Tag Archives: EN

Two Vessels from Xultun Workshops in the Tikal Center for Conservation and Research

During the past decade the corpus of inscriptions pertaining to the Baax Witz court of Xultun has been significantly amplified thanks to recent archaeological investigations as well as newly identified polychrome vessels with dedicatory texts in private and institutional collections. Here we present two heretofore unpublished polychrome vessels of unknown provenance, both of which can be ascribed to the pottery workshops of Xultun. One of these vessels provides us with additional evidence for Ix Yax We’n Chaak, a female ruler whose existence has just recently been revealed thanks to new in situ finds. The other fragmented vessel can, by means of a comparative analysis, stylistically be attributed to a Late Classic palace workshop of Xultun that operated during the reign of Yax We’n Chan K’inich.

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Maya Calendar Calculations

Maya Calendar Calculations: A Web Tool for the Calculation and Reconstruction of Maya Dates and Astronomical Information in Maya Hieroglyphic Texts Christian Prager1, Tobias Mercer1 1 Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität, Bonn As part of the Text Database and Dictionary of Classic Mayan research project, we have been working on a web tool for calculating and reconstructing calendar dates and astronomical information in

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Annotator for the Linguistic Analysis of Maya Hieroglyphs (ALMAH)

Presentation by Cristina Vertan and Christian Prager about ALMAH, “Annotator for the Linguistic Analysis of Maya Hieroglyphs”, a JAVA-based tool allowing the semi-automatic generation of the phonemic transliteration of Maya hieroglyphic texts and enabling multi-level annotation and linguistic analysis of Maya inscriptions. Alternative readings can be entered, two or more decipherment proposals can be worked on in parallel, and thus

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Punctuation Marks in Ceramic Texts

The use of punctuation marks has not been documented for classic Maya hieroglyphic writing so far. However, we know from colonial Yucatec dictionaries of the 16th and 17th century that there was a term for inserting such marks. Two dictionaries, the San Francisco dictionary and the Diccionario de la Lengua Maya by Juan Pio Pérez mention terms such as t’a h ts’ib „tilde, puntos en la escritura“ and u t’ahal sabak, which are compounds based on the nouns t’ah „drops of a liquid“, sabak „ink“ and tz’ib „writing“ respectively. Thunil dzib “drop writing” was another word for “punto en escritura”. Colonial Yucatec scribes thus had access to a philological terminology, but we do not know for sure whether these concepts already existed in the pre-Hispanic period, or whether they are the result of contact with European scribal practice. Only a few authors have so far commented on the topic of punctuation in the Maya script, including Martha Macri and Matthew Looper, who deny the existence of punctuation or signs indicative of reading known from the Maya script.

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Directed by Prof. Dr. Nikolai Grube, the project also cooperates 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, one position for a computer scientist is created within the collaborative project TextGrid.

A Logogram for YAH „Wound“

Among the many logographic signs which so far have escaped decipherment is a head sign which shows a V-shaped stepped design in its interior. The sign has been identified by Eric Thompson as T1078. A closer look at the sign shows that its full form includes a small attached prefix with “darkness” markings representing an obsidian tool, perhaps a knife that was used for sacrificial purposes. It is argued here that the wounded head with the knife is a logogram YA or YAH for „wound“.

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Shedding New Light on the Maya Stela from Hix Witz in Stuttgart

A Maya stela with a hieroglyphic text and a portrayal of a Maya ruler that is now in the collections of the Linden Museum in Stuttgart, Germany (inventory no. M 30751), has received scant attention from scholars to date. Our analysis concludes that the monument illustrates a previously unknown Maya king of the small polity of Hix Witz (English “Ocelot/Margay Hill”) from the early ninth century CE and most likely originates from Zapote Bobal in Petén, Guatemala, or a neighboring site.

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The Sign 576 as a Logograph for KUK, a Type of Bundle

The decipherment KUK for sign 576 that has been tested here proves productive for understanding its occurrences in Palenque (yok kuk ch’ajan ‘guardian of the tied bundle’) and for reading the name phrase of the way creature nicknamed “man in the bundle” as kuk winik, kukil winik, or kukan winik ‘bundle person’, ‘rolled-up person’, or ‘person who becomes a bundle’. This interpretation also fits well with the attestation on La Amelia Stela 2, where the captive who has been tied and wrapped up into a bundle is rolled down the stairs in the context of a ritual ballgame. In Palenque, this term also identifies a member of the royal court who was assigned with caring for the royal vesture and regalia and dressing the king or otherwise assisting him with donning his vestments.

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Uxul Archive Online

To enlarge and enrich the collection in our „Maya Image Archive“, we have now uploaded materials from the „Proyecto Arqueológico Uxul“ (Campeche, Mexico): drawings and photos of the monuments and inscriptions of the site, almost 680 materials. All images are under CC BY 4.0.

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Presentan la Estela 87 de / Presentation of Stela 87 from Tak’alik Ab’aj, Guatemala

El 10 de marzo de 2020, a las 11 de la mañana, se presentó oficialmente al público la estela 87 de Tak’alik Ab’aj en el Palacio Nacional. Por parte del proyecto „Base de Datos de Texto y Diccionario del Maya Clásico“ el Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Nikolai Grube, el Dr. Sven Gronemeyer, el Dr. Christian M. Prager y Elisabeth Wagner participaron en el proyecto.

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Organising the Unknown

On June 27, 2018, Franziska Diehr will give a talk at the DH2018 „Bridges / Puentes“ in Mexico City. The title of her presentation is: „Organising the Unknown: A Concept for the Sign Classification of not yet (fully) Deciphered Writing Systems Exemplified by a Digital Sign Catalogue for Maya Hieroglyphs“.

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Annual Report 2017

Project Report 5

The subject of the research project “Text Database and Dictionary of Classic Mayan” (German Textdatenbank und Wörterbuch des Klassischen Maya, TWKM) is the hieroglyphic script of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization that was used between ca. 300 BCE – 1500 CE in the region including the contemporary nation states of Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and Honduras.

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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.

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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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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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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Guido Krempel

Master’s degree in Anthropology of the Americas, Pre- and Protohistoric Archaeology and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Bonn in 2012. His M.A. thesis engaged in the documentation and epigraphic study of the inscriptions pertaining to Structure 4, Machaquila, Guatemala. Since 2009, co-editor and layouter of the journal “Mexicon. Journal of Mesoamerican Studies”; since 2010 scientific advisor for La Ruta Maya Foundation, Guatemala. From 2012-2016 auxiliary archaeologist and project epigrapher of the Regional Archaeological Project Uaxactun. Since 2019, doctoral candidate in Anthropology of the Americas on the subject “Continuity and change of representation forms in the monumental- and architectural sculptures of Tonina, Chiapas, Mexico (~500–1000 A.D.)”

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Maximilian Behnert-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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Tobias Mercer

Trained IT Specialist (Software/Web Development and Design) since 2014. Followed by a bachelor’s degree in Ancient American Studies and Anthropology / Comparative Religious Sciences at the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn.

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