Ancient Maya Hieroglyphics: Cracking the Code with Dr. Erlend Johnson

Ancient Maya Hieroglyphics: Cracking the Code with Dr. Erlend Johnson


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Maya hieroglyphic writing was the most sophisticated of several writing systems developed in the Americas.  Yet for a long time, the ability to read the monumental inscriptions of Maya or the codices they left behind was lost. Join archaeologist, Dr. Erlend Johnson, as he retells the tale of how one of the New World’s most mysterious written languages was deciphered.

The story of how scholars “cracked the code” involves a range of lively characters including a 16th-century Spanish friar intent on rooting out heretics, a cold war rivalry between British and Russian scholars, and a CIA spy! Over the course of the seminar, Dr. Johnson will recount this tale of discovery and provide detail on how the Maya script is read and what the Maya chose to record.

Led by archaeologist, Dr. Erlend Johnson, this seminar will give participants basic information about Maya hieroglyphic writing and the history of the language’s decipherment. Designed to inform curiosity, as well as future travels to Mexico or Central America, participants will come away with an enhanced understanding of both the ancient Maya and those who studied them

Erlend Johnson is an anthropological archaeologist interested in Mesoamerican political organization. He earned his P.hD in Anthropology from Tulane University in 2018, where he currently teaches.His research focuses on the integrative strategies of the Copan polity in the Classic period (AD 200-900) and the changing ways that this intrusive, lowland Maya style polity interacted with and integrated surrounding non-Maya populations over the duration of the Classic period. From 2011-2016 He directed the Proyecto Arqueologico Regional Cucuyagua Sensenti (PARCS) as part of his dissertation research. He has previously completed field research and thesis on Taino landscape utilization in the Dominican Republic for his Mphil at Leiden University.

This conversation is suitable for all ages.

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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