Tag Archives: EN

A Possible Logograph XAN “Palm” in Maya Writing

Research Note 5

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”.

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The Logogram JALAM

Research Note 3

Several logographic signs in Maya hieroglyphic writing resist decipherment because they occur only in a few and semantically very limited contexts. One of these idiosyncratic logograms is the sign which is listed as T284 in the Thompson catalogue. However, in the case of this sign, a series of syllabic spellings provides a key for its unequivocal decipherment.

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Tz’atz’ Nah, a „New“ Term in the Classic Mayan Lexicon

Research Note 2

Inscriptions are a rich source for Classic Maya architectural terminology, which is rather descriptive and includes a number of building names and general architectural terms ending with the generic nah. Study of the Temple of the Sun sanctuary tablet has revealed another architectural term previously unknown in the Maya epigraphic record.

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Digital Knowledge Spaces

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“.

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In 2014, the North Rhine-Westphalian Academy of Sciences, Humanities and the Arts (Nordrhein-Westfälische Akademie der Wissenschaften und Künste) in Düsseldorf, together with the Union of the German Academies of Sciences and Humanities (Union der deutschen Akademien der Wissenschaften) in Berlin, 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.

In addition to recording the actual textual information, the project is also documenting further parameters for structuring the corpus database as part of its efforts to create a lexical database of Classic Mayan. These parameters include, for example, the sites of discovery or museum collections with text carriers, a concordance of sign catalogs, an epigraphic and archaeological bibliography, among other aids.

These lists will be made available online over the course of the project and expanded and updated on a continual basis, making all of the data completely available via Open Access. In addition to a convenient search function, we offer the possibility of exporting the data in various formats.

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. 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.

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.

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Archaeological Sites

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.

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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.

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Museums and Collections

In addition to the buildings and monuments at the sites themselves, the numerous objects that were recovered there and are now housed in museums and collections constitute a critical source for compiling the inventory of Maya inscriptions that is, in turn, necessary for constructing the corpus database.

The following is intended to make available for search a list of all collections of Maya objects in museums and archaeological sites that are accessible to researchers and interested members of the public. The list is not static; rather, it will be continually updated and expanded. The most recent changes may be found on the right-hand side of the page, including the date of the most recent update to each record.

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Objectives

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.

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Lexical Database

The lexical database will be integrated into and archived in the Repository of TextGrid as part of the virtual research environment, in order that the research data may be stored long-term, sustainably, and securely over the course of the project.

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Nikolai Grube

Studied Anthropology of the Americas, Ethnology, Assyriology, and Indology in Hamburg. Received scholarship from the German National Academic Foundation. Obtained doctorate in Hamburg in 1989 with a dissertation about the development of the Maya script. After completing of doctoral studies, moved to Bonn and organized the exhibition „The World of the Maya“ (Hildesheim, Vienna, Mannheim, Cologne) in collaboration with the Roemer-und-Pelizaeus-Museum in Hildesheim.

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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.

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Sven Gronemeyer

Studied Anthropology of the Americas, Prehistoric and Protohistoric Archaeology, and Egyptology at the University of Bonn beginning in 1998. Master of Arts awarded in 2004 with an epigraphic study of the inscriptions of Tortuguero, Mexico. Doctoral fellowship recipient at La Trobe University in Melbourne from 2011 to 2014. Doctorate completed in 2015 with a dissertation on the orthographic conventions of Maya writing and phonemic reconstruction of Classic Mayan. Staff member on the Proyecto Arqueológico Tamarindito from 2010 to 2012. Vice President of Wayeb (European Association of Mayanists) from 2014 to 2016. Honorary Associate of La Trobe University since 2015. Recipient of a 2015 Nancy Millis Medal.

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Elisabeth Wagner

Studied Anthropology of the Americas, Prehistoric and Protohistoric Archaeology, Ethnology, and Classical Archaeology at the University of Marburg, the University of Cologne, and the Free University of Berlin. Graduate degree [Magister] in Anthropology of the Americas from the Free University of Berlin with thesis „Personal Names and Relational Glyphs in the Inscriptions of Chichen Itzá, Yucatán, Mexico“ (1996). Visiting Student at Trier University of Applied Sciences (Idar-Oberstein campus) in Gemstone and Jewelry Design. Freelance artist (stone sculpture and gemstone engraving). Doctoral candidate in Anthropology of the Americas at the University of Bonn (dissertation topic: Structure 10L-18, Copán, Honduras: Reconstruction and Iconographic Analysis of the Sculptural Program of a Classic Maya Funerary Temple).

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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.

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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.

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