Compendio Xcaret de la escritura jeroglifica maya descifrada

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Author: Knorozov [alternatively, Knorosov], Yuriy Valentinovich (1922-1999)

Year: 1999

Publisher: Universidad de Quintana Roo

Place: Mexico City


3 volumes. 246 pages with diagrams, tables and bibliography; 10 pages with photographic reproductions of the Codice Dresden (37 pages), Codex Madrid (56 pages); Codice Paris (12 pages); 279 pages. Quarto (11" x 6 1/2") bound in brown with gilt lettering to spine and cover and housed in a slipcase. Prepared by Patricia Rodriguez Ochoa, Edgar Gomez Marin and Myriam Cerda Gonzalez. First edition.

Yuriy Valentinovich Knorozov was a Russian linguist, epigrapher and ethnographer, who is particularly renowned for the pivotal role his research played in the decipherment of the Maya script, the writing system used by the pre-Columbian Maya civilization of Mesoamerica. In 1952 Knorozov published a paper which was later to prove to be a seminal work in the field (Drevnyaya pis'mennost' Tsentral'noy Ameriki, or Ancient Writing of Mesoamerica.) The general thesis of this paper put forward the observation that early scripts such as ancient Egyptian and Cuneiform which were generally or formerly thought to be predominantly logo-graphic or even purely ideographic in nature, in fact contained a significant phonetic component. That is to say, rather than the symbols representing only or mainly whole words or concepts, many symbols in fact represented the sound elements of the language in which they were written, and had alphabetic or syllabic elements as well, which if understood could further their decipherment. By this time, this was largely known and accepted for several of these, such as Egyptian hieroglyphs (the decipherment of which was famously commenced by Jean-François Champollion in 1822 using the tri-lingual Rosetta Stone artifact); however the prevailing view was that Mayan did not have such features. Knorozov's studies in comparative linguistics drew him to the conclusion that the Mayan script should be no different from the others, and that purely logo-graphic or ideographic scripts did not exist. Knorozov's key insight was to treat the Maya glyphs represented in de Landa's alphabet not as an alphabet, but rather as a syllabary. He was perhaps not the first to propose a syllabic basis for the script, but his arguments and evidence were the most compelling to date. He maintained that when de Landa had commanded of his informant to write the equivalent of the Spanish letter "b" (for example), the Maya scribe actually produced the glyph which corresponded to the syllable, /be/, as spoken by de Landa. Knorozov did not actually put forward many new transcriptions based on his analysis, nevertheless he maintained that this approach was the key to understanding the script. In effect, the de Landa "alphabet" was to become almost the "Rosetta stone" of Mayan decipherment. A further critical principle put forward by Knorozov was that of synharmony. According to this, Mayan words or syllables which had the form consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) were often to be represented by two glyphs, each representing a CV-syllable (i.e., CV-CV). In the reading, the vowel of the second was meant to be ignored, leaving the reading (CVC) as intended. The principle also stated that when choosing the second CV glyph, it would be one with an echo vowel that matched the vowel of the first glyph syllable. Later analysis has proved this to be largely correct. Knorozov further improved his decipherment technique in his 1963 monograph The Writing of the Maya Indians and published translations of Mayan manuscripts in his 1975 work Maya Hieroglyphic Manuscripts. During the 1960s, other Mayanists and researchers began to expand upon Knorozov's ideas. Their further field-work and examination of the extant inscriptions began to indicate that actual Maya history was recorded in the stelae inscriptions, and not just calendric and astronomical information. The Russian-born but American-resident scholar Tatiana Proskouriakoff was foremost in this work, eventually convincing Thompson and other doubters that historical events were recorded in the script. Other early supporters of the phonetic approach championed by Knorozov included Michael D. Coe and David Kelley, and whilst initially they were in a clear minority, more and more supporters came to this view as further evidence and research progressed. Through the rest of the decade and into the next, Proskouriakoff and others continued to develop the theme, and using Knorozov's results and other approaches began to piece together some decipherments of the script. A major breakthrough came during the first round table or Mesa Redonda conference at the Maya site of Palenque in 1973, when using the syllabic approach those present (mostly) deciphered what turned out to be a list of former rulers of that particular Maya city-state. Subsequent decades saw many further such advances, to the point now where quite a significant portion of the surviving inscriptions can be read. Most Mayanists and accounts of the decipherment history apportion much of the credit to the impetus and insight provided by Knorozov's contributions, to a man who had not as yet set foot outside of his native Russia, but had still been able to make important contributions to the understanding of this distant, ancient civilization.


Corners bumped, edge wear to slipcase else near fine set.

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