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The Colonial Maya Texts: Recent Contributions to the Theory of Semiotic Translation



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Please join us for a special presentation by Dr. Ramón Arzápalo Marín, a LAII Visiting Scholar from the Instituto de Investigaciones Antropológicas at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.

This presentation will draw upon the research that Dr. Arzápalo has done while here at UNM. He will discuss how “Maya civilization is characterized by the development of a complex writing system that allowed members of this high culture to record their scientific, artistic and especially their historical texts. For a thorough understanding of their messages it is necessary to become acquainted with the script that they used for books, murals, and stellae. We provide an overview of the structure and development of the hieroglyphs or written signs relied on by the Maya for these records until the arrival of the Spaniards.

We offer a critical analysis of the nature of this script based on recent, extensive research on documents of the Colonial period. The analysis of an encoded text taken from The Book of Chilam Balam of Chumayel is key to laying the foundation for a solid methodology for interpreting pre-Columbian texts written by the Maya. However, in order to correctly interpret the messages indicated by the analytical components, it is important to also consider such pragmatic information as their place in history and the surrounding social interrelations. The heuristic of our analysis should clarify some intercultural phenomena, usually overlooked since the 16th century, that have damaged interethnic relations.”


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The Colonial Maya Texts: Recent Contributions to the Theory of Semiotic Translation