Ancient Literary Treasure

Literary critics, cultural scholars and aficionados of the Mayans, the only fully literate people of the pre-Columbian Americas, have lined up to call the first fully illustrated survey of two millennia of Mayan texts assembled by award-winning scholar Dennis Tedlock, "stunning," "astounding," "groundbreaking" and "literally breathtaking." [...]

His most notable accomplishment is that he establishes for the first time that two millennia of Mayan writings produced in various writing systems and media -- from stone glyphs and paper documents produced in the post-Columbian Roman alphabet -- constitute a single literary history and tradition.

Tedlock's application of a literary designation to stone-carved Mayan glyphs is undoubtedly his most important and emphatic claim he makes and it is one he supports with scholarship of sweeping scope.

He makes the case that hieroglyphic texts represent a visible (not oral) literature that originated long before Old English was born, and centuries before Europeans came to the Americas. This has not been understood, he says, because while there has been much progress in the glyphs' decipherment, an appreciation of their literary value has lagged behind. MORE

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