Friday, January 7, 2011

Mayan Hieroglyphs, Part IV

For parts I, II, and III in this series of posts about Mayan hieroglyphs, I've played around creating fanciful and highly inauthentic translations of my name, my wife's name, and my family name (surname).[1] But I also want to introduce a thought concerning the Book of Mormon that occurred to me while I was watching Breaking the Maya Code, the NOVA documentary that initially inspired me to start all of this.

Two of the Mayan hieroglyphs that eventually led to the breakthrough that the Mayan written language was syllabic were these two:

The one on the left is iut (spelled 'i-'u-ti). It is composed of T679, T513, and T59 (an alternate combination can be seen here). It is translated as "and then it happened" or "and then it occurred".

The one on the right is utiy (spelled 'u-ti-ya). It is composed of T513, T59, and T126 (an alternate combination can be seen here). It is translated as "since it happened" or "since it occurred".

Since both of these hieroglyphs were always found associated with dates (which had already been cracked), researchers were able to figure out that one indicated an anterior date and that the other indicated the date being discussed as the present. Since Mayan is still spoken by indigenous peoples in southern México and Guatemala, linguists realized the correlation between T513 and the syllable -'u- and the correlation between T59 and the syllable -ti-.

What I find striking about this is the frequent occurrence of two phrases in the Book of Mormon that are almost absent from the Bible: "And it came to pass" (= iut) and "x years had passed away since..." (= utiy). There are too many to be worth counting, but suffice it to say that there are dozens (if not hundreds) of occurrences of each in the Book of Mormon and only a handful (if any) in the Bible.

Now I doubt that Mayan was the language spoken by the Nephites and Lamanites, though they were probably related. My point is that the Book of Mormon preserves the preoccupation of New World cultures with recording and preserving dates—something that is not evident in the Bible.

Read Part V here.


[1] These can be read at Mayan Hieroglyphs Part I, Mayan Hieroglyphs Part II, and Mayan Hieroglyphs Part III.

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