Mesoamerican Writing Systems


Book Details

Author  Joyce Marcus
Publisher  Princeton University Press
Publication Date   January 11, 1993
ISBN  0691094748
Pages  517

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This is an anthropological study of the role of hieroglyphic writing in the prehispanic Aztec, Mixtec, Zapotec, and Maya states. First, Joyce Marcus compares the four systems with regard to eight major themes: calendrics, the naming of nobles, the naming of places, royal marriages, accession to the throne, divine ancestors, warfare, and the rewriting of history. Then she establishes a new theoretical framework within which to conduct further analysis. Her basic contention is that ancient Mesoamerican writing was a tool used by an elite minority in their competition for positions of leadership, prestige, territory, tribute, and advantageous marriages. Marcus convincingly demonstrates that while it may have been based on actual persons and events, this body of prehistoric writing is a deliberately created tangle of what we could call propaganda, myth, and fact, written for political purposes, and not (as many contemporary scholars have come to believe) reliable "history" in a modern sense. "This is a major contribution. The scholarship is first-rate!"--Jeremy A. Sabloff, University of Pittsburgh "A brilliant work, carefully reasoned and effectively argued, but balanced and not overstated. The scholarship is truly outstanding. Joyce Marcus is one of the great Mesoamericanists of our generation."--E. Wyllys Andrews V, Tulane University "A masterful piece of work. We are in the presence of a tour de force."--Robert L. Carneiro, American Museum of Natural History

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