- Paperback: 304 pages
- Publisher: Thames & Hudson; 3 edition (February 27, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0500289557
- ISBN-13: 978-0500289556
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 58 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #192,228 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Breaking the Maya Code (Third Edition) 3rd Edition
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From Scientific American
The decipherment of the Maya script was, Coe states, "one of the most exciting intellectual adventures of our age, on a par with the exploration of space and the discovery of the genetic code." He presents the story eloquently and in detail, with many illustrations of the mysterious Maya inscriptions and the people who tried to decipher them. Most of the credit, he says, goes to the late Yuri V. Knorosov of the Russian Institute of Ethnography, but many others participated. They did not always agree, and some of them went up blind alleys. Coe--emeritus professor of anthropology at Yale University--vividly describes the battles, missteps and successes. What is now established, he writes, is that "the Maya writing system is a mix of logograms and syllabic signs; with the latter, they could and often did write words purely phonetically."
Coe concludes with a swipe at "dirt archaeologists" who believe the decipherment of Maya writing "is not worthy of notice." According to them, he asserts, "the Maya inscriptions are 'epiphenomenal,' a ten-penny word meaning that Maya writing is only of marginal application since it is secondary to those more primary institutions--economy and society--so well studied by the dirt archaeologists." Coe sees that attitude as "sour grapes" and ascribes it to "the inability or unwillingness of anthropologically trained archaeologists to admit that they are dealing with the remains of real people, who once lived and spoke." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“A great story told clearly and passionately by a great Mayanist.”
“As good an introduction to the world of the Maya, and of Maya scholars, as one is likely to get.”
- USA Today
“Portrays a Maya culture obsessed with warfare, dynastic rivalries, and ritual bloodletting, yet rich with masterpieces in art and architecture.”
- Science News
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The first chapter seems to mar the whole work, which is a bit too long, and is not very accurate. For example, the Chinese writing system doesn't have "214 determinatives" as the author claims (p. 32) -- there're 214 "section headers" in a traditional Chinese dictionary, which were devised by lexicographers, and are not supposed to tell "one the general class of phenomena to which the thing named belongs" (p. 31), although the two concepts have overlapping. Of course these're only minor mistakes, and to them we should not pay too much attention, as the author warns us, unwittingly: "It will be recalled that Thompson dealt posthumously with Whorf by paying no attention whatsoever to Whorf's larger points, and devoting much ink to the latter's minor mistakes (and mistakes they were), like a terrier worrying a rat." (p. 152). All the same, one star has been deducted!