Blog Posts on the Maya

On this page you’ll find a number of articles and blog-posts about the Maya and archaeology loosely organised in two groups.

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You can also access the documents using the following categories



General posts on the Maya


The Maya Writing System

The Maya hieroglyphic script was the only fully-fledged writing system in the Americas. There are over a thousand Maya glyphs known from carved stones, painted murals and ceramics. Most of them are logograms; the rest are phonetic signs. This article will show you how to read Maya glyphs.


The Maya calendar

Time-keeping among the Maya is a fascinating but difficult topic. Here’s a post to help you understand the Maya calendars.


Maya numbers & Mathematics

Ancient Maya arithmetic and numeration system, with its Dot-and-Bar notation and concept of zero, is a fascinating topic. In this article, we will explain how to read the numerals and how to do mathematical operations in the Maya vigesimal system.

Maya Gods and Religious Beliefs

Maya gods, goddesses and deities, along with the religious beliefs attached to them, changed over the course of several millennia. This creates much confusion that we’ll try to dissipate in this article.


What if British history was told the same way Maya history is told?

There is so much incorrect information about the Maya online. This causes me much frustration. So, how about if I turned the tables on us, the Brits and gave a tongue-in-cheek description of British history, much in the same way Maya history is told…


How to spot untrustworthy resources on the Maya

After the recent flawed news story about a teenager finding a Maya site, I thought it an apt moment to let people know what they need to be looking out for to confirm a source’s unreliability.

Here are 10 tell-tale signs that expose unknowledgeable sources!


Research papers on the Maya and Archaeology

Late Preclassic Abandonment in the Maya Area: Scale and Causality

During the Late Preclassic Period, particularly from A.D. 200-250, widespread abandonment and/or hiatus in construction occurs across sites in the Maya area. Regions most affected were Chiapas, El Petén and the Yucatán peninsula.

A preliminary discussion of the causal factors behind site abandonment is given along with a tentative model which can be used as a basis for further work on this issue and perhaps can be applied to other cultural areas that have experienced widespread abandonment…


Cultural Activism in Mesoamerica: An Assessment of Recent Movements

Since the Spanish conquest of the New World the indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica have been subjugated and repressed by European and later by ladino/mestizo governments.

There is a long continuum of cultural activism against this subjugation, where natives in different political contexts have used a variety of methods to resist their respective governments’ policy of indigenismo. Land issues, economics, political participation and cultural survival are at the forefront of their concerns…


Who owns the Past?

Awareness of the past is intrinsic to humanity, our memories confirm who we are, giving us a sense of identity as individuals, a community or a nation. However there is no one, unchangeable past, rather many kinds are created which coincide with the time, place and persuasion of the individuals involved.

As the issue has led to much conflict intellectually, in the distortion of the archaeological record, and politically, leading to the suppression of civil liberties of many peoples, it is essential to question who owns the past…


Comparing and Contrasting Three Different Translations of the Second Creation in the Popul Vuh

The Popul Vuh, a 16th century text from Santa Cruz Quiché in highland Guatemala, is seen as the great literary work of the Quiché Maya. It is the story of a people, a compendium of myths, legends, and history.

Aside from the reliability of using the document to explain cultures from a different area and in a time far removed from the period, it is important to compare as many translations of the same text as possible (if one is not able to work from the original text), when trying to puzzle together the original structure and content of a document under study.


What can the Archaeology of Death tell us about the World of the Living?

Death occurs to every human being and all societies employ a regular procedure or set of procedures for disposal of their dead. Burials have been traditionally studied in reference to the individual, revealing their physical attributes and in the context of the society’s religious beliefs.

Though religious beliefs, if known, must be taken into account to understand the variety of attitudes towards death and burial practices, the “archaeology of death” can also be informative regarding social status and differentiation, demography, land rights, and craft production. Great care is needed however in interpreting the remains as our evidence is biased towards inhumation, one of several methods of disposal, and burial is only one part of the funeral ceremony.

Moreover, there is evidence that the dead can be and were manipulated by the living, thus burial remains can give a misleading view of the society in question.


The value of our Egyptian written sources concerning Egyptian Magic

Egyptian magic in contrast to our Western conception of magic, was a legitimate activity, being part of the natural order, and formed part of religion and medicine. Our main source material for Egyptian magic is written, including actual magical texts, funerary texts and medical papyri, to narratives and inscriptions on stelae.

However, the written spell was only one component of the magical rite. As important were the objects or ingredients used, and the actions that accompanied the words; the “performance”, which written sources tell us little about (Pinch, 1994, 76).

Moreover, as only 1% of the society, the elite, could write, what survives is the elite’s practice of magic. Thus our evidence is less enlightening concerning the ordinary person’s indulgence in magic.