Cracking the Maya Code
Decode Stela 3
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Decode Stela 3

A series of Maya hieroglyphs may look like just so many pretty pictures or symbols to you. But they actually say something, of course, as Mayanists have known for some time (see Time Line of Decipherment). In this feature, you can actually "read" a passage of glyphs carved into an ancient Maya stela, or dedicatory stone monument. You can both read the ancient Maya (transcribed using the Roman alphabet) and hear it spoken (by Mayanist Barbara MacLeod) as well as read the English translation. Accompanying notes explain each glyph in detail. You can also see the original stela and learn more about it. Along the way, you'll get a good taste of the language—and you'll see just how important dates and numbers were to the Maya. Enjoy!—Mark Van Stone


Dr. Mark Van Stone, Professor of Art History at Southwestern College in Chula Vista, California, is an expert on the history of written forms. He is author, with Michael Coe, of Reading the Maya Glyphs (Thames & Hudson, 2005). Dr. Barbara MacLeod, whose voice is heard reading the stela's ancient Maya script out loud in this feature, is an independent Maya scholar in Austin, Texas. She is an expert on the Yukatekan and Ch'olan languages, whose grammar and vocabulary are most closely related to the archaic Ch'olan language of the stela's script.

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© | Created March 2008