Maya Vase with Hieroglyphs K5424 ©Justin Kerr - Click to view Kerr rollout John Montgomery
Dictionary of Maya Hieroglyphs


FAMSI is deeply indebted to Hippocrene Books and John Montgomery for generously providing portions of his book, Dictionary of Maya Hieroglyphs, as the foundation for this new research resource. John Montgomery was an illustrator, epigrapher, writer, and Ph.D. candidate in the field of PreColumbian Art at the University of New Mexico. He also taught art history at the Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute in Albuquerque. A long and varied experience in Central America first inspired his interest in the ancient Maya. His glyphic illustrations are based on a lifetime of involvement with Maya glyph decipherment. This online Maya Dictionary is based on and is a companion to John Montgomery’s book. Viewers are urged to further investigate the Dictionary of Maya Hieroglyphs, learn more about John Montgomery and to search our database of John Montgomery’s drawings.

FAMSI wishes to thank Sónia Cabrera-López, a native Maya speaker (Mam and Ch’ol) from Concepcion Chiquirichapa in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. Sónia contributed countless hours recording the Maya sounds—an enormously important feature of this online Maya Dictionary. As you mouse-over the glyphs you will hear Sónia’s pronunciation of the syllables and words.

The online Maya Dictionary was previously coordinated by Dr. Peter Mathews, professor of archaeology and epigraphy at Latrobe University, in Melbourne, Australia. Dr. Mathews together with Péter Bíró added and updated the dictionary with proposed readings (denoted PM) until 2005 when they created a new, more extensive dictionary: Maya Hieroglyph Dictionary

In 2006 Christophe Helmke offered to share his amendments (denoted CH) to John's original compilation. Christophe Helmke is a PhD candidate at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London, in England where he is studying ancient Maya cave usage. He is Lecturer in Maya Hieroglyphs at the Department of Native American Languages and Cultures, Institute of Cross-cultural and Regional Studies, University of Copenhagen, Denmark. He is also the co-director of the Belize Valley Archaeological Reconnaissance (BVAR) Project, directed by Dr. Jaime Awe. Over the past six years, with the collaboration of Harri Kettunen and Stanley Guenter he has tutored Maya glyph workshops in Belize, England, Germany and the Netherlands as part of lecture series and the European Maya Conference (EMC). It is as part of these workshops that Harri and Christophe developed their "Introduction to Maya Hieroglyphs" handbook, which is now available in English, Spanish and French.

Christophe Helmke — In updating John Montgomery's dictionary I have to acknowledge the framework upon which I have based the transcriptions, transliterations, translations and interpretations of the hieroglyphs presented. Though several different frameworks exist today, I have chosen one and implemented it as consistently as possible, throughout. It is the work of Alfonso Lacadena and Søren Wichmann that must be duly credited in this regard as I have and continue follow their model closely and have implemented it here with only minor changes. Since I started work with Maya hieroglyphs I have enjoyed collaborating, discussing (and at times debating) all matters epigraphic with Ramzy Barrois, Erik Boot, Una Canger, Juan Ignacio Cases, Pierre Robert Colas, Nikolai Grube, Stanley Guenter, Justin Kerr, Harri Kettunen, Alfonso Lacadena, Simon Martin, Jesper Nielsen, Joel Palka, Christian Prager, David Stuart, Søren Wichmann and Marc Zender. Consequently the revisions presented here owe much to the insights that my colleagues have imparted me, and the secrets they have divulged, via discussions, correspondence and papers. Nonetheless all errors and shortcomings found in the revised dictionary are, naturally, mine. All corrections, comments and suggestions for further revisions are warmly welcomed.

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