Izapa's Place in the Discourse on Early Hieroglyphic Writing

Author(s): Stephanie Strauss

Year: 2015


Izapa occupies a curious place in the study of Mesoamerican writing and semiotic practice. Although the linguistic affiliation of ancient Izapa is unknown, glottochronological estimates suggest that Izapa stood at a multilingual crossroads between proto-Mihe-Sokean and proto-Mayan speaking populations. The blended visual vocabulary of Izapa-style monuments, coupled with the site’s location and chronology, further prompted early scholars to place Izapa on a transitional, regional continuum between the better-studied artistic traditions to its east and west. Epigraphically, this slippery view of Izapa often results in its uncritical inclusion in the greater "Isthmian" writing tradition; and yet the lengthy inscriptions found on La Mojarra Stela 1 and the Tuxtla Statuette are not seen at Izapa. As it is very likely that the people of Izapa had at least some degree of exposure to the early, linguistically transparent writing systems that surrounded them, their use of a text-independent communicative strategy was intentional and significant. How, then, are we to read Izapa-style monuments? What are we to make of the distinctly glyph-like elements so often embedded into their complex pictorial narratives? This paper thus explores these uniquely Izapan "iconoglyphic" elements, reinserting them into the discourse on early Mesoamerican writing and linguistically unbounded signaling practices.

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Cite this Record

Izapa's Place in the Discourse on Early Hieroglyphic Writing. Stephanie Strauss. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 395218)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -107.271; min lat: 12.383 ; max long: -86.353; max lat: 23.08 ;