Cracking the Maya Code - NOVA
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(Jul 01, 2008)
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The ancient Maya civilization of Central America left behind a riddle: an intricate and mysterious hieroglyphic script carved on stone monuments and painted on pottery and bark books. Because the invading Spanish suppressed nearly all knowledge of how the script worked, unlocking its meaning posed one of archaeology's fiercest challenges, until now.
For the first time, NOVA presents the epic inside story of how the decoding was done, told by the experts at the center of one of archaeology's greatest detective stories. Cracking the Maya Code highlights the ingenious breakthroughs that opened the door to deciphering the elaborate and exotic script and finally cracked the code, unleashing a flood of dramatic new insights about the ancient civilization
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Just like the Rosetta Stone documentary, polyglots and those of us who want to be polyglots will love this work. Just like great individuals figured out Ancient Egyptian, this work lists the great individuals who cracked ancient Maya. The Rosetta Stone worked with the familiar and became more abstract. Modern people knew Greek and that's how they moved on to know demotic and hieroglyphs. Here, it's not like an object had Spanish and then Romanized Mayan and then Ancient Mayan. The code crackers lacked that type of aid. Still, the work never states whether the code crackers had to learn spoken Mayan from living Mayans in order to move forward.
The documentary is diverse in that you see men and women, Americans and Russians, and even the young and the old. The filmed interviews of deceased persons were done so well that they had to write that the persons were deceased. Otherwise, I am sure that viewers would watch this and think that they could e-mail those people. I must say that most anthropological works interview Western and indigenous scholars. This work concludes with saying that living Mayan could now teach some of the writing to their children. However, it would have been nice if some actual Mayan scholars or experts could have had some input here.
The work points to something important: how scholars are not always objective and how they bring their baggage with them. For example, one researcher in the 1800s assumed that some words had drawings of elephants in them, thus reflecting the idea that the Mayans were related to Asian Indians, but that is not the case, just his misinterpretation. The work said one scholar of Maya was a World War I vet so he liked spreading the idea that Mayans were peaceful people who just watched and recorded the stars. The work later shows many drawings that present warfare, murder, and masochism. This reminds me of how some says that Margaret Mead's work on Samoa was tainted by her desire to show at all costs that some cultures have sexually liberated young women.
This might be a great documentary to show at schools with many Mexican-American students. Viewers who liked the cartoon "The Road to El Dorado" may really like seeing this as well.