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seen, but it has many other acceptations-all conveying the idea of might and power. It is a variation of can,


"" serpent. The serpent, with inflated breast,


suggested by the contour of the Maya Empire, was adopted as a symbol of the same. Its name became that of the dynasty of the Maya rulers, and their totem. We see it sculptured on the walls of the temples and palaces raised by them. Mayach, in Egypt, in China, in India, in Peru, and many other places the image of the serpent was the badge of royalty. It formed part of the headdress of the kings; it was embroidered on their royal garments.1 Khan is still the title of the kings of Tartary, Burmah, etc., that of the governors of provinces in Afghanistan, Persia, and other countries in central Asia.

That the tree the Troano MS.

there can be

takes pains to

was also meant by the author of
as symbol of the Maya Empire,
no doubt. He himself
inform us of the fact,

Beb uaacal (the beb has sprung up) between

luumilob, the seven countries

The sign

of Can.


is painted red in the original, to indicate the was the symbol of land, coun

arable land, kancab. try, among the Mayas, as with the Egyptians; but the former used it also as numerical for five, to which, in this case, must be added the two units O O. So we have seven fertile lands.

The four black dots

are the numerical four, and

another ideographic sign for the name of the country—Can, "serpent." This is why it is placed at the foot of the tree, like the sign at the top to signify that it is the kingdom. They are juxtaposed to the character 'Wilkinson, Customs and Manners, vol. i., p. 163 (illust.).

kan, also, to denote its geographical position. It will be noticed that this sign was omitted in the horizontal legend, as it should be, since kan is the word for "south;" but it has ("north,") which sign has been insign, beb,

been replaced by ix

corporated with the

that this is the northern part of

that is, of the country.

There remains to be

sidered, in the present character of the tableau,



to show


explained what may be con

instance, the most important

since it is the original name

given, in the most remote ages, to that part of the Maya Empire known on our maps as the peninsula of Yucatan. It reads, Mayach, the "land just sprung," the "primitive land," the "hard land." The symbol itself is an ideographic representation of the peninsula and its surroundings, as will be shown.

The reason that caused it to be adopted by the learned men of Mayach as symbol for the name of their country is indeed most interesting. It clearly explains its etymology, and also gives us a knowledge of the scope of their scientific attainments-among these their perfect understanding of the forces that produced the submersion of many lands, and the upheaval of the peninsula and other places; a thorough acquaintance with the geography of the continent wherein they dwelt, and of the lands adjacent in the ocean; that even of the ill-fated island mentioned by Plato,' its destruction by earthquakes, and the sad doom of its inhabitants that remained, an historical fact, preserved in the annals treasured in the Egyptian temples as well as in those of the Mayas. May we not assume that the identity of traditions indicates that at some epoch, Plato, Dialogues, "Timæus," ii., 517.


more or less remote, intimate relations and communications must have existed between the inhabitants of the valley of the Nile and the peoples dwelling in the "Lands of the West"?

We shall begin the interpretation

with the analysis of the character



of the symbol that Landa tells

us1 stood, among the Maya writers, either for ma, me, or mo. Some would-be critics among the Americanists, our contemporaries, have accused the bishop of ignorance regarding the writing system of the Mayas, or of incompetency in transmitting to us the true value of this character, simply because he gave it a plurality, or what seems to be a plurality, of meanings. What right, it may be asked, have we to dispute the fact asserted by Bishop Landa, that in his time, among the Mayas, the character and perhaps to me and mo? than any of us for knowing it? Did not the chiefs of the Franciscan Order in Yucatan consider it a prime duty to become thoroughly versed, and have all their missionaries instructed, in the language of the natives to whom they had to preach the gospel, and, after converting them to Christianity, to administer the sacraments of their Church? Were they not scholars, men conversant with grammatical studies? Who but they have reduced to grammatical rules the Maya

was equivalent to ma Had he not better opportunity

1 Landa, Relacion de las Cosas de Yucatan, ch. xli., p. 322. 'Heinrich Wüttke, Dei enstehung der Schrift, S. 205, quoted and whose opinions are indorsed by Professor Charles Rau, chief of the archæological division of the National Museum (Smithsonian Institution) at Washington. Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge, chap. v., No. 331. "The Palenque Tablet in the United States National Museum." Dr. Ed. Seler, Uber die Bedeutung des Zahlzeichens 20 in der Mayaschrift, in Verhandlungen der Berliner Gesellschaft für Anthropologie, etc., 1887, S. 237–241. J. J. Vallentini, "The Landa Alphabet a Spanish Fabrication," in Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, April, 1880.

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?

? 1

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— Sitire; ακε "reed," "rush," Juncus.2


Champollion le jeune, Précis du Système hieroglyphique 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.

in re


We have found that

mote times ma was the meaning of the char

Let 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,1 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 Tonos-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 ua (ma), 'site,' 'place." "3

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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 abso

the same for the Mayas as for the Egyptians,

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That word in Maya

'Dr. Young, "Egypt," Encyclopedia Britannica, Edinburgh edition, vol. iv.


Champollion le jeune, Précis du Système hieroglyphique, etc., p. 34. 3 Ibid., p. 125.



* Troano MS., vol. i., Maya text, part ii., plates xxv.-xxvii., et passim.

Bunsen, Egypt's Place in Universal History, Vocabulary word Nen.

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