The text below follows normal Classic Maya writing format. It starts with the first (top) paragraph on the left followed by the paragraph to its right. Reading then proceeds paragraph by paragraph from left to right moving down the page. Each paragraph is like a Classic Maya glyph block in a text organized in pairs of columns. Reading normally goes downward within each column pair, left to right on each line. There are exceptions in which reading is from right to left but in these cases the signs face toward the right- in other words Maya glyphic signs face against the flow of the reading.

Classic Maya writing was based on a set of about 750 glyphic signs representing syllables and concepts. The signs were combined into blocks so that any desired information could be expressed. Several different signs had the same syllablic value and Maya scribes could vary signs for artistic and literary effect. Some were only syllabic, others only ideographic, and others could be either one or the other.

Scholars debate the extent of literacy in Classic maya society. Some think many people could read the texts, others hold that only specialists could do so and that the knowledge of reading and writing was strictly regulated and guarded as an instrument of power. Classic Period writing is found to-day on pots, bones, stone monuments and buildings. Fragments of four books (codices) have survived.
During Classic and Post Classic times it seems likely that every Maya centre of population possessed screen-fold books.If so there must have been thousands. Many may have been destroyed when Classic civilizations collapsed in the 10th century AD. In northern Yucatan, all the books that could be confiscated there were destroyed in the 16th century. A few have turned up in archaeological excavations but have not been reconstructable. Most texts survive because they were carved into stone monuments called stelae (singular stele). Exactly why stele were carved and erected, usually in association with monumental architecture at the centres of cities, is not clear. It is often assumed that they were made as memorials to deceased rulers, although it seems some were erected during the reign of the rulers named on them. Most stele texts concern rulers, their ancestry, and their deeds.
For further information on Maya writing see: Breaking the Maya Code, Michael D, Coe, Thames and Hudson, 1992; Reading The Maya Glyphs, Michael D. Coe and Marc Van Stone, Thames and Hudson, 2001. For an example of a Maya text translated click here.

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