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Mayan Hieroglyphs Cataloged With High-Tech Tools

Monday, November 2, 2015

Maya hieroglyphs technologyLAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND—Researchers from the Idiap Research Institute of the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and the Digital Humanities Laboratory of the College of Humanities are working with Maya epigraphers to create a digital catalog of Mayan hieroglyphs from the three codices that survived the Spanish conquest. They have analyzed thousands of symbols, some of which have been drawn in different ways over time and in different regions. “Each image tells a story. Sometimes we can guess their meaning with the help of people who still speak this language today, and also by using glossaries,” Idiap researcher Rui Hu said in a press release. This new tool will help scholars quickly identify a hieroglyph and its meaning, and see what common combinations of symbols in a block of text are. “This research is of great interest to Mayanists, given the potential of such novel multidisciplinary approaches for overcoming obstacles resulting from applying more traditional methods,” explained Carlos Pallán Gayol of Bonn University. The project could one day lead to a machine translation tool for Mayan iconography and writing. To read more about Mayan hieroglyphs, go to "The Maya Sense of Time."

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