Patterns of Grapheme Innovation in the Classic Maya Script


The ancient Maya script evolved over the course of about 1800 years, during which hundreds of distinctive functional graphic units (graphemes) were employed. Previous studies have shown that only a small subset of these graphemes was used at any given time, with bursts of innovation in certain epochs, particularly when the production of monuments spiked. This study revisits the question of the historical development of the Maya script, using the Maya Hieroglyphic Database, a comprehensive archive of Maya inscriptions, organized by glyph block. Selecting provenienced monuments only and controlling for time, region, and number of glyph blocks, the database allows us to chronicle innovations in the graphemes employed in the script, from the Early through Terminal Classic periods. This poster summarizes the results of this analysis, showing that not only was grapheme usage temporally patterned, but exhibited distinctive spatial texture as well.

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Cite this Record

Patterns of Grapheme Innovation in the Classic Maya Script. Matthew Looper, Jonathan Scholnick, Yuriy Polyukhovych, Jessica Munson, Martha Macri. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 397404)

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Epigraphy Maya writing

Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

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