Early Maya Writing at San Bartolo, Guatemala

Jun 30th, 2015
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The ruins of San Bartolo, Guatemala, contain a sample of Maya hieroglyphic writing dating to the Late Preclassic period (400 BC to 200 AD). The writing appears on preserved painted walls and plaster fragments buried within the pyramidal structure known as “Las Pinturas,” which was constructed in discrete phases over several centuries. Samples of carbonized wood that are closely associated with the writing have calibrated radiocarbon dates of 200 to 300 BC.

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Early Maya Writing at San Bartolo, GuatemalaWilliam A. Saturno,1* David Stuart,2 Boris Beltrn31Department of Anthropology, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH 03824, USA. 2Department of Art and Art History,University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712, USA. 3Escuela de Historia, Universidad de San Carlos, Guatemala City,Guatemala.*To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: wsaturno@unh.eduThe ruins of San Bartolo, Guatemala, contain a sample ofMaya hieroglyphic writing dating to the Late Preclassicperiod (400 BC to 200 AD). The writing appears onpreserved painted walls and plaster fragments buriedwithin the pyramidal structure known as Las Pinturas,which was constructed in discrete phases over severalcenturies. Samples of carbonized wood that are closelyassociated with the writing have calibrated radiocarbondates of 200 to 300 BC. This early Maya writing impliesthat a developed Maya writing system was in usecenturies earlier than previously thought, approximatinga time when we see the earliest scripts elsewhere inMesoamerica.Research on the origins of Maya hieroglyphic writing haslong been hindered by the paucity of good archaeologicalcontexts and reliable dates for inscribed artifacts andmonuments. With a few exceptions, examples of archaicMaya script appear on illicitly excavated objects that can bestylistically dated to no earlier than about 100 BC -100 AD,when writing seems to have been already well-establishedelsewhere i

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