The Maya themselves did not invent writing, but they did develop the most complex mixed-scripture writing system, made up of 800 glyphs. The origins of Maya writing may be traced back to the south of Mexico, to a place called Veracruz, as well as to Guatemala’s and El Salvador’s Pacific Coast. The people who lived there, the Olmecs or Mihezoke people, painted these first glyphs at Tres Zapotes on the year 29 BC, this was the first evidence of written language in ancient America.
The most ancient text that presents the total set of characteristic traits of Maya writing is preserved in Stela 29 of Tikal, dated 292 AD. Glyphic texts documented the lives of Rulers: their births, accessions to the throne, marriages, wars, burials and other important facts about a Ruler’s story.Hieroglyphic writing is composed of signs for ideographs, which are units of meaning, words, or parts of compound words; and of syllables, which are units of sound. The texts were written in blocks of the same size, each containing one or more signs. Within a glyph block there is usually one sign that is larger than the others: it is the “main sign”. Attached to it, will be affixes, super fixes, prefixes, postfixes, sub fixes and even infixes, which modify or define the main sign. Maya texts, beautifully painted or sculpted, express complete sentences with nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions and more parts of language composition.Mayanists Sylvanus G. Morley and Sir Eric Thompson didn’t believe the texts left by the Maya involved the history of real people. They thought the texts concentrated mostly on calendrical, astronomical and sacred information.
They thought the characters depicted on the stelae were Gods. But as Maya Archaeology continued to make its pioneering advances in the middle of the humid rainforests of Guatemala, the contrary was revealed: the stelae contained nothing but information on the Rulers of The Maya World for more than 570 years. The discoveries made by other Mayanists: Tatiana Proskouriakoff in Piedras Negras and Heinrich Berlin in Tikal would change the old view forever.Epigraphers, who research the intricate hieroglyphs, know about 800 graphemes from Maya scripture. But the decipherment of glyphs has come a very long way since its dawning in the 1930s, when it opened a fascinating story for epigraphers to unveil: the story of Maya Rulers, whose births and deaths, ancestries and parentages, conquests and inaugurations, ritual events and ceremonies, all made part of the complex religious and political belief system. What is so amazing is these were recorded for posterity forever by the vanished Classic Maya. Someone might come along one day who could decipher the Maya code. From piecing all the information together from the different sites and scattered texts, we may have an approximate story of ancient history in the region and the relationship between different city-states.The story of the rulers is told on Tikal’s Dynastic Rulers.