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New PDF release: Ancient Maya

By Sue Bradford Edwards

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Other codices probably rotted in tombs. Between the moisture and the bishop, only four codices have been found for study. pottery that sealed alliances between Maya kings. indd 60 10/27/14 2:56 PM Maya pottery came in a wide range of shapes, from plates for serving and eating, to vases for drinking cacao, to bowls for serving tamales. Archaeologists know exactly how some of this pottery was used because chemical analysis reveals the remains of the food. Other clues come from the paintings of feast scenes on the pottery itself as well as the hieroglyphs that tell who commissioned the piece, which scribe painted it, and how it would be used.

Like the scribes of medieval Europe who produced ornate manuscripts, Maya scholars used their artistic talents to generate elegant and pleasing combinations of glyphs. Like artists today who paint, draw, and sculpt, scribes worked in a variety of different mediums. They carved limestone, telling of the deeds of their kings. They engraved jade, noting ancestral connections for the wearer. They recorded a wide variety of astronomical events in codices, folded books made of tree bark. They also painted the Codices Catastrophe Evidence suggests codices were plentiful at the time of initial contact with Europe, but few now remain.

Men of slightly higher status wore a fancier kilt instead of a simple loincloth, and their headdresses were also more elaborate. Even more ornate were the textiles, feathers, and jaguar skins worn by merchants. Women draped themselves in garments that looked like loose robes; some images show women in decorated blouses similar to the modern huipil. Both men and women wore wide-brimmed hats, most likely woven from plant fiber. indd 47 10/23/14 10:33 AM Kings, queens, and nobles dressed to impress everyone who saw them.

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