The Maya used an advanced form of writing called hieroglyphics. In Mayan hieroglyphics, they used symbols (also called glyphs) to represent words, sounds, or objects. By putting several glyphs together the Maya wrote sentences and told stories. Only the wealthy Maya became priests and learned to read and write .
The Maya – a powerful pre-Colombian civilization who reached their cultural zenith around 600-800 A.D. before falling into steep decline – were literate and had books , written in a complex language including pictograms, glyphs, and phonetic representations. A Maya book is referred to as a codex (plural: codices).
The earliest inscriptions found which are identifiably Maya date to the 3rd century BCE in San Bartolo, Guatemala. Maya writing was in continuous use throughout Mesoamerica until the Spanish conquest of the Maya in the 16th and 17th centuries.
The glyphs, which date to about 250 B.C., were found on preserved painted walls and plaster fragments in the pyramidal structure known as Las Pinturas, in San Bartolo, Guatemala. Las Pinturas also yielded the previously oldest samples of Mayan writing , dating back to 100 B.C.
Diego de Landa
Blood was viewed as a potent source of nourishment for the Maya deities, and the sacrifice of a living creature was a powerful blood offering. By extension, the sacrifice of a human life was the ultimate offering of blood to the gods, and the most important Maya rituals culminated in human sacrifice .
There were many books in existence at the time of the Spanish conquest of Yucatán in the 16th century; most were destroyed by the Catholic priests. Many in Yucatán were ordered destroyed by Bishop Diego de Landa in July 1562.
Mysterious Decline of the Maya One by one, the Classic cities in the southern lowlands were abandoned, and by A.D. 900, Maya civilization in that region had collapsed. Finally, some catastrophic environmental change–like an extremely long, intense period of drought–may have wiped out the Classic Maya civilization .
Maya mathematics constituted the most sophisticated mathematical system ever developed in the Americas. The Maya counting system required only three symbols: a dot representing a value of one, a bar representing five, and a shell representing zero.
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Today, only three or four Maya codices remain. Three of them are named for the European cities where they are kept—Dresden, Paris, and Madrid. The authenticity of a fourth book called the Grolier Codex, now in Mexico City, is still disputed.
Aztec or Nahuatl writing is a pre-Columbian writing system that combines ideographic writing with Nahuatl specific phonetic logograms and syllabic signs which was used in central Mexico by the Nahua people.
The hieroglyphic writing system of the Maya may have developed from the less sophisticated systems of earlier Mesoamerican civilizations, such as the Olmec , which used only literal images (pictographs) or it may have developed completely independently; scholars are not in agreement on the point.
Where did the Maya live? Mayan civilization occupied much of the northwestern part of the isthmus of Central America, from Chiapas and Yucatán, now part of southern Mexico , through Guatemala , Honduras , Belize , and El Salvador and into Nicaragua.