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language for the benefit of students? Are we not told that Bishop Landa acquired a great proficiency in it? Was he not for many years a teacher of it? Has he not composed a grammar of that tongue for the use of his pupils? What right, then, have men in our age, innocent of all knowledge of Maya language, even as spoken to-day, however great may be their attainments in any other branch of learning, to pass judgment on, worse still, to condemn, a learned teacher of that language, charging him with ignorance and incompetency, simply because he assigns various meanings to a character?
Perhaps Mr. Champollion le jeune will be branded in like manner, because he tells us that the Egyptians represented indifferently the vowels A, I, O, E by the character "We see effectively," says the learned discoverer of the Egyptian alphabet, "the leaf or feather as their homophones, to mean, according to the occasion, an A, an I, an E, and even an O, as the (aleph) of the Hebrews. So do we find in the Egyptian tongue, written with Coptic letters, a dialect that uses indifferently a for o, where the other two write o only; and where the other two write a. We have in the same dialect αβε and οβε "rush," Juncus.2
Sitire; anɛ "reed,"
1 Champollion le jeune, Précis du Système hiéroglyphique des Anciens Egyptiens, p. 111, Paris, 1828.
Aké is likewise a word belonging to the Maya language. As in Egyptian, it means a "reed," a "rush," a "withe." It was the name of an ancient city the ruins of which still exist near Tixkokob, in Yucatan, on the property of Dn. Alvaro Peon. It was also a family name, as can be seen (in Appendix, note ii.) from a baptismal certificate signed by Father Cogolludo, taken from an old baptismal register found in the convent of Cacalchen. The original is now in possession of the Right Rev. Dn. Crecencio Carillo y Ancona, present bishop of Yucatan, who has kindly allowed me to make a photographic copy of Father Diego de Cogolludo's autograph.
Let us resume our explanation.
We have found that
mote times ma was the meaning of the charLet us try to analyze its component parts in its relation to the name Mayach, and its origin as an alphabetic character. It is easy to see that it is composed of the geometrical figure☐ flanked on each side by the symbol imix. Who can fail to see that this figure bears a striking resemblance to the Egyptian sign that Dr. Young translates ma, and Mr. Champollion asserts to be simply the letter M? By a strange coincidence, if coincidence there be, the meaning of the syllable ma is the same in Maya and Egyptian; that is, in both languages it signifies "earth," " place." "The word rozos-place,' 'site,'" says Mr. Champollion, "of the Greek text of the Rosetta inscription is expressed in the hieroglyphic part of the tablet by an owl for M, and the extended arm for A, which gives the Coptic word μa (ma), 'site,' 'place." "
We see that in the Troano MS. the author represented the earth by the figure of an old man, "the grandfather,” mam; hence, by apocope, ma, "earth," "site," "country," "place.
Ma, in the Maya, is also a particle used, as in the Greek language, in affirmation or negation according to its position. before or after the verb. Another curious coincidence worthy of notice is that the sign of negation is absothe same for the Mayas as for the Egyptians,
That word in Maya
Dr. Young, "Egypt," Encyclopedia Britannica, Edinburgh edition, vol. iv.
Champollion le jeune, Précis du Système hieroglyphique, etc., p. 34.
Ibid., p. 125.
Troano MS., vol. i., Maya text, part ii., plates xxv.-xxvii., et passim.
means "mirror;" and Nen-ha, "the mirror of water," was
anciently one of the names of the Mexican Gulf.
may be a coincidence.
No one has ever told us why the learned hierogrammatists of Egypt gave to the sign the value of ma. No one can; because nobody knows the origin of the Egyptians, of their civilization, nor the country where it grew from infancy to maturity. They themselves, although they invariably pointed toward the setting sun when questioned concerning the fatherland of their ancestors, were ignorant of who they were and whence they came. Nor did they know who was the inventor of their alphabet. "The Egyptians, who, no doubt, had forgotten, or had never known the name of the inventor of their phonetic signs, at the time of Plato honored with it one of their gods of the second order, Thoth, who likewise was held as the father of all sciences and arts. 1
It is evident that we can learn nothing from the Egyptians of the motives that prompted the inventor of their alphabetical characters to select that peculiar figure to represent the
letter M, initial of their word Ma. The Mayas, we are informed, made use of the identical sign, and ascribed to it the same signification. We may perhaps find out from them the reasons that induced their learned men to choose this strange geometrical figure as part of their symbol for Ma, radical of Mayach, name of the peninsula of Yucatan. Who knows but that the same cause which prompted them to adopt it suggested it also to the mind of the Egyptian hierogrammatist? Many will, no doubt, object that this may all be pure coincidence the two peoples lived so far apart. Very true. I do
Champollion, Précis du Système Hieroglyphique, p. 355.
I merely suggest a possi
not pretend it is not accidental. bility, that, added to other facts, may later become a probability, if not a certainty. In the course of these pages we shall meet with so many concurrent facts, as having existed both in Mayach and Egypt, that it will become difficult to reconcile the mind to the belief that they are, altogether, the identical working of the human intelligence groping its way out of barbarism to civilization, as some have more than once hinted, as a last resort, in their inability to deny the striking concordance of these facts.
We are told that in the origin of language names were given to places, objects, tribes, individuals, or animals, in accordance with some peculiar inherent properties possessed by them, such as shape, voice, customs, etc., and to countries on account of their climate, geological formation, geographical configuration, or any other characteristic; that is, by onomatopoeia. This assertion seems to find confirmation in the symbol of the Mayas; and the name Mayach forms no exception to the rule.
In fact, if we draw round the Yucatan peninsula a geometrical figure enclosing it, and composed of straight lines, by following the direction of its eastern, northern, and western
coasts, it is easy to see that the drawing so made
will unavoidably be the symbol.
That fact alone might not be deemed proof sufficient to affirm that the Mayas, in reality, did derive their sign for Ma
from this cause, since
Landa, the character
It does not require a
to complete it, as transmitted by imix1 is wanting on each side. very great effort of the imagina
tion to understand what this sign is meant for. A single
'Landa, Relacion de las Cosas de Yucatan, p. 204.
glance will suffice to satisfy us that the drawing is intended to represent a woman's breast, with its nipple and areola. Any one inclined to doubt that such is the case will soon be convinced by examining the female figures portrayed in the Troano MS.1
Yes, imix is the breast, the bosom, called to-day simply im, the word having suffered the apocope of its desinence ix, which is a copulative conjunction and the sign of the feminine gender.
But bosom is also an enclosed place. We say "the bosom of the deep," le sein de la terre, el seno de los mares. It was in that sense, indeed, that the Maya sages, who invented the characters and symbols with which to give their thoughts a material form, made use of it. This fact becomes apparent if
1 Troano MS., part 1, plate xxii. See Appendix, note iii.
The reader may perhaps desire to know the meaning of this picture. Alas! it teaches us that the powers that govern nature were as indifferent to the lot of man in remote ages as they are to-day; that no creatures, whatever they be, have for them any importance beyond their acting of the rôle which they are called upon to play momentarily in the great drama of creation.
The figures are anthropomorphous representations -the kneeling, supplicating female, of the "Land of Mu;" the male, of the "Lord of the Seven Fires" (volcanoes), Men kak uuc. Mu, in an imploring posture, comes to inform him that one of his volcanoes has caused the basin at the edge of her domains to rise, and has converted the country into marshy ground. She speaks thus: "Ak ha pe be be imik Kaan" (that is, "The basin has risen rapidly, and the land has become marshy"). Men Kak uuc, for all consolation, replies: "Imix be Ak Mu?" ("So the basin in rising has caused the land to become marshy, Mu?") This is evidently the record of a geological event-the rising of the part of the bottom of the ocean near Mu.
Webster, English Dictionary.
Diccionario Español por una sociedad literaria.