Time Line of Decipherment

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Reviving ancient Maya

Scholars and the modern Maya can now read the majority of glyphs, like these from Copan. They understand how the ancient language was spoken compared to modern Maya and have begun to grasp the lost civilization's traditions by reading the stories carved on walls and painted on pottery. From these images, they now know, for example, that early Maya scribes held an exalted status, each living like royalty and vying to develop his own glyphic style. Though many traditional Maya scribes today write in the Roman script, there has been a push since the 1980s among Maya to relearn their forebears' script and use it themselves. Maya are now teaching the written language to one another in workshops, while Maya schoolchildren are learning the glyphs along with the history of their ancestors.

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