Art of the Maya Scribe, The

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9780500237458: Art of the Maya Scribe, The

Two experts decipher Mayan writing in terms of its meaning and aesthetics, counting it as one of the world's great calligraphic traditions. Coe (anthropology emeritus, Peabody Museum of Natural History, Yale U.) and Kerr, whose rollout camera revolutionized the study of Mayan pictorial ceramics and their texts, explore the script's origins, character, and writing techniques as well as the exalted world of the Maya artist-scribes who kept the holy books. Escribanos continued the role, though not the hieroglyphics, in post-conquest Mexico. Includes 117 color plates, other text figures, and notes on a type of Maya Rosetta Stone. 9.75x13<">. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.

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From Publishers Weekly:

Gorgeously illustrated and relating a fascinating linguistic tale, this look at the art of classic Maya scribes by anthropologist Coe and photographer Kerr includes the latest research into the deciphering of this mysterious writing. Maya scribes were both men and women, the authors write, and were much appreciated in a world where literature, art and mathematics had achieved unusual heights. The Classic Maya period lasted from about A.D. 250 until about A.D. 900, and its cities included Palenque in Mexico, Tikal in Guatemala and Copan in Honduras. Although the Olmecs in Mexico were the first in the hemisphere to have writing, the Maya, according to the authors, were "the only pre-conquest people in the New World to have a writing system sophisticated enough to express anything that was in their language." Maya writing, carved on stones such as jade, traced on pottery or painted on walls, deals almost exclusively with historical events--notably the constant wars waged between the city-states. Mythical characters appear, but mostly as part of paintings that represent actual historical figures, their places in the rich dreamworld of the Maya as well as where they rank in the pecking order of their cities indicated by fantastic headdresses. The authors mostly manage to keep the discussion accessible to the lay reader, but occasionally they do veer off into territory where only linguists would feel at home. Generally, the explanations are clear and compelling and the concrete examples of how Maya language developed and was rendered into art by scribes will shed light not only on language but on history and culture.

Copyright 1998 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Michael D. Coe
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