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The New Catalog of Maya Hieroglyphs, Volume 1

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The New Catalog of Maya Hieroglyphs, Volume 1: The Classic Period Inscriptions
By Martha J. Macri and Matthew G. Looper. Grapheme Drawings by Matthew G. Looper. (University of Oklahoma Press, Norman: 2003. Pg. xviii, 375. Illustrations, Tables.) ISBN: 0-8061-3497-6.

Reviewed by Simon Bonim - September 11, 2009

Over the course of several hundred years, people have been fascinated by Maya hieroglyphs and the ancient Maya people. Throughout this period, artists, explorers, anthropologist, photographers, and such have documented as many of these hieroglyphs as possible, providing the modern researcher with a large body of material to work with. The problem has been, that to work with these various renderings, it has often been necessary to consult numerous books, pour over photographs and drawings, or to spend tedious hours doing extra research, but no longer. Martha J. Macri and Matthew G. Looper have done researchers, Maya enthusiasts, and really, anyone interested in Maya hieroglyphs a tremendous boon by creating a catalog of all known single sign hieroglyphs (for multiple sign hieroglyphs you will still need to consult other resources, such as the Maya Hieroglyphic Database Project.

The first volume in this momentous work is entitled, The New Catalog of Maya Hieroglyphs, Volume 1: The Classic Period Inscriptions, and it covers the period from approximately 150-900 C.E. The graphemes in this book where drawn primarily Maya texts of the Classic period, and they were obtained from a variety of sources including murals, carved objects, painted pottery, stucco wall panels and more. Throughout, these graphemes are expertly rendered by Matthew G. Looper.

The graphemes are organized into thematic sections such as Animals, Birds, Irregular Shapes, three segment signs, Persons, etc. Each Grapheme is accompanied by additional data such as its pronunciation, syllabic values, meaning (when known), and a record of pervious published documents that discusses each sign, as well as lexical entries from various Maya dictionaries. While no means a comprehensive catalog of every known Maya hieroglyphic, this and the succeeding volumes in the The New Catalog of Maya Hieroglyphs will prove an invaluable resource for anyone seeking to learn Maya script or who are doing research in the field. The second volume in this series will concentrate on the graphemes found in the four Maya codices.

Related Reviews:

The New Catalog of Maya Hieroglyphs, Volume 2: The Codical Texts, by Martha J. Macri and Gabrielle Vail.
A practical catalog of all known Maya graphemes used in the Dresden, Madrid, and Paris codices.

The Decipherment of Ancient Maya Writing, edited by Stephen Houston, Oswaldo Chinchilla Mazariegos, and David Stuart.
A collection of forty-eight essays and other writings that chronicle the history of how the Maya hieroglyphs were decoded, as well as the personalities behind the discoveries that led to the Maya writings being deciphered.

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