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

by Peter Mathews

Years ago when Linda Schele and I were beginning to work with Maya hieroglyphs, we dreamed of a project like this. Of course personal computers were not in use at that time, and such things as web pages were not even a gleam in someone’s eye. But Linda and I talked about how wonderful it would be, some day, to have a glyph catalogue that would give readings for individual signs, and their contexts in a variety of word or phrase examples. In other words, something that would convert Thompson’s catalogue of numbers and signs to a living dictionary, where the words of the ancient Maya could speak out from their beautiful visual signs. I must confess that there were times when Linda and I wondered if it would ever be possible to accomplish this; at times the glyphs seemed so obtuse and recalcitrant.

This online Maya Dictionary is the result of the work of dozens of scholars, teasing out readings from clues buried in broken and weathered monuments and faded paintings. Linda Schele played a key part in the process: first, by the many decipherments that she made, second through the inspiration she fostered in her students, and third in her development and coordination of the annual Maya Meetings at Texas, where so many scholars–professional and "amateur" alike–continue to come together to advance our understanding of Maya hieroglyphic writing. In addition, Linda played a major part in the early years of FAMSI, and I would like to think that she would be delighted to see her dream of a glyph dictionary on the FAMSI website.

This online Maya Dictionary is dedicated to the memory of Linda Schele.

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