverence and subordination. Regardless, either scenario for the identity of the burial’s occupant could attest to either direct or indirect socio-political ties between Tayasal and Cancuen during Taj Chan Ahk’s reign (757–799 AD). In archaeological terms, this identification could help identify the occupant of the tomb and provide an approximate date and terminus post quem for the painting of the vessel and its deposition in the burial.

With respect to its semantic value, the name Chak Xan? Bahlam may refer to a jaguar that lives in palm groves. Alternatively, this term may allude to (dry) palm leaves used in the production of effigy figures – in this case, that of a jaguar. The same interpretation may also be valid for the proper name of IX-XAN?-ni BALAM > ix xan? bahlam, the mother of the sajal who commissioned the Randall Stela (Figure 14e).

Similarly, the personal name AJ-XAN?-MO’ > aj xan? mo’ on Cancuen Panel 1 (Figure 14d), literally “he (of) the palm parrot”, may be derived from a native zoological term, a name for a parrot that preferably lives on palms or in palm groves, or a parrot effigy made of palm leaves. Other possible interpretations of this name include a reference to the individual designated as caretaker of the aforementioned parrot. Finally, Tres Islas Stela 2 records XAN? ta2-bu SUTZ’ > xan? tatbu suutz’ as part of the nominal phrase of the protagonist of a stone setting event on (Figure 3b). The collocation ta2-bu or ta[-ta]-bu > tatbu remains elusive to decipherment and linguistic interpretation. The -bu suffix represents a causative marker on positional verbs (Stuart, Houston, and Robertson 1999) meaning that ta-ta > tat- should denote a positional verb. However, tat- is not attested as positional verb in colonial or modern Mayan dictionaries. Interestingly, the collocation tatbu is attested in a number of royal names throughout the hieroglyphic corpus. At Yaxchilan it occurs in the personal names of four kings named K’inich Tatbu “Skull” I-IV. Other examples are found on monument of unknown provenance (e.g. “Houston Panel” or “Hauberg Stela”).

Interestingly, all personal names known thus far that contain xan? in connection with an animal in provenanced inscriptions designate individuals from the dynasty ruling Tres Islas during the Early Classic and Machaquila and Cancuen during the Late Classic. This observation raises the question of whether personal names with xan?, and especially xan? bahlam, are specific to that line, and whether the lady mentioned on the Randall Stela could have originated from the same dynasty or region.

Figure 15. The epithet “12 palm/adobe houses” for the local main priest Aj Pakal Tahn on the incised pendant 10B from Urn 26 at Comalcalco (drawing by Christian Prager after a drawing by Marc Zender).

Less clear, however, is the significance of the expression 12-XAN?-na-ji > 12 xan? naaj, which precedes the proper name of Aj Pakal Tahn of Comalcalco on Pendant 10B from Urn 26 of the same site (Figure 14f and 15). Due to its pre-posed position, the term seems to be an epithet, and we wonder if na-ji is a syllabic rendering of naaj “house”, a spelling also attested in a text from Machaquila. According to Alfonso Lacadena, na-ji > naaj represents a phonological variant of naah “house”. Lacadena explains that the carved stone steps of Structure 4 thus contain the proper name of that same structure , spelled HUN-la na-ji OTOT > huunal naah otoot (“Headband House of the Palace”) (Lacadena García-Gallo and Iglesias 2005:681-682, Zender 2006:11). If this interpretation proves to be correct, the title 12-XAN?-na-ji > 12 xan? naaj would mean “12 palm houses”, indicating that the Comalcalco priest Aj Pakal Tahn was the master of twelve buildings made of or thatched with palms. Accordingly, houses made of stone walls were called pak’ naah in colonial period Yucatan (Michelon 1976).


This epigraphic note explores the idea that Maya scribes invented and used a sign for “palm, guano” in their writing system. Epigraphic and linguistic data strongly support our hypothesis that the graph A27 renders the prototypical image of a guano or fan and denotes the generic botanical term XAN > xa’n, xaan, xan, meaning “palm”. The majority of examples exhibit a final ni phonemic indicator, a spelling pattern that would be expected in the case of a *CV’C root like that identified here. Moreover, palm plants were of great importance to Maya subsistence economy, providing a significant resource for food, construction and daily life. Our investigation of the textual evidence indicates that tribute or goods made of palm leaves were exchanged, shrines were built of red or great palms (chak xan), and plaited palm leaves served as containers for bones or were used to construct effigy figures of jaguars or other animals. Our identification of the sign for the word “palm” in various contexts exhibits that it is one of the rare cases in Maya scribal art where a common material that was used by all strata of Classic Maya society was introduced as sign into the writing system.


We thank Albert Davletshin, Sven Gronemeyer, Nikolai Grube, Stephen Houston, Alfonso Lacadena, Mallory Matsumoto and David Stuart for reading and providing comments on this working paper. Arlen Chase kindly provided images of the Tayasal Vase.


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Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Maya hieroglyphic signs are classified on the basis of Eric Thompson’s (1962) standard catalog, hereafter designated with a capital T before the sign number (e.g., T552). Occasional citation of “Z” or “G” prefixes (e.g. G28, Z1350) refer to William Gates’ (1931) or Günter Zimmermann’s (1956) sign classifications. Martha Macri’s (2003) alphanumeric three-digit code is used to refer to graphemes that are not included in the aforementioned catalogues. Following a recent suggestion by David Stuart (2016), we employ the traditional spelling of days and months as recorded in contact-period documents.
4. Guano or huano derives from a Taino term meaning “dried palm leaves”.
5. Electronic mail dated 31st October 2016.

Project Year Book 2014 – 2015 now Available

In addition to the electronic distribution format the project will make a selection of its digital resources (published on its website) periodically available as an e-book and a printed volume. This web-to-print initiative is part of the project’s long term preservation and information dissemination strategy, combining the traditional publication formats with digital distribution of research data under the label of CC-BY. Principally, project information, in particular stable web contents and publications (DOI) that are released over the course of the project, will be made available in digital format at no cost on the project’s website, which has its own ISSN 2366-5556. The project’s website is established as a blog in the catalog of the German National Library and in the international ISSN Portal. This situation guarantees that blog contents will be citable as a network publication with an open target audience.

The first year book has been and can be ordered directly via Books on Demand (, Amazon or any other distributor. The Year Book for 2014 and 2015 includes online publications that members and associates of the research project have issued on the website The first volume gathers ten research reports, working papers, research notes as well as a selection of web contents.

Prager, Christian (volume editor), Nikolai Grube (series editor)
2016 Jahrbuch · Year Book · Anuario 2014 – 2015: Textdatenbank und Wörterbuch des Klassischen Maya, Arbeitsstelle der Nordrhein-Westfälischen Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Künste. 284 pp. Books On Demand, Norderstedt. ISBN 978-3739245935.

(Content: Prager, Christian: Foreword, pp.7-8; Grube, Nikolai: The Text Database and Dictionary of Classic Mayan Project, pp. 9-12; Prager, Christian: A Preliminary Inventory of the Karl Herbert Mayer Photographic Collection, Graz, pp. 13-30; Grube, Nikolai, Christian Prager, Katja Diederichs, Sven Gronemeyer, Elisabeth Wagner, Maximilian Brodhun, Franziska Diehr, Petra Maier: Annual Report for 2014, pp. 31-54; Grube, Nikolai, Christian Prager, Katja Diederichs, Sven Gronemeyer, Elisabeth Wagner, Maximilian Brodhun, Franziska Diehr: Annual Report for 2015, pp. 55-118; Diederichs, Katja: Our “Open Science” Strategy: The “Open Science Strategy” of the Project “Text Database and Dictionary of Classic Mayan”, pp. 119-148; Gronemeyer, Sven, Christian Prager, Elisabeth Wagner: Evaluating the Digital Documentation Process from 3D Scan to Drawing, pp. 149-158; Maier, Petra: The Creation of a TEI Metadata Schema for Cataloging Classic Mayan Texts, pp. 159-194; Sachse, Frauke, Michael Dürr: Morphological Glossing of Mayan Languages under XML: Preliminary Results, pp. 195-236; Prager, Christian, Sven Gronemeyer, Elisabeth Wagner: A Ceramic Vessel of Unknown Provenance in Bonn, pp. 237-246; Wagner, Elisabeth, Sven Gronemeyer, Christian Prager: Tz’atz’ Nah, a “New” Term in the Classic Mayan Lexicon, pp. 247-268; Christian Prager, Sven Gronemeyer, Nikolai Grube, Elisabeth Wagner, Nikolai Kiel, Mallory Matsumoto: Archaeological Sites with Maya Inscriptions, pp. 269-283.)

Projektwebsite online

Entwicklungspolitik Online

Das von der Nordrhein-Westfälischen Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Künste geförderte Projekt “Textdatenbank und Wörterbuch des Klassischen Maya” hat unlängst seine neue, dreisprachige Projektwebsite in Betrieb genommen. Das Wörterbuch soll den gesamten Sprachschatz der vorspanischen Mayakultur und dessen Verwendung in der Schrift abbilden.

mehr …

Digitale Epigraphik – Die Erforschung der Hieroglyphentexte und Bildbotschaften der Maya


Am 17. Januar 2016 trägt das Forschungsprojekt den 2. Fortschrittsbericht im Rahmen der 19. Mesoamerika-Tagung in Berlin vor. Tagungsort ist das Ethnologische Museum der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin – Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Eingang Takustr. 40, 14195 Berlin.

Der Titel des Vortrags lautet Digitale Epigraphik – Die Erforschung der Hieroglyphentexte und Bildbotschaften der Maya in der virtuellen Forschungsumgebung TextGrid (2. Fortschrittsbericht). Autoren sind Dr. Christian Prager*, Prof. Dr. Nikolai Grube*, Maximilian Brodhun+, Franziska Diehr+, Katja Diedrichs*, Sven Gronemeyer*#, Elisabeth Wagner* (* Universität Bonn, + Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Göttingen, # La Trobe University, Melbourne).

Die nur teilweise entzifferte Hieroglyphenschrift und Sprache der Mayakultur steht im Mittelpunkt eines Forschungsprojektes der NRW Akademie der Wissenschaften, das in Kooperation zwischen den Universitäten Bonn und Göttingen durchgeführt wird. Ziel ist die Erstellung einer Textdatenbank und ein darauf basierendes Wörterbuchs des Klassischen Maya. Im Rahmen des Projekts werden die Text- und Bildträger systematisch und nach einheitlichen Standards beschrieben, das Ausgangsmaterial auf der Basis von XML maschinenlesbar gemacht und auf diese Weise die Grundlagen für die Kompilation des Wörterbuchs geschaffen. Dieses Unterfangen wird mit Methoden und Technologien aus den digitalen Geisteswissenschaften in Angriff genommen. Wesentliche Voraussetzung ist dabei, dass nicht nur der sprachliche Inhalt der Inschriften und die ikonischen Informationen der Bilddarstellungen, sondern auch Daten über den Inschriften- und Bilddträger (Beschreibungs- oder Metadaten) berücksichtigt und in einer Datenbank angelegt werden. Zu diesem Zweck werden in TextGrid Tools und Workflows entwickelt, welche die I. Dokumentation der Schrift- und Bildträger mit Aufarbeitung des Forschungsstandes, II. die epigraphisch-linguistische Auswertung der Hieroglyphentexte sowie III. Edition der Texte mit Transliteration, Transkription und Übersetzung in einem einzigen System ermöglichen. Die VRE enthält nicht nur Beschreibungen der Textträger oder Informationen die Texte, sondern der Datenbanknutzer bekommt mit Hilfe der Literaturdatenbank auch einen Überblick darüber, welche Autoren sich mit einem Monument befasst oder es publiziert haben, eine Textpassage diskutiert oder erstmals eine bis heute gültige sprachliche Lesung einer Hieroglyphe präsentiert haben. Der Textträger erhält dadurch eine ‚Biographie‘, die eng mit dem Textinhalten verwoben ist und bei der Bedeutungsanalyse von Wörtern berücksichtigt wird.

A Virtual Research Environment to Document and Analyse Non-Alphabetic Writing Systems

Conference Presentation

The project will present and publish a paper entitled “A Virtual Research Environment to Document and Analyse Non-Alphabetic Writing Systems” at the Eagle International Conference on Digital and Traditional Epigraphy in Context, Rome, Januar 27-29, 2016.

Further information about this event is available at

Second Annual Project Workshop


On Monday, December 14, the second international public workshop of the “Text Database and Dictionary of Classic Mayan Project” of the North Rhine-Westphalian Academy of Sciences, Humanities and the Arts and the University of Bonn will take place in the Poppelsdorfer Schloss, Meckenheimer Allee 175, 53111 Bonn, Germany.

In 2014, the North Rhine-Westphalian Academy of Sciences, Humanities and the Arts (Nordrhein-Westfälische Akademie der Wissenschaften und Künste) in Düsseldorf established the Text Database and Dictionary of Classic Mayan (Textdatenbank und Wörterbuch des Klassischen Maya) research center for the study of hieroglyphic writing and language of the ancient Maya at the University of Bonn’s Philosophy Faculty. The project is directed by Prof. Dr. Nikolai Grube of the Department of Anthropology of the Americas (Abteilung für Altamerikanistik).

The goals of the project are to provide an XML based digital corpus of texts and to compile a corpus-based dictionary of Classic Mayan, which will be published in both digital and printed format. This dictionary will provide a comprehensive vocabulary of Classic Mayan and its use in writing. In cooperation with linguists and computer scientists, and by using the virtual research platform TextGrid, the project team members in both Bonn and Göttingen will prepare, analyse and interpret the hieroglyphic texts using latest information technology tools. By compiling the digital text corpus and the dictionary, a foundation for the systematic understanding of the Classic Mayan writing system and underlying language structure will be laid. The machine readable text corpus constitutes the project’s foundation, and allows for complex searches and computer assisted text analyses, resulting in a dynamically organized lexical database.

This year’s workshop will take place on Monday, December 14, from 13.00 to 18.00.
It is dedicated to the following topics:

  • technical development of the virtual epigraphic environment allowing the ontological documentation, analysis and edition of Maya hieroglyphic documents within one system
  • presentation of the project’s latest research results in the study of ancient Maya writing, language and lexicography
  • documentation of Maya inscriptions using a 3D fringe projection scanner for three-dimensional and high-resolution documentation of Maya artefacts with texts

Registration for the event is required, please send an email to Dr. Christian Prager to register. The registration fee for the conference covering tea and coffee breaks is € 5 and is payable upon arrival.

A Ceramic Vessel of Unknown Provenance in Bonn

Research Note 1


Christian Prager1, Sven Gronemeyer1,2, & Elisabeth Wagner1

1 Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität, Bonn
2 La Trobe University, Melbourne

This initial epigraphic note1)This research paper abstains from indicating or reconstructing vowel complexity on the basis of supragraphematic vowel disharmony, as has been proposed in two studies (Houston, Stuart & Robertson 1998, Lacadena & Wichmann 2004). There are two main reasons for this approach: 1) although both proposals operate under similar premises, their conclusions are rather distinct; and 2) no consensus on the mechanisms of disharmonic spellings has yet been reached, resulting in alternative views on the reasons underlying the phenomenon of vowel disharmony (e.g. Kaufman 2003, Mora-Marín 2004, Gronemeyer 2014b). We neither neglect previous research nor entirely dismiss the possibility of a quantitative Classic Mayan vowel system and its orthographic indication. Before the project has collected sufficient epigraphic data and can test previous proposals against the existing evidence or formulate new hypotheses, we prefer to pursue an unprejudiced approach in terms of the epigraphic analysis and to be rather conservative, while also noting that the transcriptional spelling in one model may also vary between authors. We therefore apply a broad transliteration and a narrow transcription, but only as far as sounds can be reconstructed by methods from historical linguistics. This last point essentially concerns the aspirated vowel nucleus, as in e.g. k’a[h]k’. by the members of the “Text Database and Dictionary of Classic Mayan” project is dedicated to the text and imagery of a hitherto unpublished ceramic vessel that is on display in the Bonner Altamerika-Sammlung (BASA) at the University of Bonn2)This teaching and research collection is associated with the Department for the Anthropology of the Americas and was founded in 1948. BASA holds a strong archaeological and ethnographic collection from the Americas and also has materials from Africa, Australia/Oceania and Asia. Among its nearly 10,000 objects, this university museum owns a collection of fine Maya artefacts with hieroglyphic inscriptions and scenes that will be consecutively discussed and presented to the public in this forum..

Figure 1. Courtesy Bonner Altamerika-Sammlung (BASA) – Rollout photograph by Juan Aguilar, 2014 (IDIOM233)

Designation PNK BASA Maya Cylindrical Vessel 1 – Place of origin Unknown – Discovery unknown; donated to BASA in July 2012 – Location Bonner Altamerika-Sammlung (BASA) – Accession Number 4674 – Material Painted ceramic, polychrome – Form and Type Cylindrical Vessel, Container – Dimension Height 14 cm, diameter 10 cm – Condition Broken in several pieces, glued; painting is well-preserved, with some details in text and image missing – Dating 600 – 900 A.D. – Documentation First published by – Photograph Rollout photograph by Juan Aguilar, 2014 – Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 Int

Object Description

The first object from the museum’s Maya collection to be described dates to the Late Classic Period (600 to 900 A.D.) and is a cylindrical, flaring-walled ceramic vessel that is currently on display in the museum. Together with other Maya artefacts, the vessel was donated to the collection in July 2012, and it bears the inventory number 4674. In the Text Database and Dictionary of Classic Mayan project, the text has been given the number IDIOM233.

The piece, although broken in several pieces and later glued together by the former owner, is in good condition. It measures 14 cm in height, with a maximum diameter of 10 cm. The surface is covered with a buff-colored slip which serves as the background for a painting in black and red-orange, although it has suffered some loss of paint details due to slip and paint having flaked off in some areas. Although the vessel body had been restored, no restoration of the painting nor re-painting has been undertaken.

The vessel features a scene painted in red and black on a buff-coloured background that is accompanied by a short hieroglyphic text consisting of three blocks. Two narrow red bands at the top and bottom of the vessel – both delineated by black lines – constitute the frame of the painted scene. There is one black line below the red band at the top, and two parallel black lines are painted atop the bottom one. Immediately below the top band below the rim, a band of empty hieroglyphic cartouches painted in red with black contours surrounds the perimeter of the vessel. This band is framed by a thin black line, which likewise delineates the lower margin of the red band below the rim.

The sequence in which the individual components of the painted scene are discussed here is based on their visibility on the rollout photograph. The scene constitutes a depiction of two monkeys, and between them, roughly at the height of their heads, is painted a hieroglyphic inscription that consists of three blocks arranged horizontally and slanting slightly upwards from left to right. The three blocks are rendered in black and filled in with red paint. The inclination seems to be intentional, with the purpose of linking the monkeys’ heads with the inscription.


The two monkeys are depicted frontally, with their heads in profile view facing to the left. Both monkeys feature a completely black body with the inner sides of both arms and legs in a buff color. Both animals are clad with a red loincloth and a sheet of red cloth draped around their shoulders and knotted in the front. The rendering of the two monkeys’ bodies is the same, but their faces appear slightly different. While the monkey on the left features toothless and short stub jaws, the one on the right clearly shows a row of teeth and an elongated lower jaw. Since both monkeys have the fur color and pattern and the thin limbs characteristic of spider monkeys, their slightly divergent facial features may show differences in age. The profile of the left monkey’s face resembles renderings of elder humans’ faces found elsewhere in Maya art. Therefore, it is possible that the monkeys depicted are of different ages, with the elder one on the left and a younger one on the right. Their remaining facial features are the same: a buff-colour face and a dark line around the mouth to indicate the fur around the otherwise hairless face; large, round eyes; and a short, stubby nose. Both monkeys are wearing a buff-coloured cacao tree(?) leaf or a piece of cloth as ear ornaments. The facial features of both monkeys identify them as spider monkeys (Ateles geoffroyi). Their costumes are characteristic of depictions of monkeys that belong to the way-category of ancient Maya supernaturals (Grube and Nahm 1994:695-697). Their loincloths identify them as males.

The monkey on the left sits cross-legged, while his tail, raised and curled with a knotted cloth-element attached to it, is visible to his left side. He holds a cacao pod in the hand of his raised right arm and another cacao pod in the hand of his lowered left arm.

The monkey on the right is shown in a half-kneeling, half-squatting position, with both arms bent and reaching out in front of his body. His raised, curled tail is visible to his right and lacks any decorative attachment. The pose of the monkey on the right may indicate that he is reaching out for and about to jump to catch one of the cacao pods held by the other monkey.

Monkeys handling cacao pods is a common theme found on numerous painted and carved ceramic vessels of the ancient Maya and reflects a typical behaviour of monkeys residing on cacao plantations (Estrada et al. 2006) who feast on the pulp of ripe cacao pods, while also spitting and defacating the cacao beans and thus dispersing the seeds for germination and growth of future cacao trees (Estrada et al. 2006:460; Dreiss & Greenhill 2008:20). This behaviour has also led some to consider spider monkeys as “bringers of cacao” (Ogata et al. 2006:87; Christopher 2013:49)3)Compare to K4599, K4691, K5070, K6312, K7456, K8234, K8357..


The blocks of the hieroglyphic inscription between the two monkey figures are designated as A1, B1, and C1, respectively. With the exception of A1, all hieroglyphic blocks (i.e., B1 and C1) are clearly legible and exhibit the following signs (sign classification according to Eric Thompson, 1962):

A1 IDIOM233 A1 [.]
B1 IDIOM233 B1 T743a
C1 IDIOM233 C1 T501ba T203atz’u

Examined in the context of the monkey images, glyph block C1 most likely represents the glyph collocation ba-tz’u, first deciphered and translated as “howler monkey” by Nikolai Grube and Werner Nahm (1994:696-697, Fig. 20). The collocation ba-tz’u corresponds to the Chol noun batz’ “howler monkey; zaraguate” (Josserand and Hopkins 1988), batz’ ‘zarahuato, mono aullador’ (Schumann 1973:76) and bats’ ‘mono’ (Aulie and Aulie 1978: 31). In Cholti, it has survived as batz ‘mono barbado’ (Morán 1695:137) or ‘mono de gueguecho’ (Morán 1695:141), and in modern Yucatec, b’àatz’ translates to ‘howler monkey’ (Bricker et al. 1998: 24). Furthermore, the meaning ‘howler monkey’ is attested in numerous colonial and modern Mayan languages (see Kaufman and Justeson 2003:585 or Lacadena and Wichmann 2004:138-139). However, the meaning of ba-tz’u as ‘howler monkey’ contradicts the depiction of the monkeys on the vessel discussed here as clearly being spider monkeys. Therefore, it can be assumed that ba-tz’u could also have been used as a generic term whose referent included various species of monkey. This idea is supported by an entry in Domingo de Ara’s colonial Tzeltal dictionary in which batz simply means “monkey” (Ara 1986:249). It is also reinforced by images of monkeys on the so-called Deer-Dragon Vase (Schele 1985:61, Fig. 3; Grube and Nahm 1994:696, Fig. 20) and other ceramics (e.g. Kerr 5070), which combine the fur pattern of a spider monkey with the face of a howler monkey.

Despite the fact that some of its details have been lost, the sign in B1 can be identified as the turtle head T743A. Grammatically, it most likely represents the agentive proclitic a[j]. As Alfonso Lacadena illustrated using the example of the ajk’uhun title, a Maya scribe could simply employ the single sign a to render the agentive proclitic aj (Lacadena 1996). The Classic Mayan collocation aba-tz’u most likely corresponds to the Colonial Yucatec entry hbaaɔ “mono saraguato” (Pío Perez 1898:49) and ah baaɔ “mono que llaman también saraguato” (Pío Perez 1866-1877:4).

Figure 2. The personified pa variant in Maya writing. Drawings by Karl Taube (1989:Fig. 24-7)

The first hieroglyph in block A1 is partially eroded and exhibits an animal head that cannot be identified. The portrait sign displays a large and bulging nose, long lips, and a circular eye marking, and the ear tapers to a point. One of the authors (Christian Prager) proposes that this morphology is similar to the icon of the personified pa-sign that was first identified by Karl Taube as a monkey-like character (Taube 1989) (Figure 2). In his study of ritual humour, Taube explains that this simian character acted as ceremonial buffoon in Classic Maya ritual dramas (Taube 1989:377). Taube writes that “Classic Maya clowns frequently impersonate particular animals; usually this is not simply donning an animal headdress, but wearing a mask and suit-in effect, becoming the beast. In terms of shabbiness, the suit and mask of the personified pa is especially coarse, and seems to be usually made of simple grass, rough cloth, or tied rags. Aside from the masks and body suits, the dress of Classic clowns is very simple, quite unlike the elaborate feathers, beads, and complex iconographic assemblages of elite ritual dress” (Taube 1989:377).

Should this reading and identification prove correct, one could claim that this hieroglyphic text contains the name phrase of a monkey character in a ritual drama. One could further speculate that this ceramic vessel was originally deposited in the burial of a ceremonial performer who had impersonated the simian buffoon in a Classic Maya ritual drama.


Ara, Domingo de
1986 Vocabulario de lengua tzeldal según el orden de Copanabastla. Ed. Mario H. Ruz. Fuentes para el estudio de la cultura maya 4. Universidad Nacinal Autónoma de México, México, D.F.
Aulie, H. Wilbur, and Evelyn W. de Aulie
1978 Diccionario ch’ol-español, español-ch’ol. Serie de vocabularios y diccionarios indígenas Mariano Silva y Aceves 21. Instituto Linguistico de Verano, México, D.F.
Bricker, Victoria R., Eleuterio Po’ot Yah, Ofelia Dzul de Po’ot, and Anne S. Bradburn
1998 A Dictionary of the Maya Language as Spoken in Hocabá, Yucatán. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, UT.
Christopher, Hillary
2013 Cacao’s Relationship with Mesoamerican Society. Spectrum 2013(3): 48–60.
Dienhart, John M.
1997 The Mayan Languages: A Comparative Vocabulary. Electronic edition. University of Southern Denmark, Odense.
Dreiss, Meredith L., and Sharon E. Greenhill
2008 Chocolate: Pathway to the Gods. University of Arizona Press, Tucson, AZ.
Estrada, Alejandro, Joel Saenz, Celia Harvey, Eduardo Naranjo, David Muñoz, and Marleny Rosales-Meda
2006 Primates in Agroecosystems: Conservation Value of Some Agricultural Practices in Mesoamerican Landscapes. In New Perspectives in the Study of Mesoamerican Primates: Distribution, Ecology, Behavior and Conservation, edited by Alejandro Estrada, Paul Garber, Mary Pavelka, and LeAndra Luecke, pp. 437–470. Springer, New York, NY.
Gronemeyer, Sven
2014 The Orthographic Conventions of Maya Hieroglyphic Writing: Being a Contribution to the Phonemic Reconstruction of Classic Mayan. Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation, Department of Archaeology, La Trobe University, Melbourne.
Grube, Nikolai, and Werner Nahm
1994 A Census of Xibalba: A Complete Inventory of Way Characters on Maya Ceramics. In The Maya Vase Book: A Corpus of Rollout Photographs of Maya Vases, edited by Justin Kerr and Barbara Kerr, 4:pp. 437–470. Kerr Associates, New York, NY.
Houston, Stephen D., David S. Stuart, and John S. Robertson
1998 Disharmony in Maya Hieroglyphic Writing: Linguistic Change and Continuity in Classic Society. In Anatomía de una Civilización: aproximaciones interdisciplinarias a la cultura maya, edited by Andrés Ciudad Ruiz, Yolanda Fernández, José Miguel García Campillo, Josefa Iglesia Ponce de Leon, Alfonso Lacadena García-Gallo, and Luis Sanz Castro, pp. 275–296. Publicaciones de la S.E.E.M. 4. Sociedad Española de Estudios Mayas, Madrid.
Josserand, J. Kathryn, and Nicholas A. Hopkins
1988 Monosyllable Dictionary Database. In Chol (Mayan) Dictionary Database, edited by J. Kathryn Josserand and Nicholas A. Hopkins. Fascicle 11. Jaguar Tours, Del Valle, TX.
Kaufman, Terence
2003 A Preliminary Mayan Etymological Dictionary. Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies (FAMSI).
Lacadena García-Gallo, Alfonso
1996 A New Proposal for the Transcription of the a-k’u-na/a-k’u-hun-na Title. Mayab 10: 46–49.
Lacadena García-Gallo, Alfonso, and Søren Wichmann
2004 On the Representation of the Glottal Stop in Maya Writing. In The Linguistics of Maya Writing, edited by Søren Wichmann, pp. 100–164. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, UT.
Mora-Marín, David F.
2004 Affixation Conventionalization Hypothesis: Explanation of Conventionalized Spellings in Mayan Writing. Chapel Hill, NC.
Morán, Francisco
1935 Arte y diccionario en lengua choltí; a manuscript copied from the Libro grande of fr. Pedro [sic] Moran of about 1625. Ed. William Gates. Maya Society Publication 9. The Maya Society, Baltimore.
Pérez, Juan Pío
1866 Diccionario de la lengua maya. Impr. Literaria, de Juan F. Molina Solis, Mérida.
1898 Coordinación alfabética de las voces del idioma maya que se hallan en el arte y obras del padre Fr. Pedro Beltrán de Santa Rosa, con las equivalencias castellanas que en las mismas se hallan, compuesta por J. P. Pérez. Imprenta de la Ermita, Mérida, Yucatán.
Ogata, Nisao, Arturo Gómez-Pompa, and Karl A. Taube
2006 The Domestication and Distribution of Theobroma cacao L. in the Neotropics. In Chocolate in Mesoamerica: A Cultural History of Cacao, edited by Cameron L. McNeil, pp. 69–89. University Press of Florida, Gainesville, FL.
Schele, Linda
1985 Balan-Ahau: A Possible Reading of the Tikal Emblem Glyph and a Title at Palenque. In Fourth Palenque Round Table, 1980, edited by Elizabeth P. Benson, pp. 59–65. The Palenque Round Table Series 4. The Pre-Columbian Art Research Institute, San Francisco, CA.
Schumann-Gálvez, Otto
1973 La lengua chol, de Tila (Chiapas). Centro de Estudios Mayas, Cuaderno 8. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Méxcio, D.F.
Taube, Karl A.
1989 Ritual Humor in Classic Maya Religion. In Word and Image in Maya Culture: Explorations in Language, Writing, and Representation, edited by William F. Hanks and Don S. Rice, pp. 351–382. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, UT.
Thompson, J. Eric S.
1962 A Catalog of Maya Hieroglyphs. The Civilization of the American Indian Series 62. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, OK.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. This research paper abstains from indicating or reconstructing vowel complexity on the basis of supragraphematic vowel disharmony, as has been proposed in two studies (Houston, Stuart & Robertson 1998, Lacadena & Wichmann 2004). There are two main reasons for this approach: 1) although both proposals operate under similar premises, their conclusions are rather distinct; and 2) no consensus on the mechanisms of disharmonic spellings has yet been reached, resulting in alternative views on the reasons underlying the phenomenon of vowel disharmony (e.g. Kaufman 2003, Mora-Marín 2004, Gronemeyer 2014b). We neither neglect previous research nor entirely dismiss the possibility of a quantitative Classic Mayan vowel system and its orthographic indication. Before the project has collected sufficient epigraphic data and can test previous proposals against the existing evidence or formulate new hypotheses, we prefer to pursue an unprejudiced approach in terms of the epigraphic analysis and to be rather conservative, while also noting that the transcriptional spelling in one model may also vary between authors. We therefore apply a broad transliteration and a narrow transcription, but only as far as sounds can be reconstructed by methods from historical linguistics. This last point essentially concerns the aspirated vowel nucleus, as in e.g. k’a[h]k’.
2. This teaching and research collection is associated with the Department for the Anthropology of the Americas and was founded in 1948. BASA holds a strong archaeological and ethnographic collection from the Americas and also has materials from Africa, Australia/Oceania and Asia. Among its nearly 10,000 objects, this university museum owns a collection of fine Maya artefacts with hieroglyphic inscriptions and scenes that will be consecutively discussed and presented to the public in this forum.
3. Compare to K4599, K4691, K5070, K6312, K7456, K8234, K8357.

Digital Knowledge Spaces

Virtual Research Laboratories in the Humanities

The Digital Humanities have established their place in the humanities and are inspiring new research questions, approaches, and discoveries. The film produced by DARIAH-DE introduces projects from different humanities disciplines, shows the role of infrastructure institutions such as academic libraries in the context of the digital research process, and provides an overview of both academic teaching and a vivid DH community. In the selected scene, Prof. Dr. Nikolai Grube presents the project “Textdatenbank und Wörterbuch des Klassischen Maya”. The entire film and additional videos can be found in the DHd Channel on Youtube.

Project Overview


In 2014, the North Rhine-Westphalian Academy of Sciences, Humanities and the Arts (Nordrhein-Westfälische Akademie der Wissenschaften und Künste) in Düsseldorf established the Interdisciplinary Dictionary of Classic Mayan (Textdatenbank und Wörterbuch des Klassischen Maya) research center for the study of hieroglyphic writing and language of the ancient Maya at the University of Bonn’s Philosophy Faculty (press release [in German]). The project is directed by Prof. Dr. Nikolai Grube of the Department of Anthropology of the Americas (Abteilung für Altamerikanistik).

The goal of this long term, 5.4 million Euro project, is the analysis of all known hieroglyphic Mayan texts which will serve as the basis for the compilation and editing of a Classic Mayan language dictionary. Positioned in the Digital Humanities by its cooperation with the eHumanities research network TextGrid at the Göttingen State and University Library (Niedersächsische Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Göttingen) and the Bonn University Library (Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Bonn), the project provides an innovative link between the humanities and information technology.

This project is the first to employ machine-readable versions of the source materials in order to integrate all occurrences of the Maya hieroglyphs into a corpus-based database, together with information concerning the original hieroglyphic spelling, transcription, and translation, as well as supplementary information. It thus lays the foundation for a systematic understanding of the structure of the writing system and of Classic Maya, the standard language underlying the hieroglyphic script.

Due to the large volume of data, the creation of a corpus-based dictionary and the complete decipherment of the script are only possible using a database of text entries and computer-based concordance and collocation analysis and recognition of text patterns. Using these resources, the first-ever comprehensive inventory of the script and of the language it represents will be developed. The project will thus allow the development of writing and language to be traced from a historical perspective.

This Academy-supported research project aims not only to represent the cultural vocabulary and the accumulation of current and past research on the Maya script and language, but also to simultaneously make an important contribution to the comparative study of writing systems.

Project Publications


A printed dictionary will be edited and published at the conclusion of the project. Over the course of the project, current versions of a preliminary edition will be made freely available to the public via Open Access as a searchable database.

In addition to the inscription database, we will also offer a wide range of working papers and research notes that address various problems concerning the Maya script, corpus linguistics, digital humanities, and other questions relevant to the research project. We hope to thereby not only set a standard in the field of epigraphy, but also to spark discussion about the future of our discipline.

Our Team


Directed by Prof. Dr. Nikolai Grube, the project’s core team in Bonn consists of Dr. Christian Prager, Elisabeth Wagner M.A. and Dr. Sven Gronemeyer. The project team will also cooperate with other researchers within Germany and internationally.

Location: Bonn University

Scientific Team
Prof. Dr. Nikolai Grube Project Director
Dr. Christian Prager Project Coordination, Epigraphy
Dr. Sven Gronemeyer Epigraphy, Linguistics
Elisabeth Wagner, M.A. Epigraphy, Iconology
Katja Diederichs Metadata, XML
Research and Student Assistants
Antje Grothe, M.A. Bibliography
Jana Karsch, M.A. Digitalisation, Epigraphy
Nikolai Kiel Digitalisation, Epigraphy
Catherine Letcher Lazo, M.A. Editorial
Lisa Mannhardt Digitalisation
Nadine Müller Digitalisation
Céline Tamignaux, M.A. Digitalisation
Former Team Members
Christiane Bahr Digitalisation (2014)
Laura Burzywoda
Digitalisation (2014-2015)
Nicoletta Chanis Digitalisation (2015)
Leonie Heine Digitalisation (2014-2015)
Laura Heise Digitalisation
Catherine Letcher Lazo, M.A. Editorial (2015-2016)
Mallory Matsumoto Digitalisation, Linguistics (2014-2015)
Nadine Müller Digitalisation (2015-2016)

Development, implementation and maintenance of the computer based infrastructure, as well as presentation, are based on cooperation between the project and the Bonn University Library (ULB), and the State and University Library of Göttingen (SUB). In Göttingen, two additional positions for computer scientists are created within the collaborative project TextGrid.

Location: State and University Library of Göttingen

Computer Science Team
Maximilian Brodhun, M.Sc. Development
Franziska Diehr, M.A. Metadata
Associated Consultants
Dr. Mirjam Blümm Project Director (since April 2015)
Dr. Heike Neuroth Project Director (2014-2015)
Sibylle Söring, M.A. Project Coordination (2014-2016)
Martin de la Iglesia Metadata
Alexander Jahnke Metadata
Uwe Sikora Metadata
Ubbo Veentjer Information Architecture

Maya Writing


The Maya are one of the five cultures worldwide to have independently developed a writing system. In comparison with the other writing and notational systems in Mesoamerica, the hieroglyphic script of the Maya culture is the only legible writing system to have been used for a period of approximately 2,000 years. The earliest attestations of the script in the Maya Lowlands date to the third century B.C. The first texts with calendrical dates recorded using the long count notation date to between 36 B.C. to A.D. 126 and originate from the highlands and the Pacific coast region of Guatemala. Whereas use of the script in the Guatemalan highlands and on Guatemala’s southern coast ceased at the end of the second century A.D., a long and intensive tradition of Maya writing was initiated by the beginning of the Classic Period in the third century at the latest, with the appearance of the first securely dated monument from the Maya Lowlands. This tradition lasted at least until the arrival of the Spanish in the sixteenth century and was continued underground through the late seventeenth century.

The first breakthroughs in the decipherment of Maya writing did not occur until the 1950’s, and many research questions still remain unanswered. It is at this point that the project “Text Database and Dictionary of Classic Mayan” enters the scene.

In this section, we offer a general overview of the structure and function of the writing system. In accordance with the goals of the project, we also outline here current research questions, desiderata, and concrete problem areas that the project aims to address.


The hieroglyphic inscriptions contain information that was deemed worthy of recording from the perspective of the ruling nobility. The content and topics of the texts were often dependent on whether the written and iconographic media were being produced as public memorials or for use in the private sphere. Public media were typically proclamations of the royal court with the goal of legitimizing the power of the king and his lineage. The king thus occupies the center of these texts as executor of religious duties and as defender of the cosmic order.

An important function is also fulfilled by dedicatory texts, which contain reports of the completion and rituals for the dedication of monuments and residential, temple, and funerary complexes. Culturally significant artifacts and written media are frequently tagged with long, self-referential texts, which describe the “biographies” of the corresponding artifacts and their usage in rituals. Biographic information about the royal commissioner constitutes the prologue to those textual passages that relate to the erection and dedication of the written object. These historical-biographical passages in particular, with their reports about dynasty founders, births, accessions, military victories, dedications, rituals, and dynastic relationships, that have significantly enhanced understanding of the culture and politics of the Classic-period royal courts in the past several decades.

The textual media used in the private sphere include portable artifacts, which were components of the clothing and accoutrements of members of the nobility, as well as polychrome painted ceramic vessels with hieroglyphic texts. Ceramic drinking vessels for cacao served as a form of social currency and were not only used in feast contexts, but also exchanged between ruling houses as gifts for the host or submitted as tribute. They featured hieroglyphic dedication formulae and narrative texts that commented on the depicted myths or scenes from daily court life of the kings.

The texts of the three extant Maya codices, which date to the century before the Spanish conquest, constitute the text corpuses with the most extensive content. These books primarily contain almanacs, divinatory and mantic texts, and descriptions of rituals realized over the course of the year. In addition, there are astronomical tables for the Venus cycle, the prediction of solar and lunar eclipses, and perhaps even a Mars calendar. The individual sections contain illustrations of supernatural actors with corresponding hieroglyphic captions.

Sign Classes and Catalogues


The Maya writing system is described as a hieroglyphic script because of the iconic character of its approximately 650 signs. Typologically, however, it is a logo-syllabic writing system with two sign classes, syllabic signs and logograms.

Logograms represent concrete linguistic terms and, with only few exceptions, always refer to only one denotation. The increasing influence of vernacular languages on the script increased the polyvalence of Maya signs during the Terminal Classic period. The second sign class is that of vowel and syllabic signs, which represent open syllables. They permitted the syllabic spelling of lexical and grammatical morphemes. In addition, they were used as pre- or post-fixed phonetic complements for logograms.

Thus, it was possible to write words with exclusively syllabic signs or using only logograms. Usually, logograms and syllabic signs were combined. A high level of calligraphic complexity was achieved in texts primarily through allographic notation and allomorphic representation of signs. This phenomenon allowed scribes to compose texts that were aesthetically ambitious without repeating signs. There were at least two or more signs for frequently used syllables, a situation which explains the extremely high number (about 200) of syllabic signs within the total inventory of some 650 graphemes in the Maya script.

The signs were combined with each other to build roughly quadratic blocks. One such hieroglyphic block probably corresponds to the emic concept of a word among the pre-Hispanic Maya. In most cases, these blocks were paired in double columns that were read from left to right and from top to bottom. Sentences were formed by the combination of hieroglyphic blocks that indicated various parts of a sentence. Multiple sentences were combined to produce complex texts, whose syntax and textual structure are comparable to those of modern Mayan languages.

Sign Inventories

Out of eleven proposals for the inventory and systemization of the signs of the Maya script, only the transcription conventions and sign nomenclature of Günter Zimmermann for the codices and Eric Thompson for all text forms have become widely accepted. Thompson compiled an inventory of 862 signs, which remains the standard reference system for Maya hieroglyphs today, in spite of incorrect classifications, double entries, and the incompleteness of the text inventory.

Nikolai Grube’s investigations of the sign inventory have indicated that about 200 of Thompson’s 862 classified graphemes are allographs, whereby the total inventory of signs can be reduced from 862 to approximately 650. Martha Macri arrived the same total number in her proposal of an alternative classification system about ten years ago, although her system has not been widely adopted due to its incompleteness, erroneous classifications, and misinterpretations.

Although previously published sign catalogs primarily contain simple documentation of occurrences and grapheme concordances, reference works with suggested readings of individual graphemes have been published in the course of decipherment efforts. These references document the current state of decipherment at the time of publication with bibliographic references.

Written Language

Language Affiliation

Like many ancient writing systems, the Maya script represents a relatively conservative, standard language, which likely developed from Proto-Cholan-Tzeltalan. The lexicon and morphology of Classic Mayan, as this standard language is now known, suggest that it was a forerunner of Ch’orti’, which is still spoken today. Inscriptions from the western Maya lowlands feature numerous characteristics of the modern western Cholan languages Chol and Chontal.

In the northern Yucatan peninsula, there are indications of a strong influence of proto-Yukatekan on lexicon, phonology, and grammar of Classic Mayan. Whether or not additional languages in the southern periphery of the lowlands exercised influence on the written language remains hotly debated. Classic Maya is characterized by great conservatism, but also by innovations that indicate, albeit presumably with some delay, processes of language change and language contact. In this sense, Maya texts provide data that have the potential to contribute to critical examination and calibration of attempts to date language change using glottochronology.

The investigation of the phonology, morphology, and syntax of Classic Maya constitutes the subject of a few, selective studies. Neither the origin of Classic Mayan nor the changes that the written language underwent have been subjected to systematic research.


With the exception of a few word lists, the vocabulary of Classic Mayan remains undocumented. Previously published dictionaries are selective compilations of a subset of hieroglyphic expressions, which are ordered macro-structurally according to functional group and only represent the state of decipherment of a hieroglyph up to the point of publication. As such, they are largely out of date. The hieroglyphic texts of the Post-Classic codices were the focus of lexicographic studies in the 19th and 20th centuries. With a total of 7,550 hieroglyphs, these codices were the most important foundation for initial investigation of the Maya script. The earliest lexicographic lists and compilations of individual graphemes with proposals for their linguistic readings are based on the Maya codices. Most of these proposals have since been disproved and are now only relevant to the history of the research field.

Most of the hieroglyphic texts can now be read and their contents largely revealed due to the progress of the linguistic decipherment of the Maya script in the past twenty years and thanks to new understanding of the morphology and grammar of Classic Maya. The past two decades have thus seen the publication of various Classic Mayan word catalogs, whose lemmas are sorted according to strict alphabetic criteria and which vary in their degree of comprehensiveness. The first annotated list of this kind, composed in 1999 by Alfonso Lacadena, is restricted in scope to lexical morphemes and remains unpublished. This word list is characterized by the same restrictions as all other lists that have since been compiled: they do not document occurrences of the forms and contain neither explanations of the translations nor linguistic analysis of the forms.

An additional feature that these word lists share is that they document neither spatial dissemination (varieties) nor temporal developments of spellings. They thus do not lend themselves to retracing local varieties or developments in the lexicon, grammar, and script. Similarly, one cannot use these resources to retrieve the contexts of use of the signs or lemmas.

Archaeological Sites

Archaeological Sites with Maya Inscriptions

The working list, sorted by site name, primarily encompasses the archaeological sites in Mesoamerica where Maya hieroglyphic inscriptions have been discovered and verifiably documented over the course of archaeological survey and excavations.

It constitutes the foundation of the inscription inventory that the Bonn project team is currently preparing and that will also be published and maintained on the project website as a separate, dynamic working list. With these materials, the project offers an overview of the documented sites that also indicates the text carriers found at each location.

The working list with the names of the sites is a “liquid document”. It presently comprises over 500 entries that are currently being edited and prepared for online publication on this website. This database-based publication form is dynamic and has the advantage over printed site lists that newly discovered ruins with inscriptions can immediately be entered into the site database, thus allowing the working list to be constantly updated.

For the sake of its sustainable use and long-term storage, the most recent version of this “liquid document” will be published in print at regular intervals as part of the project’s annual report. For each site, not only will sources be cited (personal communications, bibliographic and internet references, maps etc.), but essential metadata will also be documented, for example the preferred name for the site, alternative designations or spellings, abbreviations, geographic coordinates and additional references. Our metadata concept will be introduced below.

The sites themselves are indicated in Google Maps using geographic coordinates, if known. The research data themselves are in the public domain and will be made available under the CC BY license.

More about our concept for the archaeological sites and metadata.

To the list of archaeological sites…

Please use the following citation when referencing the Archaeological Sites list:

Christian Prager, Sven Gronemeyer, Elisabeth Wagner, Mallory Matsumoto and Nikolai Kiel

2014- A Checklist of Archaeological Sites with Hieroglyphic Inscriptions. Published on:, last accessed on: 29.7.2014.

Unless stated otherwise, all illustrations of archaeological sites are by project members and are subject to CC BY 4.0.

Archaeological Site Concept and Meta Data

We would like to introduce our inventory with an initial discussion of the term “site” itself, which we understand to be a terminus technicus in the context of this project. The history and significance of previous lists of sites at which inscriptions were discovered will thereafter be highlighted, because they constitute the conceptual templates for the working list to be introduced here, whose structure and metadata fields will presented in conclusion. Finally, the site list is not only designed as a resource from the community for the community. Rather, it is also intended that users will comment on the entries, suggest revisions or additions, and in this manner communicate to the project additional sites with bibliographic references that have not yet been registered. Contributions from colleagues will be incorporated into the “Remarks” section of the site database as citable sources.

Definition of an “Archaeological Site”

Sites of Maya ruins are former human settlements of varying dimensions and structural organization whose archaeologically documented settlement elements exist in a direct spatial relationship with each other and are the result of a long process of human interaction in space, which is attested by artifacts and features encountered in this spatial relationship (Baumeister 2010:7–9). Maya settlements with central temple and residential compounds are defined as cities, and their ruins appear subjectively to be an organizationally associated and also formally to constitute a “unit of self-documenting, spatial section of the cultural landscape (Fehn 1975:69). Each site has been shaped by humans over the course of time and thus presents a unique, contained, and thus subjectively definable appearance, which is referenced linguistically by toponyms in Spanish, English, a Mayan language, or other terms.

The usual designations for the former Maya cities and settlements that are used in the literature and on-site refer in the first instance to visible and archaeologically documented structural-spatial remains of a former cultural landscape. Over the course of human interaction, these remains have been subject to processes of change in which old elements were replaced with new ones, or existing settlement elements were changed or supplemented. A site’s delimitation relative to neighboring settlements is often impressionistic and the result of the particular topography and forestation of the Maya region: for centuries, Maya settlements lay like islands hidden in the green of the tropical forest, whereby the impression arose upon their discovery—and still persists today—that the cities as settlements were also spatially delineated by forest or scrub savannahs, and were thus organized as socially and politically discrete entities. Epigraphic research may have confirmed the existence of city-states (Mathews 1991) and thus this subjective viewpoint in certain respects, but the space between the large settlements and cities is now known to have been more densely populated than was previously acknowledged. Thus, the issue of the affiliation of smaller settlements on the periphery and in surrounding areas with larger cities is a research question that is now being intensively investigated in the context of archaeological projects.

It has not been a seldom occurrence in the history of the field that sites previously viewed as independent have been recognized as actually constituting peripheral regions of other sites that had already been defined, as in the case of the site Macanxoc, which was identified over the course of archaeological survey as a part of Coba, as it was connected to the center by means of a sakbe (Thompson et al. 1932; Graham and von Euw 1997). Due to its high concentration of construction, monumental architecture, and inscribed stone monuments, Coba itself is defined as the core of a settlement agglomeration whose external sectors (primarily patio groups) are smaller in terms of their surface area, are connected with the core by means of sakbe . This arrangement creates the impression of a homogenous, interconnected settlement area that resembles the modern, western “city.” In this manner, individuals develop both consciously and unconsciously subjective impressions of villages or city-like settlement structures that are evoked when evaluating the built space (Heineberg 2006:155).

In the case of cognitive maps, for example, Kevin Lynch (1960) maintains that spatial relationships are generated and summarized with a linguistic term by means of 1) paths, 2) areas occupied by residents that bear with local names (districts), 3) points of conjunction like intersections or plazas (nodes), 4) emblems, public memorials, or symbolic objects in space (landmarks), and 5) perceptible borders within the settlement area, such as banks, escarpments, dams, etc. (edges).

As soon as space is bounded by forest or topography and thus is separated into zones, these zones are usually defined as separate settlement units with their own name. The designation of sites is thus impressionistic, and it was not uncommon in the past for sites to be defined as independent units that, upon more detailed examination, were found to exist in a direct spatial and historical relationship with one another.

Cahal Pichik, Cahal Cunil, Hatzcab Ceel, and Tzimin Kax in Belize, which were previously defined as separate sites, are actually linked to each other by sakbe and in the pre-Hispanic era comprised a settlement unit that is referred to in the modern literature by the name Mountain Cow. Consequently, Hatzcab Ceel and Tzimin Kaax are used as alternative names for Mountain Cow or, in some cases, to refer to two patio groups within Mountain Cow (Morris 2004). Chichen Itza-Yula-Halakal and Yaxchilan-Dos Caobas provide additional examples of sites that were defined as discrete locations in the early history of investigation, but which in reality stood in direct spatial relation to each other and from a historical perspective were settlement units whose relationship with each other was one of mutual dependency.

Archaeological investigations indicate that borders between such settlement areas were definitively marked and defended with walls and palisades (Golden et al. 2012). The erstwhile cultural landscape cannot be readily conceived of in a Western sense through demarcation into defined areas. Instead, it was a historically cultivated and heterogeneous entity consisting of patio groups in a settlement compound and cities, which we today distinguish with different names and thereby try to separate from each other. Implicitly, however, we refer only to the structural-spatial remains, each of which we subjectively perceive as an organizationally cohesive unit and thus as distinct from one another. Archaeological research will have to indicate whether interactions between the center and the periphery, or between settlements, were taking place and, if so, at what level of intensity. For this reason, models exist that use visible and buried architecture to define settlement zones according to varying quantitative and qualitative parameters, such as settlement density or construction volume (Benavides C. 1981a:24, 105–115, 1981b:210–215). Intermediary settlement compounds may thus result in agglomerations of sites. Research has only established a basic understanding of the extent to which the political affiliations attested epigraphically influenced settlement patterns (Eberl and Gronemeyer in press).

The fact that archaeologists apply different names to neighboring settlements should not in and of itself automatically lead to the conclusion that there were no sociopolitical interactions between them, whether at a certain point in time or even over longer periods, or that the spaces with their structural-spatial settlement structures were perceived as homogenous cultural landscapes, rather than as separate units. Only critical archaeological-historical research of this cultural area can shed light on this problematic issue. Identifying sites as formerly occupied settlements is a documentary workaround which, from the perspective of settlement geography, has its own scientific legitimacy and thus is being utilized in the context of this project. Nonetheless, we want to indicate the problematic of artificially drawn borders and delineations of space. Modern names for Maya ruins thus have more of an operational character and should be perceived as linguistic, toponymic references to structural-spatial settlement structures that do not (necessarily) correspond to the sociopolitical reality of the earlier cultural landscape. Lists of site names always reflect the current state of work and research, and consequentially are operational per se.

Appellatives of Archaeological Sites

The individual names of sites that are used, besides historically situated names such as Uxmal, Chichen Itza, or Mayapan, are local field names that refer to mountains, forests, bodies of water, fields, plants, or animals found nearby or at the site itself and were passed down among local speakers as place names (Roys 1935; Gifford 1961). If local descriptors are lacking, the names used may refer to contexts of discovery, objects, or inscriptions, for instance, as in the case of the site Uaxactun, which Morley had named based on an inscription that features a calendar date recording Baktun 8. Another example is the name of the site Xnaheb Ahse Enel in Belize, which means “place of laughter” in Q’eqchi and is named after an incident in which the discoverer of the site, Dennis Puleston, slipped and fell down, making his companions laugh (Wanyerka 1999). It can only be proven for a few sites that the archaeological place name corresponds to the original toponym used in pre-Hispanic times. The place name Yaxha (Peten, Guatemala), for instance, is attested as such in local hieroglyphic texts and has been continuously used up through the present (Stuart 1985).

Lists of Archaeological Sites

The first work to classify Maya sites with inscriptions in stone, wood, and stucco was a working paper with a register of texts and calendrical dates that Sylvanus G. Morley prepared in 1945 in the context of his work for the Carnegie Institution of Washington, and which was eventually published in the same year in which he passed away (Morley 1948). The list is not only a register of the 115 sites with Maya inscriptions that were known at the time; in addition, it presents in table format an overview of 1313 hieroglyphic inscriptions that had been identified and documented by 1945. The list nonetheless did not include texts on ceramic vessels or murals, or miscellaneous texts on jade, bone, shell, or other materials. Morley’s site list is sorted hierarchically according to site size, rather than alphabetically, with a distinction drawn between I) larger and II) smaller sites, as well as a third section for texts of unknown provenience. The text carriers, which are not systematically organized in the list, are sorted by site and each is presented with its respective designation and place of discovery. The text carriers are numbered consecutively from 1 to 2008, although Morley left a sizeable quantity of numbers unassigned for each site, in order that any inscriptions found in the future could later be added to the list. Little information is provided about the sites of discovery themselves. Morley notes alternative site names, but does not specify in which country, department, or state the site is located, and references to further reading are similarly sparse.

These desiderata were partially addressed some years later in a site register that Eric Thompson prepared as an appendix to his Catalog of Maya Hieroglyphs (Thompson 1962:404-411). The list, which is sorted alphabetically, includes 147 sites, 32 more than Morley, yet does not include a register of the texts discovered at each location. The innovative component of Thompson’s site list is that he integrates place names and inscription types into his hieroglyph catalog in abbreviated form, such as Cop. for “Copan,” Nar. for “Naranjo,” St. for “stela,” or L. for “lintel.” This technique was also employed years later in the Corpus of Maya Hieroglyphic Inscriptions (CMHI) Program initiated by Ian Graham at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology in Cambridge. The project was established in 1968 with the goal of systematically documenting and publishing all text carriers, except for the codices and those on ceramic vessels, and relevant, general information about them (metadata) (Graham 1975:1:7).

This research program’s publications and descriptive conventions have become standards in the field. For this reason, they constitute the foundation for the present project’s site and inscription catalogs, in which documentation of all extant text carriers of known and unknown provenience occupies the foreground. Ian Graham explained in the introduction to the first CMHI volume that he aspired to unified standards for the nomenclature of text carriers and the naming of sites (Graham 1975:1:9). In his opinion, sites that are cited in the literature under various designations present a particularly controversial situation, as in the case of Moral/Morales or Benque Viejo and Xunantunich. The project’s inventory lists preferred and alternative denominations in the description of each site. Additional conventions established by Graham that are used in the current project include the suppression of accents in writing Maya names and abbreviation conventions for monument types and site names, which have since been adopted, modified, and supplemented by various other projects (Mayer 1983; Riese 2004; Mayer 2011, 1997).

Site names are abbreviated with a three-letter code, such as YAX for Yaxchilan, PUS for Pushilha, or CPN for Copan. The different classes of free-standing, portable, or architecturally integrated text carriers are similarly abbreviated according to their English designation, for instance Mon. for “monument,” Trn. for “throne,” or Lnt. for “lintel” (Graham 1975). Lists of all sites known at the time of printing and their respective three-letter codes and locations have hitherto been published in three printed fascicles (Graham 1975, 1982; Graham and Mathews 1999) and in an online CMHI publication (Fash and Corpus of Maya Hieroglyphic Inscriptions Program 2012). The list published in 1975 presents 202 sites, which grew to 268 and then 278 in the 1982 and 1999 publications, respectively. The compilation presented in 2012 as a PDF document lists 457 entries, and the current working list of the Bonn project contains over 500 sites.

The list of archaeological sites in Mesoamerica at which Maya inscriptions have been reliably documented that is published here goes above and beyond previously published lists with respect to both concept and content. Whereas the CMHI placed general information concerning the site, such as alternative names, location, accessibility, research history, maps, register of inscriptions, and relevant literature, in the introductions to the volumes about each site, the goal of the present project is to enter such metadata into a database, and to thereby publish them dynamically and make them searchable. Bibliographic references, which were omitted from previously published lists, are especially important in this context, as they will enable users to understand the reasoning underlying our specifications and to check them if need be. Metadata concerning the database, which can be found in the sidebar on the right-hand edge, indicate how many entries it contains, when new sites have been entered, and which existing site entries were most recently edited; it also allows users to provide feedback on the site database, for instance by suggesting corrections or reporting new sites.

Meta Data

The multilevel site database is accessed by means of a three-column table listing all sites that has been released for publication on the website. The first, blue-colored column contains the preferred name of the site in accordance with the conventions of the CMHI. If applicable, alternative names appear in black under the main entry, and in the case that multiple alternative names exist, they are separated by an equals sign “=”. The table is sorted in alphabetical order by site name; it may also be re-sorted by clicking with the cursor on the downward-pointing in the header field of the two columns “Acronym” and “Country/Region.” The former column contains previously established acronyms that have appeared in published sources (Riese 2004; Graham 1975, 1982; Graham and Mathews 1999; Fash and Corpus of Maya Hieroglyphic Inscriptions Program 2012; Mathews 2005), as well as new abbreviations, which are added and indicated with an asterisk “*”. The sort function allows the user to obtain an overview of which sites do not yet have a corresponding acronym. The third column records the location of each site (country, state/department/district), although entries can only be sorted here by country. A search field allows the contents of this page to be filtered, and in keeping with standard practice, sites in Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras can be shown with a click of the button/mouse. Entire or partial names can also be entered into the search field to display the corresponding sites.

The site’s preferred name also serves as a link to the second level of the database, which contains detailed information concerning the site. In addition to indicating when the entry was most recently edited, the second level allows users to send the project corrections via a feedback button on the right-hand sidebar. General information about the individual sites includes 1) designations, 2) identification numbers, 3) location, 4) quantity of inscriptions from earlier inventories, 5) online presence, and 6) remarks and references for further reading. In the “Designation” field, we list under “Alternative Abbreviations” and “Alternative Names” acronyms and additional site names that appear in the literature, and the site’s preferred name appears as the header. Providing alternative names is essential because multiple names often circulate in the literature in reference to the same site. Another option for clearly identifying a site is to cite existing identification numbers from normative data and thesauri and to link the site database entries with these normative data sets. Normative data are standardized descriptions that can be used as key words (descriptors) in documentation. They thus permit clear and unified classification and identification of personal names, geographic features, topical subject headings, corporations, publication titles, etc. The Maya sites are also linked to the Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names Online (TGN). This thesaurus from the J. Paul Getty Trust hierarchically represents historical and contemporary designations in various languages and was developed for use in museum documentation. It also contains additional information about the registered places, such as approximate coordinates or a categorization by location type. The thesaurus is available as open metadata and can be expanded and modified by users. Sites in our database are thus not only linked with the TGN normative data; in addition, the project will also enter its own normative data, for example if existing data are not correct or entries are missing. If a TGN entry is available, it will appear in the field “Getty ID”. These entries will be supplemented over the course of the project. Similarly, sites will be linked with their identification number as given in the vocabulary of GeoNames in the field “GeoNames”. This database contains over 10 million geographic names, each of which is categorized in one of nine classes and one of over 645 codes. Latitude and longitude, elevation above sea level, population, and administrative classification are also entered in the database, in addition to place names in various languages. All coordinates use WGS84 (World Geodetic System 1984), which is also used in GPS. To the extent possible, the site database also offers discipline-specific identification numbers. For Mexican sites, the official ID from INAH (Instituto Nacional de Arqueología e Historia) is given, and for Guatemalan locations, the site codes established by IDAEH (Instituto de Arqueología e Historia).

The exact position of most sites has been well-documented. In addition to information about the nation and political subunit in which the site is located, its precise location can also be determined with the aid of geographic coordinates (WGS84). For the country names included in the database, we use ISO 3166, internationally standardized system of two- and three-letter country abbreviations that consist of three components. The first component (ISO 3166-1) is for contemporary nations, the second (ISO 3166-2) for subunits of nations, and the third (ISO 3166-3) for abbreviations for historical country names that have been deleted since 1974. The cited geographic coordinates are presented in decimal format and are taken from various sources acknowledged under “Remarks”. The accuracy of each entry is checked using Google Maps or other portals: is the given geographic location plausible, and how precise are the measurements? In many cases, the data, most of which can be looked up in the literature, can be verified using Google Maps. Instances of uncertain or problematic measurements are noted in the “Remarks” field, when relevant. The position of each site is supported with a reference and can be checked by the individual user with the embedded Google Maps feature.

The “Quantity of Inscriptions” field lists the number of texts that were documented in the two previously published inscription inventories. The first of these is the aforementioned work by Sylvanus Morley from 1948. The second is an overview compiled by Berthold Riese, whose inscription documentation included not only a register of all sites with texts known by 1980, but also the number of the extant inscriptions at that time (Riese 1980; Morley 1948). This area will later be supplemented with information from the CMHI and the present project. Furthermore, under “Online”, we have linked the sites with the research projects’ online presences, made reference to resources such as perspectives from Google Street View, and provided links to Facebook and Twitter for those research projects which use these social media channels. Comments about the site, bibliographic references, and reliability of geographic coordinates, etc., may be found in the fields “Remarks” and “References”. The latter field incorporate references to further reading that are maintained in the Project’s Zotero literature database and thus are up-to-date, in addition to the works consulted in creating the entries themselves. The literature search function has not yet been activated, but it will be made available in the future. The entries concerning individual sites are thus selective and incomplete.


Baumeister, Stefan
2010 Entwicklung eines internetbasierten Werkzeugs zur Unterstützung von Forschungs- und Kommunikationsprozessen in der Siedlungsforschung: Untersuchung der Potenziale digitaler 3D-Visualisierungen für die Rekonstruktion von baulich-räumlichen Siedlungsstrukturen. Unpublished Inaugural-Dissertation, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität, Bonn.
Benavides C., Antonio
1981a Cobá: Una ciudad prehispánica de Quintana Roo. INAH Centro Regional del Sureste, México, D.F.
1981b Cobá y Tulum: Adaptación al medio ambiente y control del medio social. Estudios de Cultura Maya 13: 205–222.
Eberl, Markus, and Sven Gronemeyer
in press Organización política y social. In Entre reyes y campesinos: investigaciones recientes en la antigua capital maya de Tamarindito, edited by Markus Eberl and Claudia Vela González. BAR International Series. Archaeopress, Oxford.
Fash, Barbara, and Corpus of Maya Hieroglyphic Inscriptions Program
2012 Corpus of Maya Hieroglyphic Inscriptions: Site Codes. Electronic Document. Corpus of Maya Hieroglyphic Inscriptions.
Fehn, Klaus
1975 Aufgaben der genetischen Siedlungsforschung in Mitteleuropa. ZAM – Zeitschrift für Archäologie des Mittelalters 3: 69–94.
Gifford, James C.
1961 Place and Geographic Names in the Archaeological Nomenclature of the Maya Territory and Neighboring Regions. Cerámica de Cultura Maya 1(1): 3–25.
Golden, Charles W., Andrew Scherer, A. René Muñoz, and Zachary Hruby
2012 Polities, Boundaries, and Trade in the Classic Period Usumacinta River Basin. Mexicon 34(1): 11–19.
Graham, Ian
1975 Corpus of Maya Hieroglyphic Inscriptions, Volume 1: Introduction to the Corpus. Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.
1982 Corpus of Maya Hieroglyphic Inscriptions, Volume 3, Part 3: Yaxchilan. Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.
Graham, Ian, and Eric von Euw
1997 Corpus of Maya Hieroglyphic Inscriptions, Volume 8, Part 1: Coba. Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.
Graham, Ian, and Peter Mathews
1999 Corpus of Maya Hieroglyphic Inscriptions, Volume 6, Part 3: Tonina. Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.
Heineberg, Heinz
2006 Stadtgeographie. UTB Geographie 2166. Schöningh, Paderborn.
Lynch, Kevin
1960 The Image of the City. The Technology Press, Cambridge, MA.
Mathews, Peter
1991 Classic Maya Emblem Glyphs. In Classic Maya Political History: Hieroglyphic and Archaeological
Evidence, edited by Patrick Culbert, pp. 19-29. School of American Research, Cambridge, MA.
2005 Who’s Who in the Classic Maya World. Webpage. Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies (FAMSI).
Mayer, Karl Herbert
1983 Gewölbedecksteine mit Dekor der Maya-Kultur. Archiv für Völkerkunde 37: 1–62.
1997 Maya Miscellaneous Texts in British Museums. Maya Miscellaneous Texts 1. Academic Publishers, Graz.
2011 The Documentation of Unprovenanced Maya Monuments. IMS Explorer 40(2): 4–5.
Morley, Sylvanus G.
1948 Check List of the Corpus Inscriptionum Mayarum and Check List of all Known Initial and Supplementary Series. Carnegie Institution of Washington, the Division of Historical Research, Washington, D.C.
Morris, John
2004 Mountain Cow Sites: Survey, Excavations and Interpretations. Research Reports in Belizean Archaeology 1: 129–154.
Riese, Berthold
1980 Sechster Arbeitsbericht über die Hamburger Maya-Inschriften Dokumentation: Die Texte der Hamburger Maya-Inschriften Dokumentation nach dem Stand von September 1976. n.p., Hamburg.
2004 Abkürzungen für Maya-Ruinenorte mit Inschriften. Wayeb Notes 8: 1–21.
Roys, Ralph L.
1935 Place Names of Yucatan. Maya Research 2: 1–10.
Stuart, David
1985 The Yaxha Emblem Glyph as YAX-A. Research Reports on Ancient Maya Writing 1. Center for Maya Research, Washington, D.C.
Thompson, J. Eric S.
1962 A Catalog of Maya Hieroglyphs. The Civilization of the American Indian Series 62. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, OK.
Thompson, J. Eric S., Harry E. D. Pollock, and Jean Charlot
1932 A Preliminary Study of the Ruins of Cobá, Quintana Roo, Mexico. Carnegie Institution of Washington Publication 424. Carnegie Institution of Washington, Washington, D.C.
Wanyerka, Phil
1999 A Brief Description of the Carved Monuments at Xnaheb, Toledo District, Belize. Mexicon 21(1): 18–20.

Problem Areas


At present, there is no complete catalog of the known texts or an archive that is available for investigative search. Existing archives are incomplete and have only been partially digitalized, and can thus only be consulted on-site. A desirable alternative would be a complete, online digital archive that included all known texts and made these broadly available for research. The re-contextualization of written media of unknown provenience represents an additional ambition. With the aid of the EDV-supported text corpus, paleographic and content comparisons could be conducted, which in turn would make possible efforts to narrow down the possible origin of the artifacts and to reconstruct their historical context.


Large sections of the Maya inscriptions are legible, but the process of decipherment has still not been completed, because many logograms and syllabic signs still lack a reading. Furthermore, certain sign collocations can be read aloud, but resist translation, because the corresponding forms in contemporary Mayan languages or their colonial-period variants have not yet been identified. The project intends to confront this deficit with careful etymological research and linguistic analysis. An additional problem is that previous lexical lists are often based on erroneous readings, which lead to inconsistent interpretations.

A corpus-based examination of hypothesized readings is thus an important aim. With this goal in mind, the sign inventory of the Maya script must be compiled in its entirety and continuously updated as soon as additional inscriptions with previously unknown signs are added to the corpus. Sign classifications need to be continuously evaluated with respect to their consistency, particularly in the case of writing systems that have not yet been fully deciphered. Given that existing catalogs are incomplete and incorrect in many areas, the development of a new, dynamically structured, digital sign catalog constitutes a pressing need.

Writing System

The structure of the writing system is only superficially known. The reconstruction of scribal conventions is still in its infancy. The controversy over the meaning and function of vowel-harmonic and –disharmonic spellings, as well as the function of phonetic complementation of logograms, has dominated the debate over orthographic conventions in recent years. At the heart of the debate is the question of whether and in what form the Maya represented vowel length and quality in their script. However, these discussions do not account for dynamic of the writing system. To date, they have not included spatial or temporal aspects of writing and language phenomena.

Different hypotheses concerning the conventions of the writing system rely on deficient linguistic readings. Investigations of geographic distribution, which permit inferences about intraculturally or sociologically conditioned varieties, have yet to be undertaken. Changes in sign form, sign inventory, allomorphic spellings, or the criteria according to which signs were ordered within a glyph block have been inadequately described and analyzed up to now. Research gaps are particularly evident in the field of paleography. At the moment, the only relevant work is that of Alfonso Lacadena, which nonetheless addresses only selected examples from the text corpus. A comprehensive paleographic sign list, such as that created by René Labat for Sumerian, has yet to be compiled and represents a pressing research need.


A comprehensive linguistic description of Classic Mayan is still wanting, because basic understanding of phonology (for example, with respect to vowel quality), morphophonemic processes (for example, changes in vowel length in certain contexts), the field of verb morphology and its tense/aspect/mood system, and the meaning of adverbs and deixis is lacking. Thus, we cannot yet reconstruct important developments within the Mayan languages, such as the rise of aspect-oriented split ergativity in various Mayan languages.

Discourse-grammatical studies have been conducted on only a few texts to date. In addition, literary genres and their linguistic manifestations have only been selectively investigated. The relationship of spoken languages to the written language and the processes of innovation within Classic Mayan should be analyzed in relation to historical, social, and cultural processes. The impression that the writing system was largely homogenous in the lowlands at a given point in time is often based on selective studies and requires comprehensive textual analysis to be verified or falsified. In addition, the reconstruction of the language geography and sociolectology of the Classic Maya lowlands is still in the beginning stages, because the lack of a lexicon of Classic Mayan has prevented more comprehensive studies.


Various attempts have been made to compile word lists and dictionaries of the Classic Mayan lexicon (see State of Research above). However, these works are incomplete, flawed, and de-contextualized; linguistic readings often remain unexplained. Yet the crucial deficit is the lack of a record of occurrences that encompasses all textual sources and thus includes those text passages, in their original hieroglyphic form and with alphanumeric transcriptions that cannot yet be read. Existing, catalog-like inventories of hieroglyphic expressions lack morphological and grammatical analyses of the hieroglyphic expressions, spatiotemporal references, commentary on cultural context, explanations of the translation, and bibliographic information.

In summary, language varieties and the development of the lexicon, grammar, and script still cannot be retraced in spite of the digital presentation of some dictionaries, nor can the original context be retrieved. The interactivity between a text corpus and an analytical word catalog that is necessary for the comprehensive investigation of writing and language cannot be found in any published dictionary or word list to date.

A Preliminary Inventory of the Karl Herbert Mayer Photographic Collection, Graz

Project Report 1


Christian Prager

Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität, Bonn

This is the first in a series of technical reports that will be presented by members of the research project Textdatenbank und Wörterbuch des Klassischen Maya (TWKM), which was recently initiated in the Department of Anthropology of the Americas at the University of Bonn. The goal of this report series is to provide information about recent research activities, to document work‐in‐progress and to provide technical background information concerning the computational infrastructure of the project.

The present report is concerned with the project’s efforts to digitize the photographic archive of Karl Herbert Mayer, Graz (Austria), and to integrate it into the project’s digital archive of Maya inscriptions. For this purpose, the author conducted an initial survey to obtain an overview of the photographic archive of Karl Herbert Mayer in Graz.

The Archive

Over the course of a three‐day visit to Graz (June 26 to June 28, 2014), the author conducted documentary work at the office of Prof. Karl Herbert Mayer. Prof. Mayer is known for the field work that he has conducted in the Maya area over the past forty years and for his numerous publications on provenanced and unprovenanced Maya objects that feature hieroglyphic inscriptions and imagery. Throughout the past several decades, Mayer has compiled a substantial archive comprising thousands of slides and images of Maya art, architecture and writing. While the TWKM project was being prepared in 2011, Mayer and TWKM agreed that his photographic collection of Maya monuments would be partially integrated into the digital text database of the project. In a written statement signed by Prof. Mayer and dated September 15, 2011, Mayer grants the project the right to use and publish his photographs in print and online as a collection in the database whose designation will reflect the name of the rightholder reflected in the pending title “KHM Photos Maya”.
The archive material includes several thousand b/w and color negatives and slides, which are archived in chronological order in file folders and boxes, and prints featuring images of Maya monuments in their respective contexts, which are sorted in alphabetical order according to site names. The material is stored in file folders (b/w negatives, prints) and card boxes (color negatives). In order to facilitate the digitization process, Prof. Mayer has agreed that the material will be dispatched to Bonn and digitized into both high resolution and TIFF format at the TWKM office with the support of student assistants. The digital images, together with their relevant descriptive data (metadata), will be integrated into the TextGrid working environment using a data entry system (front‐end) that is currently being developed and programmed by the project’s metadata specialist, Franziska Diehr, and programmer, Maximilian Brodhun, both of the Niedersächsische Staats‐und Universitätsbibliothek Göttingen (SUB). This semi‐automatic data entry system generates XML documents, providing the necessary image information (so‐called metadata) and linking it to the corresponding digital image in order to integrate the XML documents and image data set into the virtual working environment of TextGrid.

Archival Material

During the three‐day visit, seven sections of the photographic archive were inspected and documented.

  • A set of 15 document file folders entitled “Sculptures with Provenance” that contain color and b/w prints of Maya monuments, sorted in alphabetic order according the name of the archaeological site. On the back side of each print, Mayer gives the name of the site, the designation of the monument, the year of exposure, an archival number that serves to locate the original negative, and in some cases additional information, such as size of the monument. Most photographs were taken by Mayer himself between the mid‐1970s and the present. However, Mayer also includes in this collection of prints a few photographs by other authors, whose names and further information are usually indicated on the back side of the print. Mayer emphasizes that copyright must be respected/taken into consideration and requests to use these materials must be directed to the original copyright holder.
  • Three files folders bearing the title “Ancient Maya Murals,” which feature several hundred of prints of painted imagery and hieroglyphic texts. The prints are ordered alphabetically according to the name of the archaeological site. Most photographs were taken by Mayer, although a few come from other sources, in which cases the rightsholders’ names are usually noted on the back of the photograph.
  • One file folders with the designation “Maya Graffiti,” which contains around 100 printed images, most of which are the work of Mayer. These prints are ordered alphabetically according to the name of the site of discovery/localization. In most cases, Mayer provides the name of the site, the year of the photo shoot, as well as the number of the negative slide as a finding aid. These files will be sent to Bonn in order to be digitized.
  • One file folder entitled “El Chorro,” which consists of some 300 prints and photocopies of images and drawings of monumental sculpture and inscriptions from the Maya site of El Chorro, Peten. It represents the current stage of Mayer’s as yet unfinished project to publish a corpus of inscriptions from that site. Drawings from the Corpus of Maya Hieroglyphic Inscriptions archives are also included in this section of the archive, but they may not be reproduced or published by the TWKM due to copyright restrictions. This file folder will also be sent to Bonn for digitization. Summary: according to our calculations, archive sections 1-4 consist of about 4,820 single‐photo prints, most of which were taken and compiled by Mayer as reference and working material.
  • A large corpus of b/w negatives exhibiting Maya art, architecture and writing. It is held in 9 yellow file folders in the basement of Prof. Mayer’s office. According to the survey, this archival section consists of 597 film rolls, which are cut in strips of 6 comprising of 36 shots each, and thus contains a total of around 21,500 images stored? in chronological order. Each film strip of 36 shots is filed in an archival sheet and numbered systematically by Mayer. The b/w photographs date to between 1975 and 2006. Mayer reports that he preferred to use color films in his later work. The results of our survey in Graz indicate that this portion of the photographic archive is mostly complete; only a few negative slides are missing. Missing files are indicated in the inventory below. For all negative films, Mayer provides a contact print as a finding aid. According to Mayer, most of these b/w negatives were never printed and thus remain unpublished.
  • Roughly 87 unsorted films currently stored in small boxes. They include photographs of Maya objects, touristic and private subjects. Each file contains a contact print, which enables the user to locate specific photographs. The negative strips are numbered and the images from archive sections 1‐3 were printed from the negatives stored in this collection. The color negative images are estimated to number around 3,100 items.
  • Karl Herbert Mayer’s archive of slides was initiated in the late 1960s and consists of 570 doubleboxes that provide space for around 41,000 color slides. According to Mayer, his collection of slides not only includes Maya objects photographed during this field trips, but also touristic and private subjects, such as plants, animals or food. A complete survey was not possible over the course of the short, three‐day stay in Graz.


The survey indicates that the photographic archive of Karl Herbert Mayer includes nearly 70,000 images, currently stored in the form of b/w and color negatives, slides and prints. However, this figure also includes private or touristic subjects and other images not related to the Maya area. An estimated 40,000 images will be relevant for our project and will therefore be digitized over the next two years.

Working Schedule and Future Plans

Prof. Mayer has agreed that archive sections 1‐5 will be transported to Bonn within the next few weeks in order to facilitate the digitization process at the TWKM office. TWKM will organize and cover the costs of the transport. Karl Herbert Mayer, in turn, has granted permission to use and publish his own photographs in print and online. In exchange, he will receive DVDs with the digital images of the (his?) archive and access to the project database as soon as it is available. Future visits to Graz by members of our research team are anticipated, but have not yet been planned.


The following inventory contains detailed descriptions of the above‐mentioned archival collections. In the first column, the name of the collection is given as denoted above. The second column provides the description or classification of the individual items in the collection; the third column contains the designations found on the slides or files as well as, the names of the relevant archaeological sites or museum; and the fourth column provides the approximate number of images contained in that particular collection.

1 – Sculptures with Provenance

File Name Designation Archaeological sites and museums included in the file Approx. # of images
Sculptures with Provenance File 01 Acanceh, Acté, Actuncan, Aguas Calientes, Aguateca, Amelia (La), Anonal, Arroyo de Piedra, Balamtun, Balamku, El Baul, Becanchen, Cotzumalhuapa, Bilimkok, Bonampak, Museo Cancun 280
Sculptures with Provenance File 02 Calakmul, Cancuen, Canicah, Caňadas, Caracol, Caribe (El), Cayo, (El), Chakpichi, Chal (El), Chichen Itza, Chinaja, Chinkultic, Chochkitam, Chuncan 200
Sculptures with Provenance File 03 Coba, Comalcalco, Copan, Corozal, Culucbe, Cumpich, Dos Pilas, Dzehkabtun, Dzibanche, Dzibilchaltun, Dzibilnoca 350
Sculptures with Provenance File 04 Dzibilocac, Ek Balam, El Encanto, Esperanza (Chiapas), Etzna, Flores, Halal bei Chichen Itza, Honradez (La), Hortalita, Hotzuc, Huacutal, Hultun, Huntocchac, Ichmul, Ichpaatun, Ikil, Idtzteil, Itzan, Itzimte, Ixkun, Ixlu 300
Sculptures with Provenance File 05 Itzimte (Sacluk), Ixkun, Ixlu, Ixtonton, Jaina, Jimbal, Jonuta, Joyanca, Kabah, Kabah, Kakab, Kaminaljuyu, Kancabchen, Kayal, Kutza, Kiuic 200
Sculptures with Provenance File 06 Labna, Lacanha, Lagarto Xlapak, Laguna Perdida, Lamanai, Lopes Mateos, Machquila, Manantial, Mani, Mar (La), Mayapan, Metate con glifos, Mirador (El), Miraflores, Montura (la), Morales Balancan, Motul de San Jose, Mountain Cow, Nadzcaan, Nakeb, Nakum, 230
Sculptures with Provenance File 07 Naranjo, Okop, Oxkintok, Pajaral, Palenque, Palmar (El), Panhale, Pasadita (La), Peru (El), Piedras Negras, Pochitoca, Polol, Pomona, Popola, Poxil, Primera Sección, Punta de Chimino, Quirigua 400
Sculptures with Provenance File 08 Nohcacab (Rancho), Reinado (El), Rejoya, Resbalon, Rey (El), Rio Bec, Rio Zarco, San Pedro, Sac Peten, Sacul, Salinas de los nueve cerros, San Diego, S D Becanchen, San Francisco Ticul, San Lorenzo, San Pedro Dzitbalche, San Simon Pueblo, Santa Rosa Xtampak 280
Sculptures with Provenance File 09 Santa Barbara Yucatan (El Paraiso), Santa Elena Balancan, Santa Rosa Xtampak, Sayil, Seibal, Sihunchen 200
Sculptures with Provenance File 10 Sufricaya, Tabasqueno, Tamarindito, Tanholna, Tayasal, Tehuitz, Telchaquillo, Telantunich, Tenam Rosario, Tikal, Tila 100
Sculptures with Provenance File 11 Tonina, Topoxte, Tortuguero, Tziminkax Sombra (mit Kohunlich assoziiert) 280
Sculptures with Provenance File 12 Topoxte, Tres Islas, La Trinidad, Tulum, Tunkuyi, Uaxactun, Uaymil, Ucanal 100
Sculptures with Provenance File 13 Uxmal 140
Sculptures with Provenance File 14 Uxul, Xburrotunich, Xcalumk’in, Xcastillo, Xcocha, Xculoc, Xkombec, Xlabpak, Xunantunich, Xupa, Xutilha 200
Sculptures with Provenance File 15 Yakalxiu, Yaxche Xlabpak, Yaxchilan, Yaxcopoil, Yaxha, Yaxhom, Zapote (El), Zotz (El) 280

2 – Ancient Maya Murals

File Name Designation Archaeological sites and museums included in the file Approx. # of images
Ancient Maya Murals File 01 Acanceh, Almuchil, Balamku, Bonampak, Caracol, Cozumel, Chac, Chacmultun, Chama, Chekemi, Chuncatzim, Coba, Dzibilchaltun, Dzibilnocac, Halal, Haltunch’on, Ichmac, Itzimte Bolonchen, Kabah 280
Ancient Maya Murals File 02 Mulich, Palenque, Chacmultun, Mayapan, Xcakochna, Tzum, Oxkintok, Pasadita, Xpujil, diverse 300
Ancient Maya Murals File 03 Tancah, Sodzil, Tikal, Tohkok, Tulum, Xcakochna, Xelha, Xkipche, Xuelen, Yaxha 300

3 – El Chorro

File Name Designation Archaeological sites and museums included in the file Approx. # of images
El Chorro Container 1 A collection of 300 documents 300

4 – Maya Graffiti

File Name Designation Archaeological sites and museums included in the file Approx. # of images
Maya Graffiti Folder 01 Rio Bec, San Clemente, La Blanca, Hochob, Tikal, Santa Rosa Xtampak, Xpujil 100

5 – B/W negatives

File Name Designation Archaeological sites and museums included in the file Approx. # of images
B/W Negatives Volume 01 (1975-1980) 1. 1975-F01 New York MNH, Barbachano
2. 1975-F02 Barbachano
3. 1975-01 Paris Bucher
4. 1975-01 Zürich Rietberg
5. 1976-01 Guatemala MNAE
6. 1976-02 Guatemala Mushroom
7. 1976-03 Guatemala Mushroom
8. 1976-04 Guatemala Mushroom
9. 1976-05 Guatemala Mushroom
10. 1976-06 Guatemala MNAE
11. 1976-07 Guatemala, Naranjo
12. 1976-08 Guatemala, Tikal
13. 1976-09 Seibal
14. 1976-10 Dos Pilas, Arroyo de Piedra
15. 1976-11 Arroyo de Piedra
16. 1976-12 Quirigua
17. 1976-13 El Baul
18. 1976-14 El Baul
19. 1976-15 El Baul
20. 1976-16 Xunantunich
21. 1976-17 Mexico MNA
22. 1976-18 Mexico MNA
23. 1976-19 Mexico MNA
24. 1976-20 Mexico MNA
25. 1978-01 Kaminaljuyu
26. 1978-02 Kaminaljuyu
27. 1978-03 Guatemala MNAE
28. 1978-04 Guatemala MNAE
29. 1978-05 Guatemala MNAE
30. 1978-06 Guatemala MNAE
31. 1978-07 Guatemala, Museo, Ixtutz
32. 1978-08 Tikal
33. 1978-09 Tikal
34. 1978-10 Tikal
35. 1978-11 Jimbal, Ixlu
36. 1978-15 Dos Pilas
37. 1978-16 Dos Pilas
38. 1978-17 Copan
39. 1978-18 Copan HS
40. 1978-19 Copan
41. 1978-20 Tulum, Tancah
42. 1978-21
43. 1978-22 Acanceh, Playa del Carmen, Museo, Merida
44. 1978-23 Merida Museo
45. 1978-24 Merida Museo Bodega
46. 1978-25 Campeche Museo
47. 1978-26 Hecelchakan Museo
48. 1978-27 Xcalumkin Monuments, Campeche
49. 1978-28 Palenque, Yaxchilan
50. 1978-29 Yaxchilan
51. 1978-30 Yaxchilan, Bonampak
52. 1978-31 Bonampak
53. 1978-32 Bonampak, Comalcalco
54. 1978-33 Comalcalco, Villahermosa Museo
55. 1978-34 Villahermosa Museo
56. 1978-35 Villahermosa Museo, Mexico City MNA
57. 1978-36 Mexico City, MNA
58. 1978-37 Mexico City
59. 1978 1 Berlin Museum
60. 1978 2 Berlin Museum
61. 1978 3 Berlin Museum
62. 1978 4 Berlin Museum, IAI
63. 1978 5 Berlin Museum
64. 1980-01 Guatemala Museo Popol Vuh
65. 1980-02 Guatemala MNAE
66. 1980-03 Guatemala MNAE
67. 1980-04 Guatemala MNAE
68. 1980-05 Guatemala MNAE
69. 1980-06 Merida Ermita Santa Isabel
70. 1980-07 Merida Ermita
71. 1980-08 Merida Ermita
72. 1980-09 Merida Ermita
73. 1980-10 Uxmal
74. 1980-11 Merida Museo, Uxmal
75. 1980-12 Merida Museo
76. 1980-13 Merida Museo
77. 1980-14 Merida Museo
78. 1980-15 Chetumal, Resbalon
79. 1980-16 Cancun Museo
80. 1980-17 Cancun, Merida, Campeche Museos
81. 1980-18 Campeche
82. 1980-19 Campeche
83. 1980-20 Hecelchakan
84. 1980-21 Hecelchakan
85. 1980-22 Hecelchakan, Palenque
86. 1980-22 Hecelchakan
87. 1980-23 Palenque
88. 1980-24 Palenque, Villahermosa
89. 1980-25 Villahermosa
90. 1980-26 Balancan, Santa Elena Balancan
91. 1980-27 Tonina
92. 1980-28 Tonina
93. 1980-29 Tonina
94. 1980-31 Tuxtla Museo
95. 1980-32 Tuxtla Museo
96. 1980-33 San Cristobal de las Casas New World Arch. Foundation, Muscoso Sammlung
97. 1980-34 Monte Alban
98. 1980-35 Museo Nacional
99. 1980-36 Museo Nacional
100. 1980-37 Museo Nacional
101. 1980-38 Museo Nacional
102. 1980-39 Museo Nacional
103. 1980 1 Berlin Teobert Maler Archiv
104. 1980 2 Berlin Teobert Maler Archiv, Museum
105. 1980 3 Berlin Museum
106. 1980 4 Berlin Museum
107. 1980 5 Berlin Museum
B/W Negatives Volume 02 (1981,1982,1983) 108. 1981-G(B)-1 Köln
109. 1981-1 Madrid Museo
110. 1982 Kreta
111. 1982-01
112. 1982-02 Oxkutzcab, Dzula, Nohcacab
113. 1982-03 Nohcacab, Kiuic
114. 1982-04 Kiuic
115. 1982-05 Dzibilnocac
116. 1982-06 FEHLT
117. 1982-07 Uxmal
118. 1982-08 Granada, Hecelchakan
119. 1982-09 Hecelchakan
120. 1982-10 Hecelchakan, Campeche
121. 1982-11 Campeche Museo
122. 1982-12 Campeche Museo
123. 1982-13 Campeche Museo
124. 1982-14 Campeche Museo
125. 1982-15 Dzibilnocac, Pakchen, El Tabasqueno
126. 1982-16 El Tabasqueno, Tohcok
127. 1982-17 Tohcok, Itzimte
128. 1982-18 Hochob, Dzehkabtun
129. 1982-18 Dzehkabtun
130. 1982-19 Dzehkabtun
131. 1982-20 Dzehkabtun, Bolonchen, Halal, Xbalche
132. 1982-21 FEHLT
133. 1982-22 Xbalche, Labna, Yaxche Xlabpak
134. 1982-23 Labna, Xlabpak
135. 1982-24 Xlabpak, Sayil, Kabah
136. 1982-25 Kabah
137. 1982-26 Merida Museo
138. 1982-27 Merida Museo
139. 1982-28 Merida Museo
140. 1982-29 Merida, Chichen Itza
141. 1982-30 Chichen Itza
142. 1982-31 Loltun, Kom, Oxkutzcab, Xkanaheleb
143. 1982-32 Xkanaheleb, Sacnicte
144. 1982-33 Sacnicte, Sabacche, Chuncatzim
145. 1982-34 Xulha, Xpujil
146. 1982-35 Xpujil
147. 1982-36 Becan, Chicanha
148. 1982-37 Tulum
149. 1982-38 Tulum, Xelha
150. 1982-39 Xelha, Chakalal
151. 1982-40 Chakalal, Playa
152. 1982-41 Cozumel
153. 1982-42 Cancun Museo, Ruinas
154. 1982-43 Cancun Museo
155. 1982-44 El Meco, Merida
156. 1982-45 Merida, Izamal
157. 1982-46 Izamal, Merida
158. 1982-47 Xkichmook
159. 1982-48 Santa Rosa Xtampak, Chacmultun
160. 1983-38 Thailand
161. 1983-49 Thailand
162. 1983-40 Thailand
163. 1983-41 Thailand
164. 1983-42 Thailand
165. 1983-43 Thailand
166. 1983-44 Thailand
167. 1983-45 Thailand
B/W Negatives Volume 03 (1984,1985,1986) 168. 37-02-84 Guatemela City
169. 26-03-84 Guatemala City
170. 19-04-84 Guatemala City
171. 07-05-84 Guatemala City
172. 21-06-84 Guatemala City
173. 08-07-84 Guatemala City
174. ??-08-84 Guatemala City
175. 27-10-84 Guatemala City
176. 14/15-11-84 Tikal Museo
177. 29-12-84 Merida, Yaxcopoil, Ichpich
178. 25-13-84 Ichpich, Xkichmook
179. 36-14-84 Xkichmook, Rancho Perez, Reforma, Kom
180. 16-15-84 Kom, Yaxhaxchen, Loltun
181. 39-16-84 Sayil Sabacche, Chuncanob
182. 34-17-84 Chuncanob, Ticum, Tabi, Oxkutzkab, Pozo 10, Kobalchac, Xcorralche
183. 10-18-84 Xcorralche, Chichil, Miramar
184. 11-19-84 Xcauil de Yaxche, Hopelchen, Becan, Xpuhil
185. 12-20-84 Xpuhil, Manos Rojas, Culucbalam, Pto Rico Chicanna
186. 05-21-84 Chicanna, Cilvituk, Xpuhil, Rio Bec B
187. 06-22-84 Rio Bec B, Hormiguero, Campeche San Pedro
188. 41-23-84 Campeche Bodega Museo
189. 01-24-84 Campeche Museo
190. 02-25-84 Kayal, Chunchimtok, Kancabchen, Hochob
191. 22-26-84 Hochob, Cumpich, Xcalumkin
192. 40-27-84 Xcalumkin, Haltunchon
193. 42-28-84 Haltunchon
194. 09-29-84 Tzocchen, Merida Museo
195. 35-30-84 Merida Museo
196. 24-31-84 Merida Museo
197. 04-32-84 Merida Museo
198. 33-33-84 Villahermosa Museo
199. 28-34-84 Villahermosa Museo
200. 13-35-84 Villahermosa Museo
201. 23-36-84 Mexico MNA
202. 17-37-84 Mexico MNA
203. 18-38-84 Mexico MNA
204. 32-39-84 Mexico MNA
205. 31-40-84 Mexico MNA
206. 38-41-84 Mexico MNA
207. XI-1984-1 Berlin MfV
208. 1985 Thailand 1
209. 1985 Thailand 2
210. 1985 Thailand 3
211. 1985 Thailand 4
212. 02-1986 M, IDAEH
213. 03-1986 IDAEH Guatemala
214. 04-1986 Guatemala City, MN Bodega
215. 05-1986 Guatemala City, MN, Maegli
216. 06-1986 Sacul
217. 07-1986 Sacul
218. 08-1986 Xunantunich
219. 09-1986 Lamanai
220. 10-1986 Santa Rita Corozal, Kohunlich
221. 11-1986 Kohunlich
222. 12-1986 Becan
223. 13-1986 Becan, St Rita Becan Chen Lintel
224. 14-1986 Hormiguero
225. 15-1986 Museo Regional Campeche, Baluarte de Sn Miguel Bodega
226. 16-1986 Campeche Museo Regional, Baluarte de San Miguel
227. 17-1986 Campeche Museo Regional
228. 18-1986 Campeche Museo Regional
229. 19-1986 Campeche Museo Regional
230. 20-1986 Campeche Museo Regional
231. 21-1986 Dzibiltun
232. 22-1986 Pakchen, Xpulyaxche, Huntichmul
233. 24-1986 Tabasqueno
234. 25-1986 Tabasqueno
235. 26-1986 St Rosa Xtampak
236. 27-1986 St Rosa Xtampak
237. 28-1986 Xcochkax
238. 29-1986 Xcochkax
239. 30-1986 Xxochkax, Xculoc
240. 31-1986 Xculoc, Chunhuhub, Hacienda Yaxche
241. 32-1986 Campeche, Sala de Estelas
242. 33-1986 Campeche, Sala de Estelas
243. 34-1986 Merida, Manzanilla, Bar California, Museo Regional
244. 35-1986 Merida, Museo Regional
245. 36-1986 Merida, Museo Regional
246. 37-1986 Merida, Museo Regional Bodega
247. 38-1986 Merida, Museo Regional Bodega
248. 39-1986 Merida, Museo Regional, Yaxcaba
249. 40-1986 Chichen Itza
250. 41-1986 Merida Museo Regional
251. 42-1986 Uxmal
252. 43-1986 Uxmal
253. 44-1986 Uxmal
254. 1986-1 Madrid
B/W Negatives Volume 04 (1987,1988,1989) 255. 1987-01 Museo Popol Vuh
256. 1987-02 Museo Popol Vuh
257. 1987-03 Guatemala MNAE
258. 1987-04 Uaxactun
259. 1987-05 Uaxactun, Nakum, Yaxha
260. 1987-06 Topoxte, Yaxha
261. 1987-07 Tikal Bodega
262. 1987-08 Tikal Bodega
263. 1987-09 Dzibilnocac, Uxmal, Xcavil de Yaxche
264. 1987-10 Uxmal
265. 1987-11 Uxmal
266. 1987-12 Uxmal
267. 1987-13 Chun Huaymil, Zodzil
268. 1987-14 Zodzil, Loltun
269. 1987-15 Yaxche Xlabpak, Etzna
270. 1987-16 Etzna
271. 1987-17 Etzna Campeche
272. 1987-18 Campeche, Museo
273. 1987-19 Campeche Museo
274. 1987-20 Campeche Museo
275. 1987-21 Hobomo
276. 1987-22 Hobomo
277. 1987-23 Hobomo
278. 1987-24 Hobomo
279. 1987-25 Providencia, Tohcok, Merida
280. 1987-26 Merida Museo
281. 1987-27 Merida Museo
282. 1987-28 Merida Museo
283. 1987-29 Merida Museo
284. 1987-30 El Meco, Sheraton, Yamiluum
285. 1987-31 Cancun Museo
286. 1987-32 Playa del Carmen, Xelha
287. 1987-33 Tancah
288. 1987-34 Tulum, Muyil
289. 1987-35 F. Carillo Puerto, Coba
290. 1987-36 Coba, Acanceh, Merida
291. 1987-37 Mexico MN
292. 1988-01 Guatemala MP
293. 1988-02 Guatemala, Mixco Viejo, Utatlan, Guatemala MNAE
294. 1988-03 Guatemala MNAE, Bodega
295. 1988-04 Tikal, Haupt-und Nebenbodega
296. 1988-05 Tikal Bodega
297. 1988-06 Tikal Bodega
298. 1988-07 Tikal Bodegas
299. 1988-08 Tikal Bodega, Ruinen
300. 1988-09 Rio Ixtinto Guatemala
301. 1988-10 Uxmal, Museo del sitio
302. 1988-11 Uxmal
303. 1988-12 Campeche, Sala estelas
304. 1988-13 Campeche, Museo Regional
305. 1988-14 Campeche, Museo Regional
306. 1988-15 Campeche, Museo Regional
307. 1988-16 Xpujil, Becan
308. 1988-17 Chicanna, Becan
309. 1988-18 Chicanna
310. 1988-19 Chicanna, Manos Rojas
311. 1988-20 Rio Bec
312. 1988-21 Rio Bec, Bacalar
313. 1988-22 Merida Museo Regional
314. 1988-23 Villahermosa Museo & Bodega
315. 1988-24 Palenque
316. 1988-25 Palenque
317. 1988-26 Comitan
318. 1988-27 Tuxtla Gutierrez Museo, Bodega
319. 1988-28 Tuxtla, Mexico DF
320. 1988-29 Templo Mayor
321. 1988-30 Mexico, MNA
322. 1989-01 Mexico, MNA
323. 1989-02 Campeche, Museo
324. 1989-03 Campeche, Museo
325. 1989-04 Campeche, Museo
326. 1989-05 Campeche, Museo
327. 1989-06 Campeche, Museo
328. 1989-07 Yaxche Xlabpak, Xlabpak Mural
329. 1989-08 Xuxpa, Ramonal, Rumbo 9
330. 1989-09 Ramonal, Bacalar
331. 1989-10 Belize City, Blizz Institute
332. 1989-11 Belmopan
333. 1989-12 Belmopan, Xunantunich
334. 1989-13 Ucanal
335. 1989-14 Tikal Museo
336. 1989-15 Tikal, Museo
337. 1989-16 Tikal
B/W Negatives Volume 05 (1990,1991) 338. 1990-01 Tuxtla Gutierrez
339. 1990-02 Tuxtla Gutierrez
340. 1990-03 Merida
341. 1990-04 Merida Museo
342. 1990-05 Merida Museo
343. 1990-06 Merida Museo
344. 1990-07 Merida Museo
345. 1990-08 Merida Museo
346. 1990-09 Dzibilchaltun
347. 1990-10 Oxkintok, Hecelchakan
348. 1990-11 Hecelchakan
349. 1990-12 Campeche Sn Miguel
350. 1990-13 Etzna
351. 1990-14 Etzna
352. 1990-15 Etzna
353. 1990-16 Kayal
354. 1990-17 Peto, Becan
355. 1990-18 Cozumel
356. 1990-19 Cozumel
357. 1990-20 Yaxcopoil
358. 1990-21 Tikal, Bodega
359. 1990-22 Tikal, Bodega
360. 1990-23 Tikal, Bodega
361. 1990-24 Seibal
362. 1990-25 Flores, Itzan
363. 1990-26 Flores, Itzan
364. 1990-27 Flores, Guatemala
365. 1990-28 Guatemala, MNAE
366. 1991-01 Yaxcopoil, Museo
367. 1991-02 Merida, MR
368. 1991-03 Acanceh (stuccoes)
369. 1991-04 Campeche, Museo
370. 1991-05 Balamku
371. 1991-06 Balamku
372. 1991-07 Xpujil
373. 1991-08 Becan
374. 1991-09 Kabah
375. 1991-10 Kabah
376. 1991-11 Uxmal
377. 1991-12 Uxmal
378. 1991-13 Chichen Itza
379. 1991-14 Chichen Itza
380. 1991-15 Chichen Itza
381. 1991-16 Chichen Itza
382. 1991-17 Palenque
383. 1991-18 Palenque
384. 1991-19 Kabah
385. 1991-20 Kabah, Sayil
386. 1991-21 Xlabpak, Labna
387. 1991-22 Labna
388. 1991-23 Uxmal
389. 1991-24 Izamal
390. 1991-25 Izamal
391. 1991-26 Izamal, Merida
B/W Negatives Volume 06 (1992,1993) 392. 1992-01 Puebla, Museo Amparo
393. 1992-02 Puebla, Museo Amparo
394. 1992-03 Puebla, Museo Amparo
395. 1992-04 FEHLT
396. 1992-05 Kakab, Xbanquetatunich, Hobomo
397. 1992-06 Hobomo
398. 1992-07 Hobomo, Tohcok, Chanchunhuai, Peor es nada
399. 1992-08 Peor es nada, Nueva Vida, S/N, Xpujil
400. 1992-09 Ramonal 4, Chicanna, Becan
401. 1992-10 Becan
402. 1992-11 Payam, Rio Bec IV
403. 1992-12 Rio Bec
404. 1992-13 Rio Bec, Huitzina, Ticum, Mani
405. 1992-14 Yaxcopoil
406. 1992-15 Yaxcopoil, Merida
407. 1992-16 Ikil, Kabah
408. 1992-17 Chichen Itza
409. 1992-18 Chichen Itza
410. 1992-19 Chichen Itza
411. 1992-20 Chichen Itza, Yaxcaba
412. 1992-21 Sayil
413. 1992-22 Xlabpak
414. 1992-23 Uxmal, Museo
415. 1992-24 Uxmal
416. 1992-25 Palenque
417. 1992-26 Palenque, Merida (St. Isabel)
418. 1992-27 Merida, Museo Regional
419. 1992-28 Merida, Museo Regional
420. 1992-29 Isla Mujeres, Uaxactun
421. 1992-30 Uaxactun, Nakum
422. 1992-31 Topoxte, Yaxha
423. 1992-32 Tikal, Yaxha
424. 1992-33 Tikal
425. 1992-34 Tikal
426. 1992-35 Tikal
427. 1992-36 Tikal
428. 1992-37 Guatemala, Popol Vuh
429. 1992-38 Guatemala, Popol Vuh
430. 1992-39 Guatemala, MNAE
431. 1992-40 Guatemala, MNAE
432. 1993-SW-01 Mexico, MNA
433. 1993-SW-02 Uxmal
434. 1993-SW-03 Uxmal
435. 1993-SW-04 Uxmal
436. 1993-SW-05 Kabah, Oxkintok
437. 1993-SW-06 Oxkintok, Xburrotunich, Kuxub, Siho
438. 1993-SW-07 Siho, Campeche (Museo Soledad)
439. 1993-SW-08 Campeche (Museo Soledad)
440. 1993-SW-09 Becan Str. IV
441. 1993-SW-10 Becan, Xpujil
442. 1993-SW-11 Chicanna, Becan, Ramonal A
443. 1993-SW-12 Hobomo
444. 1993-SW-13 Hobomo
445. 1993-SW-14 Hobomo
446. 1993-SW-15 Hobomo
447. 1993-SW-16 Hobomo
448. 1993-SW-17 San Miguel de Cozumel
449. 1993-SW-18 San Miguel de Cozumel
450. 1993-SW-19 Ixtonton, Bodega IDAEH
451. 1993-SW-20 Ixtonton, Bodega, Guatemala MNAE
452. 1993-SW-21 Guatemala, MNAE
453. 1993-SW-22 Copan, Las Sepulturas
454. 1993-SW-23 Copan, Las Sepulturas, Museo Regional
455. 1993-SW-24 Copan, Museo Regional
456. 1993-SW-25 Copan, Museo Regional
457. 1993-SW-26 Copan, Zunil
458. 1993-SW-VIE 1 Maya Ausstellung
459. 1993-SW-VIE 2 Maya Ausstellung
460. 1993-SW-VIE 3 Maya Ausstellung
B/W Negatives Volume 07 (1994,1995) 461. 1994-01 Guatemala City, Schwank Collection
462. 1994-02 Guatemala City, Schwank Collection
463. 1994-03 La Blanca
464. 1994-04 La Blanca
465. 1994-05 Topoxte
466. 1994-06 Ixlu, La Pena, La Naya
467. 1994-07 La Naya Monuments
468. 1994-08 Rio Bec Group V
469. 1994-09 Rio Bec, El Palmar
470. 1994-10 El Palmar, Kohunlich
471. 1994-11 Kohunlich, Chicanna
472. 1994-12 Uxmal Las Mojas
473. 1994-13 Chichen Itza
474. 1994-14 Chichen Itza
475. 1994-15 Chichen Itza Museo
476. 1994-16 Merida Museo Regional
477. 1994-17 Merida, INAH
478. 1994-18 Dzibilchaltun
479. 1994-19 Palenque
480. 1994-20 Campeche, Museo Regional, Temiente
481. 1994-21 Campeche Museo Soledad
482. 1994-22 Campeche, Museo Regional, Temiente, La Soledad
483. 1994-23 Campeche, Museo la Soledad
484. 1994-24 Campeche, Hopelchen
485. 1994-25 Hopelchen, Campeche Museo
486. 1994-26 Hopelchen Museo
487. 1994-27 Acanceh
488. C-1994-1 Graz
489. C-1994-2 Graz
490. 1995-01 San Pedro Sula Museo
491. 1995-02 El Puente Museo
492. 1995-03 La Entrada Museo
493. 1995-04 Copan Ruinas Museo
494. 1995-05 Copan Ruinas
495. 1995-06 Copan Ruinas
496. 1995-07 FEHLT (Nohpat)
497. 1995-08 San Andres Peten, Alcaldia
498. 1995-09 Topoxte, Haltun, Yaxha
499. 1995-10 Seibal, La Blanca
500. 1995-11 Xultun, Uaxactun
501. 1995-12 Tikal Bodega
502. 1995-13 Tikal Bodega
503. 1995-14 Tikal Bodega
504. 1995-15 Hopelchen Museo
505. 1995-16 Uxmal
506. 1995-17 Uxmal
507. 1995-18 Dzibilchaltun
508. 1995-19 Campeche Museo Soledad
509. 1995-20 Campeche Museos
510. 1995-21 Etzna
511. 1995-22 Etzna
B/W Negatives Volume 08 (1996, 1997, 1998) 512. 1996-BW-01 Costa Rica Museo de Jade
513. 1996-BW-02 Costa Rica Museo de Jade
514. 1996-BW-03 Guatemala MNAE Bodega
515. 1996-BW-04 Guatemala MNAE Bodega
516. 1996-BW-05 Guatemala Museo Popol Vuh
517. 1996-BW-06 Laguna Perdida I, Altar
518. 1996-BW-07 Nakum, Ixlu Monuments
519. 1997-BW-08 Tikal Museo Morley, Misc. Texts
520. 1998-BW-09 Tikal Museo Litico
521. 1996-BW-10 Becan Str. IV
522. 1996-BW-11 Becan
523. 1996-BW-12 Rio Bec Graffiti
524. 1996-BW-13 Balamku
525. 1996-BW-14 Dzibilchaltun
526. 1996-BW-15 Yaxuna
527. 1996-BW-16 Merida Museo Regional
528. 1996-BW-17 Campeche Museo Soledad
529. 1996-BW-18 Campeche Museo Soledad
530. 1996-BW-19 Campeche Museo Soledad
531. 1996-BW-20 Campeche Museo Soledad
532. 1996-BW-21 Palenque Museo
533. 1996-BW-22 Chichen Itza
534. KHM 1997-01 Cozumel
535. KHM 1997-02 Becan Hormiguero
536. KHM 1997-03 Chicanna
537. KHM 1997-04 Palenque
538. KHM 1997-05 Tonina
539. KHM 1997-06 Uxmal
540. KHM 1997-07 Dzibilchaltun
541. KHM 1997-08 Dzibilchaltun
542. KHM 1997-09 Dzibilchaltun
543. KHM 1997-10 Yaxchilan
544. KHM 1997-11 Yaxchilan, Piedras Negras
545. KHM 1997-12 Piedras Negras
546. KHM 1997-13 Tikal
547. KHM 1997-14 Guatemala Stadt MNAE
548. KHM 1997-15 Guatemala Stadt IDAEH
549. 1998-01 Guatemala Museo Popol Vuh
550. 1998-02 Guatemala Museo Popol Vuh
551. 1998-03 Guatemala Museo Nacional
552. 1998-04 Guatemala Museo & Bodega
553. 1998-05 Tikal, Taller de Mantenimiento, Bodega
554. 1998-06 Tikal, Bodega
555. 1998-07 Tikal, Bodega
556. 1998-08 Ixlu, Sacpeten
557. 1998-09 Paraiso
B/W Negatives Volume 09 (1999-2006) 558. KHM 01 1999 Cotzumalhuapa, Bilbao Mon.
559. KHM 02 1999 El Baul Museo
560. KHM 03 1999 El Baul Museo
561. KHM 04 1999 La Sufricaya, Melchor de Mencos, Cancun Museo
562. KHM 05 1999 Hacienda Tabi
563. KHM 06 1999 Uxmal, Phalli
564. KHM 07 1999 Campeche Museo de Baluarte
565. KHM 08 1999 Campeche Museo de Baluart de la Soledad
566. KHM 09 1999 Etzna
567. KHM 10 1999 FEHLT
568. KHM 11 1999 Calakmul
569. KHM 12 1999 FEHLT
570. KHM 13 1999 Hormiguero
571. KHM 14 1999 Chicanna
572. KHM 2000-01 Antigua (Negatives missing)
573. KHM 2000-02 El Peru
574. KHM 2000-03 El Peru
575. KHM 2000-04 Tikal Bodega
576. KHM 2000-05 Tikal Bodega
577. KHM 2001-SW-01 Guatemala MNAE (Negatives missing)
578. KHM 2001-SW-02 Guatemala MNAE (Negatives missing)
579. KHM 2001-SW-03 Guatemala MNAE (Negatives missing)
580. KHM 2001-SW-05
581. Ixlu, Ixkun, El Chal, Flores (Negatives missing)
582. KHM 2001-SW-07
583. Acanceh (Negatives missing)
584. KHM 2001-SW-08 Etzna HS (Negatives missing)
585. 2002-01 El Baul (Negatives missing)
586. 2002-02 El Baul (Negatives missing)
587. 2002-03 Guatemala MNAE (Negatives missing)
588. 2002-04 Guatemala MNAE (Negativ =e fehlen)
589. 2002-05 Melchor de Mencos IDAEH, Ucanal, Sufricaya, (Negatives missing)
590. 2004-01 Hecelchakan Museo (Negativ fehlt)
591. 2006-01 Merida Museo
592. 2006-02 Campeche, Museo Soledad
593. 2006-03 Campche, Museo San Miguel
594. 2006-04 Campeche Bodega
595. 2007-05 FEHLT
596. 2007-06 FEHLT
597. 2007-07 Campeche Museo


The goals of the project are to provide a digital corpus of the texts and to compile a corpus-based dictionary of Classic Mayan, which will be published in both digital and printed format. This dictionary will provide a comprehensive vocabulary of Classic Mayan and its use in writing. In cooperation with linguists, computer scientists and by using the virtual research platform TextGrid, the project team in both Bonn and Göttingen will prepare, analyse and interpret the hieroglyphic texts using information technology tools.

Through the compilation of the digital text corpus and the dictionary, a foundation for the systematic understanding of the Classic Mayan writing system and underlying language structure will be laid. The machine readable text corpus constitutes the project foundation, and allows for complex searches and computer assisted text analyses, resulting in a dynamically organized lexical database, such as the Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae (TLA) in Berlin, the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary (CAD) and the Pennsylvania Sumerian Dictionary (PSD).

Open Access

Creative Commons License
All materials made available on this website are subject to the
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You are free to:

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The licensor cannot revoke these freedoms as long as you follow the license terms.
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  • No additional restrictions — You may not apply legal terms or technological measures that legally restrict others from doing anything the license permits.

All contents of this site, especially its scientific publications and documentations will therefore be available golden or green open access.

Project Architecture

The digital text corpus will be installed in such a way that it can be extended and updated at any time. This allows for new developments in the research of writing systems to be followed, revisions, and the integration of updated descriptions and interpretations. The corpus based method allows for consideration of all written and language data, including undeciphered passages, the representation of the respective passages in their original hieroglyphic spelling, inclusion of temporal and regional information, epigraphic and linguistic analysis, and integration of historico-cultural comments and secondary literature references.

By entering the texts into a database, concordance and collocation analyses can be performed, and textual patterns recognized. For the first time a complete inventory of Mayan writing and its underlying language will be created, which enables the following of writing and language developments from a historical perspective.

As a basic research project, we intend, however, not only to present the Classic Mayan cultural vocabulary and the sum of research on Mayan writing and language, but also to fundamentally contribute to the comparative research of writing systems. Through corpus based lexicography all inscribed objects known from Classic Mayan culture will be entered both in their original spelling and transcribed into a database. The latter is part of the virtual research platform TextGrid that allows for consistent updates and modifications.

The inscription archive of the project will be presented and made accessible via Open Access as part of the Bonn University Library Digital Collections (Digitale Sammlungen), an infrastructure that guarantees long term storage. The XML text database hosted in Göttingen will be accessible to researchers and provide the base for epigraphic and linguistic analyses, the results of which will serve the compilation, editing and publication of the dictionary.

The latter will be published both on the Internet as well as in a printed version. Throughout the course of the project both the text database and preliminary versions of the dictionary will be freely available for research.

Christian Prager



Studied Anthropology of the Americas, Prehistoric and Protohistoric Archaeology, and Classical Archaeology at the University of Bonn. Doctoral dissertation in the subject area “Ethnology with particular focus on Anthropology of the Americas” about Classic Maya conceptions of their gods (2013). Research assistant with and project coordinator of “Text Database and Dictionary of Classic Mayan” of the North Rhine-Westphalian Academy of Sciences, Humanities, and the Arts since 2014. Founding member of Wayeb, the European Association of Mayanists, and editor of the scholarly journal Mexicon. Project epigrapher with the Pusilha Archaeological Project under the direction of Geoffrey Braswell from 2000 to 2010, and co-organizer of multiple conferences about Maya writing and culture. Collaborated on project with Frauke Sachse and John Weeks from 2004 to 2009, resulting in publication of three colonial Maya calendrical manuscripts from the Guatemalan Highlands (2009).

Areas of Interest

Cognitive study of religion (how cognitive mechanisms influence the innovation and transmission of religion); cultural transmission (how people acquire cultural knowledge, store it in their memory, and communicate it); the ethnology of religion, with focus on phenomenology and the history of Mesoamerican religion, particularly pre-Hispanic and colonial Maya culture; Classic Maya time mechanics and conceptions of time; Maya writing and iconography as a system and its function as a medium of cultural memory; documentation and publication of written and pictorial sources on Classic Maya culture; conquest-era and colonial history of the American continent, especially Yucatan; the history of the discipline and the biographies of its experts; methods and techniques of digital humanities

Publications (selection)

Prager, Christian

  • 2011 Connecting Cultural Stability and Experience of Landscape: A Cognitive Approach in the Study of Tree Symbolism with Special Reference to Mesoamerica and Prehispanic Maya Culture, in “Past Minds: Studies in Cognitive Historiography”, edited by Luther Martin and Jesper Sörensen. Equinox Press, London
  • 2010 Die kognitionswissenschaftliche Erforschung von Religion. In: Zeitschrift für Ethnologie 135: 219-232
  • 2010 A Reading for the Xultun Toponymic Title as B’aax (Tuun) Witz ‘Ajaw “Lord of the B’aax-(Stone) Hill”. Mexicon 32(4):74-77 (with Elisabeth Wagner, Sebastian Matteo and Guido Krempel)
  • 2009 Maya Daykeeping: Three Calendars from Highland Guatemala. University of Colorado Press. 221 pages. Boulder: University Press of Colorado [Authors: Frauke Sachse, John M. Weeks and Christian Prager]
  • 2009 Notes on the Correlation of Maya and Gregorian Calendars. In: “Maya Daykeeping: Three Calendars from Highland Guatemala”, F. Sachse, J. Week & C. Prager, pp. 176-184. Boulder: University Press of Colorado
  • 2005 B’olon Yokte’ K’uh: Maya Conceptions of War, Conflict, and the Underworld. In: Peter Eeckhout and Geneviève Le Fort (eds.), Wars and Conflicts in Prehispanic Mesoamerica and the Andes: Selected Proceedings of the Conference organized by the Société des Américanistes de Belgique with the Collaboration of Wayeb (European Association of Mayanists), Brussels: 16-17 November 2002; pp. 28-36. Oxford: John and Erica Hedges. (BAR International Series) (with M. Eberl)
  • 2004 A Classic Maya Ceramic Vessel From the Calakmul Region in the Museum zu Allerheiligen, Schaffhausen, Switzerland. Human Mosaic 35: 31-40
  • 2004 The Rise of Secondary States in the South Eastern Periphery of the Maya World: A Report on Recent Archaeological and Epigraphic Research at Pusilha, Belize. Ancient Mesoamerica 15:219-233.
  • 2002 Enanismo y gibosidad: las personas afectadas y su identidad en la sociedad maya del tiempo prehispánico. In: Vera Tiesler (ed.), La organización social entre los mayas prehispánicos, coloniales y modernos. Memoria de la Tercera Mesa Redonda de Palenque; pp. 35-68. México, D.F.: INAH, UADY


Franziska Diehr



Master’s degree in Information Science received from the Humboldt University of Berlin in 2013 with thesis on the use of data modelling for describing scientific collections. Previously completed Bachelor’s degree in Museum Studies at the University of Applied Sciences for Engineering and Economics in Berlin in 2010 with a documentation of a photographic lot from the inventory of the German-Russian Museum Berlin-Karlshorst. Scholarship recipient from 2013 to 2014 in the collaborative project “Recording and Documenting Endowed Archives” of the Association of German Foundations and of the Hermann von Helmholtz Center for Agricultural Engineering at the Humboldt University of Berlin.

Areas of Interest

Against the background of the needs of today’s information era, the importance of systematic access to distributed datasets increases. Modern linked data technology allows information in the web to be connected. This results in new perspectives on objects of research and research analytical methods. Of particular interest are the recording and documentation of cultural assets and the creation of systematic and free access to knowledge of cultural heritage for scientists and the public.

Publications (selection)

Diehr, Franziska

Maximilian Brodhun



Studied Applied Information Science at the Georg August University in Göttingen. Master’s degree received in 2013 in the field of data management in Biomedicine and experiments of DNA sequencing. Previously conducted Bachelor studies in Applied Information Science at the Georg August University in Göttingen in the department of Health Informatics. Degree awarded in 2012 in the field of Service Level Agreements in GRID computing with application to medicine.


Glossing Rules and Standards in Mayan Languages


From September 4-6, 2014, the first workshop on glossing rules and standards in Mayan languages will take place at the Department of Anthropology of the Americas of the University of Bonn. The workshop is a joint initiative of the research projects “Textdatenbank und Wörterbuch des Klassischen Maya” (Text Database and Dictionary of Classic Mayan) and “XML-basierte Erfassungsstandards für koloniale Lexikographien amerindischer Sprachen am Beispiel des K’iche'” (XML-Based Compilation Standards for Colonial Lexicographies of Amerindian Languages as Exemplified by K’iche’). The event is not open to the public. The results will be published soon as a working paper.