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The New Catalog of Maya Hieroglyphs, Volume 1

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The New Catalog of Maya Hieroglyphs
Volume 2 - The Codical Texts

By Martha J. Macri and Gabrielle Vail. Grapheme Drawings by Martha J. Macri. (University of Oklahoma Press, Norman: 2009. Pg. xii, 308. Illustrations, Tables.) ISBN: 978-0-8061-4071-1.

Reviewed by Simon Bonim - February 10, 2010

The second volume in the The New Catalog of Maya Hieroglyphs has at long last been published. For those who have been eager to peruse this volume, the wait has been long, but well worth it! This volume focuses on the Codical Texts, and it provides a detailed listing (along with drawings) of all the graphemes used in the Dresden, Madrid, and Paris codices. The New Catalog of Maya Hieroglyphs presents the various graphemes, along logographic (word) or syllabic (a consonant plus vowel) readings of the signs, as well as bibliographic citations that list previously published documents in which the various signs were discussed.

As with the first volume, which covered single sign graphemes from Classic Period inscriptions, the graphemes in this volume are organized into thematic sections. These sections include such topics as animals, birds, body parts, personas, supernatural: skulls, irregular shape, as well as one, two, and three segment signs. Throughout, Mayan words are presented with their orthographical spelling, based primarily upon the Academia de las Lengua Mayas de Guatemala spelling system.

The first volume of this series covered single sign graphemes garnered from classic period inscriptions (approximately 150-900 C.E.). The two volumes of The New Catalog of Maya Hieroglyphs offers researchers and scholars the most up-to-date compendium of Mayan graphemes. The information in both of these volumes was based upon the information found in the Maya Hieroglyphic Database Project. While these volumes do not present every known Maya sign, it will greatly increase the ability of scholars to quickly identify and decipher most commonly encountered Maya hieroglyphs.

On its own merit, this compendium of graphemes, along with their calendrical significance, corresponding Thompson number, and related data, is an excellent resource that is an essential text for anyone with an interest in Maya hieroglyphs or Mayan languages. However, the authors' extensive introduction provides an added bonus due to Macri and Vail's logical argument that the classical period inscriptions and those found in the codical texts actually represent two distinct linguistic traditions, rather than the previously held belief that the codical graphemes developed directly from those from the classic period. This book provides keen insights into this topic, a topic which is sure to be examined in greater detail in another venue.

I highly recommend both volumes of The New Catalog of Maya Hieroglyphs to researchers and scholars in a wide range of fields, including anthropology, Mayan studies, history, art history, and archeology. As well, both volumes of The New Catalog of Maya Hieroglyphs deserve space in every academic library.

Related Reviews:

The New Catalog of Maya Hieroglyphs, Volume 1: The Classic Period Inscriptions, by Martha J. Macri and Matthew G. Looper.
A practical catalog of all known Maya Script, single sign, hieroglyphs from the classic period (app. 150-900 C.E.).

Popol Vuh: Sacred Book of the Ancient Maya, edited by Allen J. Christenson.
This electronic library and database serves as a comprehensive resource on the Popol Vuh, and it includes not only the original text of the Popol Vuh, but also English and Spanish translations of the text, along with audio files of native speakers reading the text, hundreds of photographs, and essays and notes on Maya culture, history, and language.

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