Deciphering the Maya Code

Researchers in Bonn are busy compiling a dictionary and a text database on the Maya culture of the Classic period. The project will run for 15 years. It is attached to the Dept. for Greek and Latin Philology, the Dept. of Romance Studies and the Dept. for the Anthropology of the Americas at the University of Bonn. The project is headed by Professor Nikolai Grube, a renowned international expert on research on the Mayas and a member of the North Rhine-Westphalian Academy of Sciences, Humanities and the Arts. Professor Grube has for many years been one of the small circle of experts who achieved the breakthrough in deciphering the classic Maya script.

The project will conduct research into the hieroglyphic script of pre-Columbian Maya culture, which was used in the period from 500 B.C. to 1500 A.D. in the region which is now made up of Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and Honduras. The project objective is to transfer the some 10,000 documents known to date into a machine-readable body of texts and then subject them to careful epigraphic and linguistic analysis. On this basis, a dictionary of Classic Mayan will then be compiled, which will be stored in a database and available in printed form – covering all the linguistic elements known and showing how they were used in script.

Source:; photo: dpa/pa.