Yaxchilán, Lintel 24 - K2887 ©Justin Kerr - Click to view high resolution MAYA HIEROGLYPH DICTIONARY
Peter Mathews and Péter Bíró
Drawings by John Montgomery


Years ago, when Linda Schele and Peter Mathews were beginning to work with Maya hieroglyphs, they 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-pod. But Linda and Peter 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. They hoped that one day it would be possible to convert Thompson's catalogue of numbers and signs (which in the 1970s was used as the standard reference for Maya signs) to a living dictionary, where the words of the ancient Maya could speak out from their beautiful visual signs. Admittedly there were times when Linda and Peter wondered if it would ever be possible to accomplish this; at times the glyphs seemed so obtuse and recalcitrant. However the fast pace of decipherment of Maya hieroglyphs over the past 25 years has made such a dictionary possible.

This online Maya Hieroglyph Dictionary is the result of the work of dozens of scholars who have teased out glyph 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 workshops such as 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. Linda also played a major part in the early years of FAMSI, and we would like to think that she would be delighted to see her dream of a glyph dictionary on the FAMSI website.

One of the regular attendees of the Linda's Maya Meetings at the University of Texas was John Montgomery, who over the years made beautiful drawings of a huge number of Maya monuments and inscriptions. He also published several books aimed at making Maya hieroglyphs more accessible to the general public, including Dictionary of Maya Hieroglyphs and How to Read Maya Hieroglyphs, both published in 2002 by Hippocrene Books. His Dictionary of Maya Hieroglyphs was converted to the FAMSI website by Peter Mathews in 1993, and is thus the intellectual forerunner of this current Maya Hieroglyph Dictionary.

Linda Schele died in 1998, and John Montgomery in 2005.

The Maya Hieroglyph Dictionary is dedicated to

Linda Schele


John Montgomery

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