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Mayas generally gave names to objects and places by onomatopoeia; that is, according to sounds produced by these objects, or the ideas suggested by their most predominant characteristic. What, then, more natural than to call this stretch of desert Xul," the end "?-a word that became afterward Shur in the mouth of people using the letter R in their alphabet.1
Advancing northward, they no doubt were struck by the fertility of the country, and therefore called it Kanaan. The etymology of this name is still an unsolved puzzle for philologists, who do not agree as to its meaning. Some say it means "lowlands;" others contend it signifies "merchants; " others, again, affirm that the name was given to the land by the Phœnicians, on account of the surprising productiveness of its soil. According to Maya the latter are right, since in that language Kanaan is the word for "abundance."
In after years, when the Phoenicians became such a mighty maritime power as to render them redoubtable to their neighbors, the Egyptians called Phoenicia Zahi, a Maya word the meaning of which (“full of menace," "to be feared") is certainly most expressive of their opinion of the might of the Tyrian merchant princes. Perhaps the treatment of the Rephaim, the aboriginal inhabitants, by the Phoenicians, who called them the "manes of the dead," and destroyed them when they took possession of their country, suggested the The Egyptians designated them as Sati; that is,
zati (in Maya), the "lost," the “ruined " ones.
1 The Maya X is equivalent to the Greek x or the English sh.
Anciently there was a town in Yucatan called Zahi, the ruins of which
still exist a few miles to the southwest of those of the great city of Uxmal.
Genesis, chap. xiv., verse 5; xv. 20.
Chablas's translation of Les Papyrus Hiératiques de Berlin. (Chalons,
The word Rephaim is another enigma for philologists. They pretend, although they do not affirm it positively, that it means "giants." 1 The Maya, however, tells us it simply signifies "inhabitants of the lowlands," which is the purport of the name Canaan, according to some philologists. Rephaim seems to be composed of three Maya primitives—leb, ha, im-leb, to "cover;" ha, "water;" im, contraction of imix, "bosom," "basin; " therefore, literally, "the basin covered by water," hence the "lowlands."
We read in the ethnic table of Genesis," "Canaan begat Tzidon his firstborn," which means that Tzidon was probably the earliest settlement founded by the Maya-speaking colonists from Egypt; when, according to the book of Nabathoean agriculture, compiled in the early ages of the Christian era, it seems that the Phoenicians were expelled from Babylon in consequence of a quarrel with the Cushite monarch then reigning-an event which probably occurred about the time of Abram, when a migration set in motion from the banks of the Euphrates to the shores of the Mediterranean. They had therefore been in close relation with the Ethiopians of the coast of the Erythræan Sea and the Chaldeans of Babylonia. Then, even if they used also Maya words in giving names to the countries they conquered and the cities they founded, it could be easily accounted for; as also the similarity of their alphabetical characters with those carved on the walls of the temples and palaces of Mayach, where we see portraits of bearded men of unmistakable Phoenician types, discovered by the author in 1875. Tzidon-Rabbah is one of the epithets given in the Bible to the old capital of Phoenicia, and is trans
Joshua, chap. xii., verse 4; chap. xiii., verse 12.
Genesis, chap. x., verse 15.
lated "Zidon the great.' The Maya, however, gives Tzidon
On the northern coast of Yucatan there is a seaport called to-day Zilan, near which are to be seen the extensive ruins of the ancient city of Dilan (Dzilan). Is it not possible that the founders of the seaport in Canaan gave it the name of Tzidon in remembrance of that of the seaport in Mayach, and that Tzidon is either a dialectical pronunciation or a corruption of Dzilan ?
The city that vied in importance with Tzidon, and at last obtained the supremacy, was Tzur, "the strong city," the Tyrus of the Greeks and of the Latins. The philologists translate the name "rock," and historians affirm that the founder gave it to the city because it was built on a rocky island about half a mile from the shore. Tzub is the Maya for "promontory," and Tzucub is a "province."
The principal god worshipped by the Phoenicians was the sun, under the name of Baal or Bel, which we are told meant "lord," "chief." This is exactly one of the meanings of the word Baal (in Maya). As for Bel, it is in Maya the "road," the "origin."
Astarte, or Ishtar, was the goddess of love of the Phoenicians, the Chaldeans, Assyrians, etc., as Venus was of the Romans, and Aphrodite of the Greeks. Her cult was celebrated with great pomp in Babylon and in Nineveh. Her name in Maya would be Ixtal or Ixtac, a word composed of two Maya primitives—the feminine pronoun ix, “she,” and the verb tal or tac, "to feel the desire to do something cor
1 Rabbah would read in Maya Labal, the meaning of which is "to become old," "to age."
2 Joshua, chap. xix., verse 29. Jeremiah, chap. xxv., verse 22. José de Acosta, Historia Natural y Moral de las Indias, 1590.