The Maya Chronicles - Brinton's Library Of Aboriginal American Literature, Number 1
Author: Various
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Transcriber's Note

A number of typographical errors and inconsistencies have been maintained in this version of this book. They have been marked with a [TN-#], which refers to a description in the complete list found at the end of the text. One error that was corrected is also listed at the end of the text.

Oe ligatures used in the original text have been expanded. The following codes are used for characters that are not able to be represented in the text format used for this version of the book.

[c] small open o [C] capital open o h h with stroke ŏ o with breve ŭ u with breve [k] tresillo




No. 1.







Reprinted from the edition of 1882, Philadelphia First AMS EDITION published 1969 Manufactured in the United States of America

Library of Congress Catalogue Card Number: 70-83457

AMS PRESS, INC. New York, N.Y. 10003





The belief that the only solid foundation for the accurate study of American ethnology and linguistics must be in the productions of the native mind in their original form has led me to the venturesome undertaking of which this is the first issue. The object of the proposed series of publications is to preserve permanently a number of rude specimens of literature composed by the members of various American tribes, and exhibiting their habits of thought, modes of expressions, intellectual range and aesthetic faculties.

Whether the literary and historical value of these monuments is little or great, they merit the careful attention of all who would weigh and measure the aboriginal mind, and estimate its capacities correctly.

The neglect of this field of study is largely owing to a deficiency of material for its pursuit. Genuine specimens of native literature are rare, and almost or quite inaccessible. They remain in manuscript in the hands of a few collectors, or, if printed, they are in forms not convenient to obtain, as in the ponderous transactions of learned societies, or in privately printed works. My purpose is to gather together from these sources a dozen volumes of moderate size and reasonable price, and thus to put the material within the reach of American and European scholars.

Now that the first volume is ready, I see in it much that can be improved upon in subsequent issues. I must ask for it an indulgent criticism, for the novelty of the undertaking and its inherent difficulties have combined to make it less finished and perfected than it should have been.

If the series meets with a moderate encouragement, it will be continued at the rate of two or three volumes of varying size a year, and will, I think, prove ultimately of considerable service to the students of man in his simpler conditions of life and thought, especially of American man.



Sec. 1. The Name Maya, p. 9. Sec. 2. The Maya Linguistic Family, p. 17. Sec. 3. Origin of the Maya Tribes, p. 20. Sec. 4. Political Condition at the Time of the Conquest, p. 25. Sec. 5. Grammatical Observations, p. 27. Sec. 6. The Numeral System, p. 37. Sec. 7. The Calendar, p. 50. Sec. 8. Ancient Hieroglyphic Books, p. 61. Sec. 9. Modern Maya Manuscripts, p. 67. Sec. 10. Grammars and Dictionaries, p. 72.



I. The Series of the Katuns, p. 89. Text, p. 95. Translation, p. 100. Notes, p. 106.

II. The Series of the Katuns, p. 136. Text, p. 138. Translation, p. 144. Notes, p. 150.

III. The Record of the Count of the Katuns, p. 152. Text, p. 153. Translation, p. 158. Notes, p. 163.

IV. The Maya Katuns, p. 165. Text, p. 166. Translation, p. 169. Notes, p. 173.

V. The Chief Katuns, p. 177. Text, p. 178. Translation, p. 180. Notes, p. 182.


Introductory, p. 189. Text, p. 193. Translation, p. 216. Notes, p. 242.






Sec. 1. The Name "Maya."

In his second voyage, Columbus heard vague rumors of a mainland westward from Jamaica and Cuba, at a distance of ten days' journey in a canoe.[9-1] Its inhabitants were said to be clothed, and the specimens of wax which were found among the Cubans must have been brought from there, as they themselves did not know how to prepare it.

During his fourth voyage (1503-4), when he was exploring the Gulf southwest from Cuba, he picked up a canoe laden with cotton clothing variously dyed. The natives in it gave him to understand that they were merchants, and came from a land called MAIA.[10-1]

This is the first mention in history of the territory now called Yucatan, and of the race of the Mayas; for although a province of similar name was found in the western extremity of the island of Cuba, the similarity was accidental, as the evidence is conclusive that no colony of the Mayas was found on the Antilles.[10-2] These islands were peopled by a wholly different stock, the remnants of whose language prove them to have been the northern outposts of the Arawacks of Guiana, and allied to the great Tupi-Guaranay stem of South America.

MAYA was the patrial name of the natives of Yucatan. It was the proper name of the northern portion of the peninsula. No single province bore it at the date of the Conquest, and probably it had been handed down as a generic term from the period, about a century before, when this whole district was united under one government.

The natives of all this region called themselves Maya uinic, Maya men, or ah Mayaa, those of Maya; their language was Maya than, the Maya speech; a native woman was Maya chuplal; and their ancient capital was Maya pan, the MAYA banner, for there of old was set up the standard of the nation, the elaborately worked banner of brilliant feathers, which, in peace and in war, marked the rallying point of the Confederacy.

We do not know where they drew the line from others speaking the same tongue. That it excluded the powerful tribe of the Itzas, as a recent historian thinks,[12-1] seems to be refuted by the documents I bring forward in the present volume; that, on the other hand, it did not include the inhabitants of the southwestern coast appears to be indicated by the author of one of the oldest and most complete dictionaries of the language. Writing about 1580, when the traditions of descent were fresh, he draws a distinction between the lengua de Maya and the lengua de Campeche.[12-2] The latter was a dialect varying very slightly from pure Maya, and I take it, this manner of indicating the distinction points to a former political separation.

The name Maya is also found in the form Mayab, and this is asserted by various Yucatecan scholars of the present generation, as Pio Perez, Crescencio Carrillo, and Eligio Ancona, to be the correct ancient form, while the other is but a Spanish corruption.[13-1]

But this will not bear examination. All the authorities, native as well as foreign, of the sixteenth century, write Maya. It is impossible to suppose that such laborious and earnest students as the author of the Dictionary of Motul, as the grammarian and lexicographer Gabriel de San Buenaventura, and as the educated natives whose writings I print in this volume, could all have fallen into such a capital blunder.[13-2]

The explanation I have to offer is just the reverse. The use of the terminal b in "Mayab" is probably a dialectic error, other examples of which can be quoted. Thus the writer of the Dictionary of Motul informs us that the form maab is sometimes used for the ordinary negative ma, no; but, he adds, it is a word of the lower classes, es palabra de gente comun. So I have little doubt but that Mayab is a vulgar form of the word, which may have gradually gained ground.

As at present used, the accent usually falls on the first syllable, Ma'ya, and the best old authorities affirm this as a rule; but it is a rule subject to exceptions, as at the end of a sentence and in certain dialects Dr. Berendt states that it is not infrequently heard as Ma'ya' or even Maya'.[14-1]

The meaning and derivation of the word have given rise to the usual number of nonsensical and far-fetched etymologies. The Greek, the Sanscrit, the ancient Coptic and the Hebrew have all been called in to interpret it. I shall refer to but a few of these profitless suggestions.

The Abbe Brasseur (de Bourbourg) quotes as the opinion of Don Ramon de Ordonez, the author of a strange work on American archaeology, called History of the Heaven and the Earth, that Maya is but an abbreviation of the phrase ma ay ha, which, the Abbe adds, means word for word, non adest aqua, and was applied to the peninsula on account of the scarcity of water there.[15-1]

Unfortunately that phrase has no such, nor any, meaning in Maya; were it ma yan haa, it would have the sense he gives it; and further, as the Abbe himself remarked in a later work, it is not applicable to Yucatan, where, though rivers are scarce, wells and water abound. He therefore preferred to derive it from ma and ha, which he thought he could translate either "Mother of the Water," or "Arm of the Land!"[15-2]

The latest suggestion I have noticed is that of Eligio Ancona, who, claiming that Mayab is the correct form, and that this means "not numerous," thinks that it was applied to the first native settlers of the land, on account of the paucity of their numbers![15-3]

All this seems like learned trifling. The name may belong to that ancient dialect from which are derived many of the names of the days and months in the native calendar, and which, as an esoteric language, was in use among the Maya priests, as was also one among the Aztecs of Mexico. Instances of this, in fact, are very common among the American aborigines, and no doubt many words were thus preserved which could not be analyzed to their radicals through the popular tongue.

Or, if it is essential to find a meaning, why not accept the obvious signification of the name? Ma is the negative "no," "not;" ya means rough, fatiguing, difficult, painful, dangerous. The compound maya is given in the Dictionary of Motul with the translations "not arduous nor severe; something easy and not difficult to do;" cosa no grave ni recia; cosa facil y no dificultosa de hacer. It was used adjectively as in the phrase, maya u chapahal, his sickness is not dangerous. So they might have spoken of the level and fertile land of Yucatan, abounding in fruit and game, that land to which we are told they delighted to give, as a favorite appellation, the term u luumil ceh, u luumil cutz, the land of the deer, the land of the wild turkey; of this land, I say, they might well have spoken as of one not fatiguing, not rough nor exhausting.

Sec. 2. The Maya Linguistic Family.

Whatever the primitive meaning and first application of the name Maya, it is now used to signify specifically the aborigines of Yucatan. In a more extended sense, in the expression "the Maya family," it is understood to embrace all tribes, wherever found, who speak related dialects presumably derived from the same ancient stock as the Maya proper.

Other names for this extended family have been suggested, as Maya-Kiche, Mam-Huastec, and the like, compounded of the names of two or more of the tribes of the group. But this does not appear to have much advantage over the simple expression I have given, though "Maya-Kiche" may be conveniently employed to prevent confusion.

These affiliated tribes are, according to the investigations of Dr. Carl Hermann Berendt, the following:—

1. The Maya proper, including the Lacandons.

2. The Chontals of Tabasco, on and near the coast west of the mouth of the Usumacinta.

3. The Tzendals, south of the Chontals.

4. The Zotzils, south of the Tzendals.

5. The Chaneabals, south of the Zotzils.

6. The Chols, on the upper Usumacinta.

7. The Chortis, near Copan.

8. The Kekchis, and

9. The Pocomchis, in Vera Paz.

10. The Pocomams. }

11. The Mams. }

12. The Kiches. }

13. The Ixils. } In or bordering on Guatemala.

14. The Cakchiquels. }

15. The Tzutuhils. }

16. The Huastecs, on the Panuco river and its tributaries, in Mexico.

The languages of these do not differ more, in their extremes, than the French, Spanish, Italian and other tongues of the so-called Latin races; while a number resemble each other as closely as the Greek dialects of classic times.

What lends particular importance to the study of this group of languages is that it is that which was spoken by the race in several respects the most civilized of any found on the American continent. Copan, Uxmal and Palenque are names which at once evoke the most earnest interest in the mind of every one who has ever been attracted to the subject of the archaeology of the New World. This race, moreover, possessed an abundant literature, preserved in written books, in characters which were in some degree phonetic. Enough of these remain to whet, though not to satisfy, the curiosity of the student.

The total number of Indians of pure blood speaking the Maya proper may be estimated as nearly or quite 200,000, most of them in the political limits of the department of Yucatan; to these should be added nearly 100,000 of mixed blood, or of European descent, who use the tongue in daily life.[19-1] For it forms one of the rare examples of American languages possessing vitality enough not only to maintain its own ground, but actually to force itself on European settlers and supplant their native speech. It is no uncommon occurrence in Yucatan, says Dr. Berendt, to find whole families of pure white blood who do not know one word of Spanish, using the Maya exclusively. It has even intruded on literature, and one finds it interlarded in books published in Merida, very much as lady novelists drop into French in their imaginative effusions.[20-1]

The number speaking the different dialects of the stock are roughly estimated at half a million, which is probably below the mark.

Sec. 3. Origin of the Maya Tribes.

The Mayas did not claim to be autochthones. Their legends referred to their arrival by the sea from the East, in remote times, under the leadership of Itzamna, their hero-god, and also to a less numerous, immigration from the west, from Mexico, which was connected with the history of another hero-god, Kukul Can.

The first of these appears to be wholly mythical, and but a repetition of the story found among so many American tribes, that their ancestors came from the distant Orient. I have elsewhere explained this to be but a solar or light myth.[20-2]

The second tradition deserves more attention from the historian, as it is supported by some of their chronicles and by the testimony of several of the most intelligent natives of the period of the conquest, which I present on a later page of this volume.

It cannot be denied that the Mayas, the Kiches and the Cakchiquels, in their most venerable traditions, claimed to have migrated from the north or west, from some part of the present country of Mexico.

These traditions receive additional importance from the presence on the shores of the Mexican Gulf, on the waters of the river Panuco, north of Vera Cruz, of a prominent branch of the Maya family, the Huastecs. The idea suggests itself that these were the rearguard of a great migration of the Maya family from the north toward the south.

Support is given to this by their dialect, which is most closely akin to that of the Tzendals of Tabasco, the nearest Maya race to the south of them, and also by very ancient traditions of the Aztecs.

It is noteworthy that these two partially civilized races, the Mayas and the Aztecs, though differing radically in language, had legends which claimed a community of origin in some indefinitely remote past. We find these on the Maya side narrated in the sacred book of the Kiches, the Popol Vuh, in the Cakchiquel Records of Tecpan Atitlan, and in various pure Maya sources which I bring forward in this volume. The Aztec traditions refer to the Huastecs, and a brief analysis of them will not be out of place.

At a very remote period the Mexicans, under their leader Mecitl, from whom they took their name, arrived in boats at the mouth of the river Panuco, at the place called Panotlan, which name means "where one arrives by sea." With them were the Olmecs under their leader Olmecatl, the Huastecs, under their leader Huastecatl, the Mixtecs and others. They journeyed together and in friendship southward, down the coast, quite to the volcanoes of Guatemala, thence to Tamoanchan, which is described as the terrestial[TN-1] paradise, and afterwards, some of them at least, northward and eastward, toward the shores of the Gulf.

On this journey the intoxicating beverage made from the maguey, called octli by the Aztecs, cii by the Mayas, and pulque by the Spaniards, was invented by a woman whose name was Mayauel, in which we can scarcely err in recognizing the national appellation Maya.[23-1] Furthermore, the invention is closely related to the history of the Huastecs. Their leader, alone of all the chieftains, drank to excess, and in his drunkenness threw aside his garments and displayed his nakedness. When he grew sober, fear and shame impelled him to collect all those who spoke his language, and leaving the other tribes, he returned to the neighborhood of Panuco and settled there permanently.[23-2]

The annals of the Aztecs contain frequent allusions to the Huastecs. The most important contest between the two nations took place in the reign of Montezuma the First (1440-1464). The attack was made by the Aztecs, for the alleged reason that the Huastecs had robbed and killed Aztec merchants on their way to the great fairs in Guatemala. The Huastecs are described as numerous, dwelling in walled towns, possessing quantities of maize, beans, feathers and precious stones, and painting their faces. They were signally defeated by the troops of Montezuma, but not reduced to vassalage.[24-1]

At the time of the Conquest the province of the Huastecs was densely peopled; "none more so under the sun," remarks the Augustinian friar Nicolas de Witte, who visited it in 1543; but even then he found it almost deserted and covered with ruins, for, a few years previous, the Spaniards had acted towards its natives with customary treachery and cruelty. They had invited all the chiefs to a conference, had enticed them into a large wooden building, and then set fire to it and burned them alive. When this merciless act became known the Huastecs deserted their villages and scattered among the forests and mountains.[24-2]

These traditions go to show that the belief among the Aztecs was that the tribes of the Maya family came originally from the north or northeast, and were at some remote period closely connected with their own ancestors.

Sec. 4. Political Condition at the Time of the Conquest.

When the Spaniards first explored the coasts of Yucatan they found the peninsula divided into a number of independent petty states. According to an authority followed by Herrera, these were eighteen in number. There is no complete list of their names, nor can we fix with certainty their boundaries. The following list gives their approximate position. On the west coast, beginning at the south—

1. Acalan, on the Bahia de Terminos. 2. Tixchel (or Telchac?) 3. Champoton (Chakanputun, or Potonchan). 4. Kinpech (Campech or Campeche). 5. Canul (Acanul or H' Canul). 6. Hocabaihumun. 7. Cehpech, in which Merida was founded. 8. Zipatan, on the northwest coast.

On the east coast, beginning at the north—

9. Choaca, near Cape Cotoche. 10. Ekab, opposite the Island of Cozumel. 11. Conil, or of the Cupuls.[TN-3] 13. Bakhalal, or Bacalar. 14. Chetemal. 15. Taitza, the Peten district.

Central provinces—

16. H' Chel (or Ah Kin Chel) in which Itzamal was located. 17. Zotuta, of the Cocoms. 18. Mani, of the Xius. 19. Cochuah (or Cochva, or Cocola), the principal town of which was Ichmul.

As No. 15, the Peten district, was not conquered by the Spaniards until 1697, it was doubtless not included in the list drawn up by Herrera's authority, so that the above would correspond with his statement.

Each of these provinces was ruled by a hereditary chief, who was called batab, or batabil uinic (uinic=man). He sometimes bore two names, the first being that of his mother, the second of his father, as Can Ek, in which Can was from the maternal, Ek from the paternal line. The surname (kaba) descended through the male. It was called hach kaba, the true name, or hool kaba, the head name. Much attention was paid to preserving the genealogy, and the word for "of noble birth" was ah kaba, "he who has a name."

Each village of a province was organized under a ruler, who was styled halach uinic, the true or real man. Frequently he was a junior member of the reigning family. He was assisted by a second in command, termed ah kulel, as a lieutenant, and various subordinate officials, whose duties will be explained in the notes to Nakuk Pech's narrative.

Personal tenure of land did not exist. The town lands were divided out annually among the members of the community, as their wants required, the consumption of each adult being calculated at twenty loads (of a man) of maize each year, this being the staple food.[27-1]

Sec. 5. Grammatical Observations.

Compared with many American languages, the Maya is simple in construction. It is analytic rather than synthetic; most of its roots are monosyllables or dissyllables, and the order of their arrangement is very similar to that in English. It has been observed that foreigners, coming to Yucatan, ignorant of both Spanish and Maya, acquire a conversational knowledge of the latter more readily than of the former.[28-1]

An examination of the language explains this. Neither nouns nor adjectives undergo any change for gender, number or case. Before animate nouns the gender may be indicated by the prefixes ah and ix, equivalent to the English he and she in such expressions as he-bear, she-bear. The plural particle is ob, which can be suffixed to animate nouns, but is in fact the third person plural of the personal pronoun.

The conjugations of the verbs are four in number. All passives and neuters end in l, and also a certain number of active verbs; these form the first conjugation, while the remaining three are of active verbs only. The time-forms of the verb are three, the present, the aorist, and the future. Taking the verb nacal, to ascend, these forms are nacal, naci, nacac. The present indicative is:—

Nacal in cah, I ascend. Nacal a cah, thou ascendest. Nacal u cah, he ascends. Nacal c cah, we ascend. Nacal a cah ex, you ascend. Nacal u cah ob, they ascend.

When this form is analyzed, we discover that in, a, u, c, a-ex, u-ob, are personal possessive pronouns, my, thy, his, our, your, their; and that nacal and cah are in fact verbal nouns standing in apposition. Cah, which is the sign of the present tense, means the doing, making, being occupied or busy at something. Hence nacal in cah, I ascend, is literally "the ascent, my being occupied with." The imperfect tense is merely the present with the additional verbal noun cuchi added, as—

Nacal in cah cuchi, I was ascending. Nacal a cah cuchi, Thou wast ascending. etc.

Cuchi means carrying on, bearing along, and the imperfect may thus be rendered:—

"The ascent, my being occupied with, carrying on."

This is what has been called by Friedrich Mueller the "possessive conjugation," the pronoun used being not in the nominative but in the possessive form.

The aorist presents a different mode of formation:—

Nac-en, (i.e. Naci-en) I ascended. Nac-ech, Thou ascended. Naci, He ascended. Nac-on, We ascended. Nac-ex, You ascended. Nac-ob, They ascended.

Here en, ech, on, ex, are apparently the simple personal pronouns I, thou, we, you, and are used predicatively. The future is also conjugated in this form by the use of the verbal bin, binel, to go:

Bin nacac en, I am going to ascend. Bin nacac ech, Thou art going to ascend. etc.

The present of all the active verbs uses this predicative form, while their aorists and futures employ possessive forms. Thus:—

Ten cambezic, I teach him. Tech cambezic, Thou teaches him. Lay cambezic, He teaches him.

Here, however, I must note a difference of opinion between eminent grammatical critics. Friedrich Mueller considers all such forms as—

Nac-en, I ascended,

to exhibit "the predicative power of the true verb," basing his opinion on the analogy of such expressions as—

Ten batab en, I (am) a chief.[31-1]

M. Lucien Adam, on the other hand, says:—"The intransitive preterit nac-en may seem morphologically the same as the Aryan as-mi; but here again, nac is a verbal noun, as is demonstrated by the plural of the third person nac-ob, 'the ascenders.' Nac-en comes to mean 'ascender [formerly] me.'"[31-2]

I am inclined to think that the French critic is right, and that, in fact, there is no true verb in the Maya, but merely verbal nouns, nomina actionis, to which the pronouns stand either in the possessive or objective relations, or, more remotely, in the possessive relation to another verbal noun in apposition, as cah, cuchi, etc. The importance of this point in estimating the structure of the language will be appreciated by those who have paid any attention to the science of linguistics.

The objective form of the conjugation is composed of the simple personal pronouns of both persons, together with the possessive of the agent and the particle ci, which conveys the accessory notion of present action towards. Thus, from moc, to tie:—

Ten c in moc ech, I tie thee, literally, I my present tying thee.

These refinements of analysis have, of course, nothing to do with the convenience of the language for practical purposes. As it has no dual, no inclusive and exclusive plurals, no articles nor substantive verb, no transitions, and few irregular verbs, its forms are quickly learned. It is not polysynthetic, at any rate, not more so than French, and its words undergo no such alteration by agglutination as in Aztec and Algonkin. Syncopated forms are indeed common, but to no greater extent than in colloquial English. The unit of the tongue remains the word, not the sentence, and we find no immeasurable words, expressing in themselves a whole paragraph, such as grammarians like to quote from the Eskimo, Aztec, Qquichua and other highly synthetic languages.

The position of words in a sentence is not dissimilar from that in English. The adjective precedes the noun it qualifies, and sentences usually follow the formula, subject—verbal—object. Thus:—

Hemac cu yacuntic Diose, utz uinic. He who loves God, [is] good man.

But transposition is allowable, as—

Taachili u tzicic u yum uinic. Generally obeys his father, a man.

As shown in this last example, the genitive relation is indicated by the possessive pronoun, as it sometimes was in English, "John, his book;" but the Maya is "his book John," u huun Juan.

Another method which is used for indicating the genitive and ablative relations is the termination il. This is called "the determinative ending," and denotes whose is the object named, or of what. It is occasionally varied to al and el, to correspond to the last preceding vowel, but this "vocalic echo" is not common in Maya. While it denotes use, it does not convey the idea of ownership. Thus, u cheen in yum, my father's well, means the well that belongs to my father; but chenel in yum, my father's well, means the well from which he obtains water, but in which he has no proprietorship. Material used is indicated by this ending, as xanil na, a house of straw (xan, straw, na, house).

Compound words are frequent, but except occasional syncope, the members of the compound undergo no change. There is little resembling the incapsulation (emboitement) that one sees in most American languages. Thus, midnight, chumucakab, is merely a union of chumuc, middle, and akab, night; dawn, ahalcab, is ahal, to awaken, cab, the world.

While from the above brief sketch it will be seen that the Maya is free from many of the difficulties which present themselves in most American tongues, it is by no means devoid of others.

In its phonetics, it possesses six elements which to the Spaniards were new. They are represented by the signs:

ch, k, pp, th, tz, [c].

Of these the ch resembles dch, pronounced forcibly; the [c] is as dz; the pp is a forcible double p; and in the th the two letters are to be pronounced separately and forcibly. There remains the k which is the most difficult of all. It is a sort of palato-guttural, the only one in the language, and its sound can only be acquired by long practice.

The particles are very numerous, and make up the life of the language. By them are expressed the relations of space and time, and all the finer shades of meaning. Probably no one not to the manor born could render correctly their full force. Buenaventura, in his Grammar, enumerates sixteen different significations of the particle il.[35-1]

The elliptical and obscure style adopted by most native writers, partly from ignorance of the art of composition, partly because they imitated the mystery in expression affected by their priests, forms a serious obstacle even to those fairly acquainted with the current language. Moreover, the older manuscripts contain both words and forms unfamiliar to a cultivated Yucatecan of to-day.

I must, however, not omit to contradict formally an assertion made by the traveler Waldeck, and often repeated, that the language has undergone such extensive changes that what was written a century ago is unintelligible to a native of to-day. So far is this from the truth that, except for a few obsolete words, the narrative of the Conquest, written more than three hundred years ago, by the chief Pech, which I print in this volume, could be read without much difficulty by any educated native.

Again, as in all languages largely monosyllabic, there are many significations attached to one word, and these often widely different. Thus kab means, a hand; a handle; a branch; sap; an offence; while cab means the world; a country; strength; honey; a hive; sting of an insect; juice of a plant; and, in composition, promptness. It will be readily understood that cases will occur where the context leaves it doubtful which of these meanings is to be chosen.

These homonyms and paronyms, as they are called by grammarians, offer a fine field for sciolists in philology, wherein to discover analogies between the Maya and other tongues, and they have been vigorously culled out for that purpose. All such efforts are inconsistent with correct methods in linguistics. The folly of the procedure may be illustrated by comparing the English and the Maya. I suppose no one will pretend that these languages, at any rate in their present modern forms, are related. Yet the following are but a few of the many verbal similarities that could be pointed out:—

MAYA. ENGLISH. bateel, battle. chab, to grab, to take. hol, hole. hun, one. lum, loam. pol, poll (head). potum, a pot. pul, to pull, carry. tun, stone.

So with the Latin we could find such similarities as volah=volo, [c]a=dare, etc.

In fact, no relationship of the Maya linguistic group to any other has been discovered. It contains a number of words borrowed from the Aztec (Nahuatl); and the latter in turn presents many undoubtedly borrowed from the Maya dialects. But this only goes to show that these two great families had long and close relations; and that we already know, from their history, traditions and geographical positions.

Sec. 6. The Numeral System.

The Mayas had a mathematical turn, and possessed a developed system of numeration. It counted by units and scores; in other words, it was a vigesimal system. The cardinal numbers were:—

Hun, one. Ca, two. Ox, three. Can, four. Ho, five. Uac, six. Uuc, seven. Uaxac, eight. Bolon, nine. Lahun, ten. Buluc, eleven. Lahca, twelve. Oxlahun, thirteen. Canlahun, fourteen. Holhun, fifteen. Uaclahun, sixteen. Uuclahun, seventeen. Uaxaclahun, eighteen. Bolonlahun, nineteen. Hunkal, twenty.

The composition of these numerals from twelve to nineteen inclusive is easily seen. Lahun is apparently a compound of lah hun (sc. uinic), "it finishes one (man);" that is, in counting on the fingers. Lah means the end, to end, and also the whole of anything. Kal, a score, is literally a fastening together, a shutting up, from the verb kal, to shut, to lock, to button up, etc.

From twenty upward, the scores are used:—

Hun tu kal, one to the score, 21. Ca tu kal, two to the score, 22. Ox tu kal, three to the score, 23,

and so on up to

Ca kal, two score, 40.

Above forty, three different methods can be used to continue the numeration.

1. We may continue the same employed between 20 and 40, thus:—

Hun tu cakal, one to two score, 41. Ca tu cakal, two to two score, 42. Ox tu cakal, three to two score, 43,

and so on.

2. The numeral copulative catac can be used, with the numeral particle tul; as:—

Cakal catac catul, two score and two, 42. Cakal catac oxtul, two score and three, 43.

3. We may count upon the next score above, as:

Hun tu yoxkal, one on the third score, 41. Ca tu yoxkal, two on the third score, 42. Ox tu yoxkal, three on the third score, 43.

The last mentioned system is that advanced by Father Beltran, and is the only one formally mentioned by him. It has recently been carefully analyzed by Prof. Leon de Rosny, who has shown that it is a consistent vigesimal method.[40-1]

It might be asked, and the question is pertinent, and is left unanswered by Prof. Leon de Rosny, why hun tu kal means "one to the score," and hun tu can kal is translated, "one on the fourth score." This important shade of meaning may be given, I think, by the possessive u which originally belonged in the phrase, but suffered elision. Properly it should be,

Hun tu u can kal.

This seems apparent from other numbers where it has not suffered elision, but merely incorporation, as:—

Hun tu yox kal=hun tu u ox kal, 41. Hu tu yokal=hun tu u ho kal, 81.

This system of numeration, advanced by Beltran, appears to have been adopted by all of the later writers, who may have learned the Maya largely from his Grammar. Thus, in the translation of the Gospel of St. John, published by the Baptist Bible Translation Society, chap. II, v. 20; Xupan uactuyoxkal hab utial u mental letile kulnaa, "forty and six years was this temple in building;"[41-1] and in that of the Gospel of St. Luke, said to have been the work of Father Joaquin Ruz, the same system is followed.[41-2]

Nevertheless, Beltran's method has been severely criticised by Don Juan Pio Perez, who ranks among the ablest Yucatecan linguists of this century. He has pronounced it artificial, not in accordance with either the past or present use of the natives themselves, and built up out of an effort to assimilate the Maya to the Latin numeral system.

I give his words in the original, from his unpublished essay on Maya grammar.[42-1]

"Los Indios de Yucatan cuentan por veintenas, que llaman kal y en cierto modo tienen diez y nueve unidades hasta completar la primera veintena que es hunkal aunque en el curso de esta solo se encuentran once numeros simples, pues los nombres de los restantes se forman de los de la primera decena.

"Para contar de una a otra veintena los numeros fraccionarios o las diez y nueve unidades, terminadas por la particula tul o su sincopa tu,[42-2] se juntan antepuestas a la veintena espresada; por exemplo, hunkal, 20; huntukal, 21; catukal, 22; y huntucakal, 41; catucakal, 42; oxtucankal, 83; cantuhokal, 140, etc.

"El Padre Fr. Beltran de Santa Rosa, como puede verse en su Arte de Lengua Maya, formo un sistema distinto a este desde la 2 veintena hasta la ultima, pues para espresar las unidades entre este y la 3 veintena pone a esta terminandolas y por consiguiente rebajandole su valor por solo su anteposicion a dichas unidades fraccionarias, y asi para espresar el numero 45 por ejemplo dice ho tu yoxkal, cuando oxkal o yoxkal significa 60.

"No se de donde tomo los fundamentos en que se apoya este sistema, quiza en el uso de su tiempo, que no ha llegado hasta este; aunque he visto en varios manuscritos antiguos, que los Indios de entonces como los de ahora, usaban el sistema que indico, y espresaban las unidades integras que numeraban, y para espresar el numero 65 dicen; Oxkal catac hotul u hotu oxkal, que usa el Padre Beltran por 45.[43-1]

"Mas el metodo que explico esta apoyado en el uso y aun en el curso que se advierte en la 1 y 2 veintena e indican que asi deben continuar las decenas hasta la 20 y no formar sistemas confusos que por ser mas o menos analogos a la numeracion romana lo juzgaban mas o menos perfectos, porque la consideraban como un tipo a que debia arreglarse cualquiera otra lengua, cuando en ellas todo lo que no este conforme con el uso recibido y corriente, es construir castillos en el aire y hacer reformas que por mas ingeniosas que sean, no pasan de inoficiosas."

In the face of this severe criticism of Father Beltran's system, I cannot explain how it is that in Pio Perez's own Dictionary of the Maya, the numerals above 40 are given according to Beltran's system; and that this was not the work of the editors of that volume (which was published after his death), is shown by an autographic manuscript of his dictionary in my possession, written about 1846,[44-1] in which also the numerals appear in Beltran's form.

Three other manuscript dictionaries in my collection, all composed previous to 1690, affirm the system of Beltran, and I am therefore obliged to believe that it was authentic and current among the natives long before white scholars began to dress up their language in the ill-fitting garments of Aryan grammar.

Proceeding to higher numbers, it is interesting to note that they also proceed on the vigesimal system, although this has not heretofore been distinctly shown. The ancient computation was:

20 units = one kal = 20 20 kal = one bak = 400 20 bak = one pic = 8,000 20 pic = one calab = 160,000 20 calab = one kinchil or tzotzceh = 3,200,000 20 kinchil = one alau = 64,000,000

This ancient system was obscured by the Spaniards using the word pic to mean 1000 and kinchil to mean 1,000,000, instead of their original significations.

The meaning of kal, I have already explained to be a fastening together, a package, a bundle. Bak, as a verb, is to tie around and around with a network of cords; pic is the old word for the short petticoat worn by the women, which was occasionally used as a sac. If we remember that grains of corn or of cacao were what were generally employed as counters, then we may suppose these were measures of quantity. The word kal (qal), in Kiche means a score and also specifically 20 grains of cacao; bak in Cakchiquel means a corn-cob, and as a verb to shell an ear of corn, but I am not clear of any connection between this and the numeral. Other meanings of bak in Maya are "meat" and the partes pudendas of either sex.

Calab, seems to be an instrumental form from cal, to stuff, to fill full.[45-1] The word calam is used in the sense of excessive, overmuch. In Cakchiquel the phrase mani hu cala, not (merely) one cala, is synonymous with mani hu chuvi, not (merely) one bag or sack, both meaning a countless number.[46-1] In that dialect the specific meaning of cala is 20 loads of cacao beans.[46-2]

The term tzotzceh means deerskin, but for kinchil and alau, I have found no satisfactory derivation that does not strain the forms of the word too much. I would, however, suggest one possible connection of meaning.

In kinchil, we have the word kin, day; in alau, the word u month, and in the term for mathematical infinity, hunhablat, we find hun haab, one year, just as in the related expression, hunhablazic, which signifies that which lasts a whole year. If this suggestion is well grounded, then in these highest expressions of quantity (and I am inclined to think that originally hun hablat, one hablat=20 alau) we have applications of the three time periods, the day, the month, and the year, with the figurative sense that the increase of one over the other was as the relative lengths of these different periods.

I think it worth while to go into these etymologies, as they may throw some light on the graphic representation of the numerals in the Maya hieroglyphics. It is quite likely that the figures chosen to represent the different higher units would resemble the objects which their names literally signify. The first nineteen numerals were written by a combination of dots and lines, examples of which we find in abundance in the Codex Troano and other manuscripts. The following explanation of it is from the pen of a native writer in the last century:—

"Yantac thun yetel paiche tu pachob, he hunppel thune hunppel bin haabe, uaix cappele cappel bin haabe, uaix oxppel thuun, ua canppel thuune, canppel binbe, uaix oxppel thuun baixan; he paichee yan yokol xane, ua hunppel paichee, hoppel haab bin; ua cappel paichee lahunppiz bin; uaix hunppel paichee yan yokol xane, ua yan hunppel thuune uacppel bin be; uaix cappel thuune yan yokol paichee uucppel bin be; ua oxppel thuun yan yokole, uaxppel binbe; uaixcanppel thun yan yokole paichee (bolonppel binbe); yanix thun yokol (cappel) paichee buluc piz; uaix cappel thune lahcapiz; ua oxppel thuun, oxlahunpiz."

"They (our ancestors) used (for numerals in their calendars) dots and lines back of them; one dot for one year, two dots for two years, three dots for three, four dots for four, and so on; in addition to these they used a line; one line meant five years, two lines ten years; if one line and above it one dot, six years; if two dots above the line, seven years; if three dots above, eight; if four dots above the line, nine; a dot above two lines, eleven; if two dots, twelve; if three dots, thirteen."[48-1]

The plan of using the numerals in Maya differs somewhat from that in English.

In the first place, they are rarely named without the addition of a numeral particle, which is suffixed. These particles indicate the character or class of the objects which are, or are about to be, enumerated. When they are uttered, the hearer at once knows what kind of objects are to be spoken of. Many of them can be traced to a meaning which has a definite application to a class, and they have analogues in European tongues. Thus I may say "seven head of"—and the hearer knows that I am going to speak of cattle, or sheep, or cabbages, or similar objects usually counted by heads. So in Maya ac means a turtle or a turtle shell; hence it is used as a particle in counting canoes, houses, stools, vases, pits, caves, altars, and troughs, and some general appropriateness can be seen; but when it is applied also to cornfields, the analogy seems remote.

Of these numeral particles, not less than seventy-six are given by Beltran, in his Grammar, and he does not exhaust the list. Of these piz and pel, both of which mean, single, singly, are used in counting years, and will frequently recur in the annals I present in this volume.

By their aid another method of numeration was in vogue for counting time. For "eighty-one years," they did not say hutuyokal haab, but can kal haab catac hunpel haab, literally, "four score years and one year." The copulative catac is also used in adding a smaller number to a bak, or 400, as for 450, hun bak catac lahuyoxkal, "one bak and ten toward the third score." Catac is a compound of ca tac, ca meaning "then" or "and," and tac, which Dr. Berendt considered to be an irregular future of talel, to come, "then will come fifty," but which may be the imperative of tac (tacah, tace, third conjugation), which means to put something under another, as in the phrase tac ex che yalan cum, put you wood under the pot.

It will be seen that the latter method is by addition, the former by subtraction. Another variety of the latter is found in the annals. For instance, "ninety-nine years" is not expressed by bolonlahutuyokal haab, nor yet by cankal haab catac bolonlahunpel haab, but by hunpel haab minan ti hokal haab, "one single year lacking from five score years."

Sec. 7. The Calendar.

The system of computing time adopted by the Mayas is a subject too extensive to be treated here in detail, but it is indispensable, for the proper understanding of their annals, that the outlines of their chronological scheme be explained.

The year, haab, was intended to begin on the day of the transit of the sun by the zenith, and was counted from July 16th. It was divided into eighteen months, u (u, month, moon), of twenty days, kin (sun, day, time), each. The days were divided into groups of five, as follows:—

1. Kan. 6. Muluc. 11. Ix. 16. Cauac. 2. Chicchan. 7. Oc. 12. Men. 17. Ahau. 3. Cimi. 8. Chuen. 13. Cib. 18. Imix. 4. Manik. 9. Eb. 14. Caban. 19. Ik. 5. Lamat. 10. Ben. 15. E[c]nab. 20. Akbal.

The months, in their order, were:—

1. Pop. 2. Uo. 3. Zip. 4. Zo[c]. 5. Zeec. 6. Xul. 7. [C]e-yaxkin. 8. Mol. 9. Chen. 10. Yaax. 11. Zac. 12. Ceh. 13. Mac. 14. Kankin. 15. Moan. 16. Pax. 17. Kayab. 18. Cumku.

As the Maya year was of 365 days, and as 18 months of 20 days each counted only 360 days, there were five days intervening between the last of the month Cumku and the first day of the following year. These were called "days without names," xma kaba kin (xma, without, kaba, names, kin, days), an expression not quite correct, as they were named in regular order, only they were not counted in any month.

It will be seen, by glancing at the list of days, that this arrangement brought at the beginning of each year, the days Kan, Muluc, Ix and Cauac in turn, and that no other days could begin the year. These days were therefore called cuch haab, "the bearers of the years" (cuch, to bear, carry, haab, year), and years were distinguished as "a year Kan," "a year Muluc," etc., as they began with one or another of these "year bearers."

But the calendar was not so simple as this. The days were not counted from one to twenty, and then beginning at one again, and so on, but by periods of 13 days each. Thus, in the first month, beginning with 1 Kan, the 14th day of that month begins a new "week," as it has been called, and is named 1 Caban. Twenty-eight of these weeks make 364 days, thus leaving one day to complete the year. When the number of these odd days amounted to 13, in other words when thirteen years had elapsed, this formed a period which was called "the katun of days," kin katun, and by Spanish writers an "indiction."

It will be readily observed by an inspection of the following table, that four of these indictions, in other words 52 years, will elapse before a "year bearer" of the same name and number recommences a year.

___________ _1st year._ _14th year._ _27th year._ _40th year_[TN-5] - 1 Kan Muluc Ix Cauac 2 Muluc Ix Cauac Kan 3 Ix Cauac Kan Muluc 4 Cauac Kan Muluc Ix 5 Kan Muluc Ix Cauac 6 Muluc Ix Cauac Kan 7 Ix Cauac Kan Muluc 8 Cauac Kan Muluc Ix 9 Kan Muluc Ix Cauac 10 Muluc Ix Cauac Kan 11 Ix Cauac Kan Muluc 12 Cauac Kan Muluc Ix 13 Kan Muluc Ix Cauac. -

A cycle of 52 years was thus obtained in a manner almost identical with that of the Aztecs, Tarascos and other nations.

But the Mayas took an important step in advance of all their contemporaries in arranging a much longer cycle.

This long cycle was an application of the vigesimal system to their reckoning of time. Twenty days were a month, u or uinal; twenty years was a cycle, katun. To ask one's age the question was put haypel u katunil? How many katuns have you? And the answer was, hunpel katun, one katun (twenty years), or, hopel in katunil, I am five katuns, or a hundred years old, as the case might be.

The division of the katuns was on the principle of the Beltran system of numeration (see page 40), as,

xel u ca katun, thirty years. xel u yox katun, fifty years.

Literally these expressions are, "dividing the second katun," "dividing the third katun," xel meaning to cut in pieces, to divide as with a knife. They may be compared to the German dritthalb, two and a half, or "the third a half."[54-1]

The Katun of 20 years was divided into five lesser divisions of 4 years each, called tzuc, a word with a signification something like the English "bunch," and which came to be used as a numeral particle in counting parts, divisions, paragraphs, reasons, groups of towns, etc.[54-2]

These tzuc were called by the Spaniards lustros, from the Latin lustrum, although that was a period five years. Cogolludo says: "They counted their eras and ages, which they entered in their books, by periods of 20 years each, and by lustros of four years each. The first year they placed in the East [that is, on the Katun-wheel, and in the figures in their books], calling it cuch haab; the second in the West, called Hijx; the third in the South, Cavac; and the fourth, Muluc, in the North, and this served them for the Dominical letter. When five of the lustros had passed, that is 20 years, they called it a Katun, and they placed one carved stone upon another, cemented with lime and sand, in the walls of their temples, or in the houses of their priests."[55-1]

The historian is wrong in saying that the first year was called cuchhaab; that was the name applied to all the Dominical days, and as I have said, means "year bearer." The first year was called Kan, from the first day of its first month.

This is but one of many illustrations of how cautious we must be in accepting any statement of the early Spanish writers about the usages of the natives.

There is, however, some obscurity about the length of the Katun. All the older Spanish writers, without exception, and most of the native manuscripts, speak of it distinctly as a period of twenty years. Yet there are three manuscripts of high authority in the Maya which state that it embraced twenty-four years, although the last four were not reckoned. This theory was adopted and warmly advocated by Pio Perez, in his essay on the ancient chronology of Yucatan, and is also borne out by calculations which have been made on the hieroglyphic Codex Troano, by M. Delaporte, in France, and Professor Cyrus Thomas, in the United States.[56-1]

This discrepancy may arise from the custom of counting the katuns by two different systems, ground for which supposition is furnished by various manuscripts; but for purposes of chronology and ordinary life, it will be evident that the writers of the annals in the present volume adopted the Katun of twenty years' length; while on the other hand the native Pech, in his History of the Conquest, which is the last piece in the volume, gives for the beginning and the end of the Katun the years 1517-1541, and therefore must have had in mind one of twenty-four years' duration. The solution of these contradictions is not yet at hand.

This great cycle of 13 x 20=260 years was called an ahau Katun collectively, and each period in it bore the same name.

This name, ahau Katun, deserves careful analysis. Ahau is the ordinary word for chief, king, ruler. It is probably a compound of ah, which is the male prefix and sign of the nomen agentis, and u, collar, a collar of gold or other precious substance, distinguishing the chiefs. Katun has been variously analyzed. Don Pio Perez supposed it was a compound of kat, to ask, and tun, a stone, because at the close of these periods they set up the sculptured stone, which was afterwards referred to in order to fix the dates of occurrences.[57-1] This, however, would certainly require that kat be in the passive, katal or kataan, and would give katantun. Beltran in his Grammar treats the word as an adjective, meaning very long, perpetual.[57-2] But this is a later, secondary sense. Its usual signification is a body or batallion[TN-7] of warriors engaged in action. As a verb, it is to fight, to give battle, and thus seems related to the Cakchiquel [k]at, to cut, or wound, to make prisoner.[58-1] The series of years, ordered and arranged under a controlling day and date, were like a row of soldiers commanded by a chief, and hence the name ahau katun.

Each of these ahaus or chiefs of the Katuns was represented in the native calendars by the picture or portrait of a particular personage who in some way was identified with the Katun, and his name was given to it. This has not been dwelt upon nor even mentioned by previous writers on the subject, but I have copies of various native manuscripts which illustrate it, and give the names of each of the rulers of the Katuns.

The thirteen ahau katuns were not numbered from 1 upward, but beginning at the 13th, by the alternate numbers, in the following order:—

13, 11, 9, 7, 5, 3, 1, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2

Various reasons have been assigned for this arrangement. It would be foreign to my purpose to discuss them here, and I shall merely quote the following, from a paper I wrote on the subject, printed in the American Naturalist, Sept., 1881:—

"Gallatin explained them as the numerical characters of the days "Ahau" following the first day of each year called Cauac; Dr. Valentini thinks they refer to the numbers of the various idols worshiped in the different Ahaus; Professor Thomas that they are the number of the year (in the indiction of 52 years) on which the Ahau begins. Each of these statements is true in itself, but each fails to show any practical use of the series; and of the last mentioned it is to be observed that the objection applies to it that at the commencement of an Ahau Katun the numbers would run 1, 12, 10, 8, etc., whereas we know positively that the numbers of the Ahaus began with 13 and continued 11, 9, 7, 5, etc.

"The explanation which I offer is that the number of the Ahau was taken from the last day Cauac preceding the Kan with which the first year of each Ahau began—for, as 24 is divisible by 4, the first year of each Ahau necessarily began with the day Kan. This number was the "ruling number" of the Ahau, and not for any mystical or ceremonial purpose, but for the practical one of at once and easily converting any year designated in the Ahau into its equivalent in the current Kin Katun, or 52 year cycle. All that is necessary to do this is, to add the number of the year in the Ahau to the number of the year Cauac corresponding to this "ruling number." When the sum exceeds 52, subtract that number.

"Take an example: To what year in the Kin Katun does 10 Ahau XI (the 10th year of the 11th Ahau) correspond?

"On referring to a table, or, as the Mayas did, to a 'Katun wheel,' we find the 11th Cauac to be the 24th year of the cycle; add ten to this and we have 34 as the number of the year in the cycle to which 10 Ahau XI corresponds. The great simplicity and convenience of this will be evident without further discussion."

The important question remains, how closely, by these cycles, did the Mayas approximate to preserving the exact date of an event?

To answer this fairly, we should be sure that we have a perfectly authentic translation of their hieroglyphic annals. It is doubtful that we have. Those I present in this volume are the most perfect, so far as I know, but they certainly do not agree among themselves. Can their discrepancies be explained? I think they can in a measure (1) by the differing length of the katuns, (2) by the era assumed as the commencement of the reckoning.

It must be remembered that there was apparently no common era adopted by the Mayas; each province may have selected its own; and it is quite erroneous to condemn the annals off-hand for inaccuracy because they conflict between themselves.

Sec. 8. Ancient Hieroglyphic Books.

The Mayas were a literary people. They made frequent use of tablets, wrote many books, and covered the walls of their buildings with hieroglyphic signs, cut in the stones or painted upon the plaster.

The explanation of these signs is one of the leading problems in American archaeology. It was supposed to have been solved when the manuscript of Bishop Landa's account of Yucatan was discovered, some twenty years ago, in Madrid. The Bishop gave what he called "an A, B, C," of the language, but which, when applied to the extant manuscripts and the mural inscriptions, proved entirely insufficient to decipher them.

The disappointment of the antiquaries was great, and by one of them, Dr. Felipe Valentini, Landa's alphabet has been denounced as "a Spanish fabrication."[61-1] But certainly any one acquainted with the history of the Latin alphabet, how it required the labor of thousands of years and the demands of three wholly different families of languages, to bring it to its perfection, should not have looked to find among the Mayas, or anywhere else, a parallel production of human intelligence. Moreover, rightly understood, Landa does not intimate anything of the kind. He distinctly states that what he gives are the sounds of the Spanish letters as they would be transcribed in Maya characters; not at all that they analyzed the sounds of their words and expressed the phonetic elements in these characters. On the contrary, he takes care to affirm that they could not do this, and gives an example in point.[62-1] Dr. Valentini, therefore, was attacking a windmill, and entirely misconstrued the Bishop's statements.

I shall not, in this connection, enter into a discussion of the nature of these hieroglyphics. It is enough for my purpose to say that they were recognized by the earliest Spanish explorers as quite different from those of Mexico, and as the only graphic system on the continent, so far as they knew it, which merited the name of writing.[62-2]

The word for book in Maya is huun, a monosyllable which reappears in the Kiche vuh and the Huasteca uuh. In Maya this initial h is almost silent and is occasionally dropped, as yuunil Dios, the book of God (syncopated form of u huunil Dios, the suffix il being the "determinative" ending). I am inclined to believe that huun is merely a form of uoohan, something written, this being the passive participle of uooh, to write, which, as a noun, also means a character, a letter.[63-1]

Another name for their books, especially those containing the prophecies and forecasts of the priestly diviners, is said to have been anahte; or analte. This word is not to be found in any of the early dictionaries. The usual authority for it is Villagutierre Sotomayor, who describes these volumes as they were seen among the Itzas of Lake Peten, about 1690.[64-1]

These books consisted of one long sheet of a kind of paper made by macerating and beating together the leaves of the maguey, and afterwards sizing the surface with a durable white varnish. The sheet was folded like a screen, forming pages about 9 x 5 inches. Both sides were covered with figures and characters painted in various brilliant colors. On the outer pages boards were fastened, for protection, so that the completed volume had the appearance of a bound book of large octavo size.

Instead of this paper, parchment was sometimes used. This was made from deerskins, thoroughly cured and also smoked, so that they should be less liable to the attacks of insects. A very durable substance was thus obtained, which would resist most agents of destruction, even in a tropical climate. Twenty-seven rolls of such parchment, covered with hieroglyphics, were among the articles burned by Bishop Landa, at Mani, in 1562, in a general destruction of everything which related to the ancient life of the nation. He himself says that he burned all that he could lay his hands upon, to the great distress of the natives.[65-1]

A very few escaped the destructive bigotry of the Spanish priests. So far as known these are.—

1. The Codex Tro, or Troano, in Madrid, published by the French government, in 1869.

2. What is believed to be the second part of the Codex Troano, now (1882) in process of publication in Paris.

3. The Codex Peresianus, in the National Library, Paris, a very limited edition of which has been issued.

4. The Dresden Codex, in Kingsborough's Mexico, and photographed in colors, to the number of 50 copies, in 1880, which is believed to contain fragments of two different manuscripts.

To these are, perhaps, to be added one other in Europe and two in Mexico, which are in private hands, and are alleged to be of the same character.

All the above are distinctly in characters which were peculiar to the Mayas, and which are clearly variants of those found on the sculptured beams and slabs of Uxmal, Chichen Itza, Palenque and Copan.

It is possible that many other manuscripts may be discovered in time, for Landa tells us that it was the custom to bury with the priests the books which they had written. As their tombs were at times of solid stones, firmly cemented together, and well calculated to resist the moisture and other elements of destruction for centuries, it is nowise unlikely that explorations in Yucatan will bring to light some of these hidden documents.

The contents of these books, so far as we can judge from the hints in the early writers, related chiefly to the ritual and calendar, to their history or Katuns, to astrological predictions and divinations, to their mythology, and to their system of healing disease.

Sec. 9. Modern Maya Manuscripts.

As I have said, the Mayas were naturally a literary people. Had they been offered the slightest chance for the cultivation of their intellects they would have become a nation of readers and writers. Striking testimony to this effect is offered by Doctor Don Augustin de Echano, Prebend of the Cathedral Church of Merida, about the middle of the last century. He observes that twelve years of experience among the Indians had taught him that they were very desirous of knowledge, and that as soon as they learned to read, they eagerly perused everything they could lay their hands on; and as they had nothing in their tongue but some old writings that treated of sorceries and quackeries, the worthy Prebend thought it an excellent idea that they should be supplied, in place of these, with some —— sermons![67-1] But what else could be expected of a body of men who crushed out with equal bigotry every spark of mental independence in their own country?

The "old writings" to which the Prebend alludes were composed by natives who had learned to write the Maya in the alphabet adopted by the early missionaries and conquerors. An official document in Maya, still extant, dates from 1542, and from that time on there were natives who wrote their tongue with fluency. But their favorite compositions were works similar to those to which their forefathers had been partial, prophecies, chronicles and medical treatises.

Relying on their memories, and no doubt aided by some of the ancient hieroglyphical manuscripts, carefully secreted from the vandalism of the monks, they wrote out what they could recollect of their national literature.

There were at one time a large number of these records. They are referred to by Cogolludo, Sanchez Aguilar and other early historians. Probably nearly every village had one, which in time became to be regarded with superstitious veneration.

Wherever written, each of these books bore the same name; it was always referred to as "The Book of Chilan Balam." To distinguish them apart, the name of the village where one was composed was added. Thus we have still preserved to us, in whole or in fragments, the Book of Chilan Balam of Chumayel, of Kaua, of Nabula, etc., in all, it is said, about sixteen.

"Chilan Balam" was the designation of a class of priests. "Chilan," says Bishop Landa, "was the name of their priests, whose duty it was to teach the sciences, to appoint holy days, to treat the sick, to offer sacrifices, and especially to utter the oracles of the gods. They were so highly honored by the people that usually they were carried on litters on the shoulders of the devotees."[69-1] Strictly speaking, in Maya, chilan means "interpreter," "mouth-piece," from "chij," "the mouth," and in this ordinary sense frequently occurs in other writings. The word balam—literally, "tiger,"—was also applied to a class of priests, and is still in use among the natives of Yucatan as the designation of the protective spirits of fields and towns, as I have shown at length in a study of the word as it occurs in the native myths of Guatemala.[70-1] "Chilan Balam," therefore, is not a proper name, but a title, and in ancient times designated the priest who announced the will of the gods and explained the sacred oracles. This accounts for the universality of the name and the sacredness of its associations.

The dates of the books which have come down to us are various. One of them, "The Book of Chilan Balam of Mani," was undoubtedly composed not later than 1595, as is proved by internal evidence. Various passages in the works of Landa, Lizana, Sanchez Aguilar and Cogolludo—all early historians of Yucatan—prove that many of these native manuscripts existed in the sixteenth century. Several rescripts date from the seventeenth century—most from the latter half of the eighteenth.

The names of the writers are generally not given, probably because the books, as we have them, are all copies of older manuscripts, with merely the occasional addition of current items of note by the copyist; as, for instance, a malignant epidemic which prevailed in the peninsula in 1673 is mentioned as a present occurrence by the copyist of "The Book of Chilan Balam of Nabula."

These "Books of Chilan Balam" are the principal sources from which Senor Pio Perez derived his knowledge of the ancient Maya system of computing time, and also drew what he published concerning the history of the Mayas before the Conquest, and from them also are taken the various chronicles which I present in the present volume.

That I am enabled to do so is due to the untiring researches of Dr. Carl Hermann Berendt, who visited Yucatan four times, in order to study the native language, to examine the antiquities of the peninsula, and to take accurate copies, often in fac-simile, of as many ancient manuscripts as he could discover. After his death, his collection came into my hands.

The task of deciphering these manuscripts is by no means a light one, and I must ask in advance for considerable indulgence for my attempt. Words and phrases are used which are not explained in the dictionaries, or, if explained, are used in a different sense from that now current. The orthography is far from uniform, each syllable is often written separately, and as the punctuation is wholly fanciful or entirely absent, the separation of words, sentences and paragraphs is often uncertain and the meaning obscure.

Another class of documents are the titles to the municipal lands, the records of surveys, etc. I have copies of several of these, and among them was found the history of the Conquest, by Nakuk Pech, which I publish. It was added to the survey of his town, as a general statement of his rights and defence of the standing of his family.

My translations are not in flowing and elegant language. Had they been so, they would not have represented the originals. For the sake of accuracy I have not hesitated to sacrifice the requirements of English composition.

Sec. 10. Grammars and Dictionaries of the Language.

The learned Yucatecan, Canon Crescencio Carillo y Ancona, states in his last work that there have been written thirteen grammars and seventeen dictionaries of the Maya.[72-1]

The first grammar printed was that of Father Luis de Villalpando. This early missionary died in 1551 or 1552, and his work was not issued until some years later. Father Juan Coronel also gave a short Maya grammar to the press, together with a Doctrina. It is believed that copies of both of these are preserved. Beltran, however, acknowledges that in preparing his own grammar he has never seen either of these earlier works.[73-1]

In 1684, the Arte de la Lengua Maya, composed by Father Gabriel de San Buenaventura, a French Franciscan stationed in Yucatan, was printed in Mexico.[73-2] Only a few copies of this work are known. It has, however, been reprinted, though not with a desirable fidelity, by the Abbe Brasseur (de Bourbourg), in the second volume of the reports of the Mission Scientifique au Mexique et a l'Amerique Centrale, Paris, 1870.

The leading authority on Maya grammar is Father Pedro Beltran, who was a native of Yucatan, and instructor in the Maya language in the convent of Merida about 1740. He was thoroughly conversant with the native tongue, and his Arte was reprinted in Merida, in 1859, as the best work of the kind which had been produced.[74-1]

The eminent antiquary, Don Juan Pio Perez contemplated writing a Maya grammar, and collected a number of notes for that purpose,[74-2] as did also the late Dr. Berendt, but neither brought his work to any degree of completeness. I have copies of the notes left by both these diligent students, as also both editions of Beltran, and an accurate MS. copy of Buenaventura, from all of which I have derived assistance in completing the present study.

The first Maya dictionary printed was issued in the City of Mexico in 1571. It was published as that of Father Luis de Villalpando, but as he had then been dead nearly twenty years, it was probably merely based upon his vocabulary. It was in large 4to, of the same size as the second edition of Molina's Vocabulario de la Lengua Mexicana. At least one copy of it is known to be in existence.

For more than three centuries no other dictionary was put to press, although for some unexplained reason that of Villalpando was unknown in Yucatan. At length, in 1877, the publication was completed at Merida, of the Diccionario de la Lengua Maya, by Don Juan Pio Perez.[75-1] It contains about 20,000 words, and is Maya-Spanish only. It is the result of a conscientious and lifelong study of the language, and a work of great merit. The deficiencies it presents are, that it does not give the principal parts of the verbs, that it omits or does not explain correctly many old terms in the language, and that it gives very few examples of idioms or phrases showing the uses of words and the construction of sentences.

I can say little in praise of the Vocabulaire Maya-Francais-Espagnole, compiled by the Abbe Brasseur (de Bourbourg), and printed in the second volume of the Report of the Mission Scientifique au Mexique et a l'Amerique Centrale. It contains about ten thousand words, but many of these are drawn from doubtful sources, and are incorrectly given; while the derivations and analogies proposed are of a character unknown to the science of language.

Besides the above and various vocabularies of minor interest, I have made use of three manuscript dictionaries of the first importance, which were obtained by the late Dr. Berendt. They belonged to three Franciscan convents which formerly existed in Yucatan, and as they are all anonymous, I shall follow Dr. Berendt's example, and refer to them by the names of the convents to which they belonged. These were the convent of San Francisco in Merida, that at the town of Ticul and that at Motul.

The most recent of these is that of the convent of Ticul. It bears the date 1690, and is in two parts, Spanish-Maya and Maya-Spanish.

The Diccionario del Convento de San Francisco de Merida bears no date, but in the opinion of the most competent scholars who have examined it, among them Senor Pio Perez, it is older than that of Ticul, probably by half a century. It is also in two parts, which have evidently been prepared, by different hands.

The Diccionario del Convento de Motul is by far the most valuable of the three, and has not been known to Yucatecan scholars. A copy of it was picked up on a book stall in the City of Mexico by the Abbe Brasseur, and sold by him to Mr. John Carter Brown, of Providence, R. I. In 1864 this was very carefully copied by Dr. Berendt, who also made extensive additions to it from other sources, indicating such by the use of inks of different colors. This copy, in three large quarto volumes, in all counting over 2500 pages, is that which I now have, and have found of indispensable assistance in solving some of the puzzles presented by the ancient texts in the present volume.

The particular value of the Diccionario de Motul is not merely the richness of its vocabulary and its numerous examples of construction, but that it presents the language as it was when the Spaniards first arrived. The precise date of its compilation is indeed not given, but the author speaks of a comet which he saw in 1577, and gives other evidence that he was writing in the first generation after the Conquest.


[9-1] "Tambien diz [el Almirante] que supo que ... aquella isla Espanola o la otra isla Jamaye estaba cerca de tierra firme, diez jornadas de Canoa que podia ser sesenta a setenta leguas, y que era la gente vestida alli." Navarrete, Viages, Tom. I, pag. 127.

[10-1] "In questo loco pigliorono una Nave loro carica di mercantia et merce la quale dicevono veniva da una cierta provintia chiamata MAIAM vel Iuncatam con molte veste di bambasio de le quale ne erono il forcio di sede di diversi colori." Informatione di Bartolomeo Colombo. It is thus printed in Harisse, Bibliotheca Americana Vetustissima, p. 473; but in the original MS. in the Magliabechian library the words "vel Iuncatam" are superscribed over the word "MAIAM," and do not belong to the text. (Note of Dr. C. H. Berendt.) They are, doubtless, a later gloss, as the name "Yucatan" cannot be traced to any such early date. The mention of silk is, of course, a mistake. Peter Martyr also mentions the name in his account of the fourth voyage: "Ex Guaassa insula et Taia Maiaque et cerabazano, regionibus Veraguae occidentalibus scriptum reliquit Colonus, hujus inventi princeps," etc. Decad. III, Lib. IV.

[10-2] I have collected this evidence, drawing largely from the manuscript works on the Arawack language left by the Moravian missionary, the Rev. Theodore Schultz, and published it in a monograph, entitled: The Arawack Language of Guiana in its Linguistic and Ethnological Relations. (Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, 1871.) There was a province in Cuba named Maiye; see Nicolas Fort y Roldan, Cuba Indigena, pp. 112, 167 (Madrid, 1881). According to Fort, this meant "origin and beginning," in the ancient language of Cuba; but there is little doubt but that it presents the Arawack negative prefix ma (which happens to be the same in the Maya) and may be a form of majujun, not wet, dry.

[12-1] Eligio Ancona, Historia de Yucatan, Tom. I, p. 31 (Merida, 1878).

[12-2] Diccionario Maya-Espanol del Convento de Motul. MS. Sub voce, ichech. The manuscript dictionaries which I use will be described in the last section of this Introduction. The example given is:—

"ICHECH; tu eres, en lengua de Campeche; ichex, vosotros seis; in en, yo soy; in on, nosotros somos. De aqui sale en lengua de Maya, tech cech ichech e, tu que eres por ahi quien quiera," etc.

[13-1] See Eligio Ancona, Hist. de Yucatan, Tom. I, p. 37.

[13-2] "MAYA (accento en la primera); nombre proprio de esta tierra de Yucatan." Diccionario de Motul, MS. "Una provincia que llamavan de la Maya, de la qual la lengua de Yucatan se llama Mayathan." Diego de Landa, Relacion de las Cosas de Yucatan, p. 14. "Esta tierra de Yucatan, a quien los naturales llaman Ma'ya," Cogolludo, Historia de Yucatan, Lib. IV, Cap. III. "El antiguo Reyno de Maya o Mayapan que hoy se llama Yucatan." Villagutierre, Historia de el Itza y de el Lacandon, p. 25. The numerous MSS. of the Books of Chilan Balam are also decisive on this point.

[14-1] Nombres Geograficos en Lengua Maya, folio, MS. in my collection.

[15-1] Note to Landa, Rel. de las Cosas de Yucatan, p. 14.

[15-2] Vocabulaire Maya-Francais-Espagnole, sub voce, MAYA.

[15-3] Hist. de Yucatan, p. 37.

[19-1] A discussion of the items of the census of 1862 may be found in the work of the Licentiate Apolinar Garcia y Garcia, Historia de la Guerra de Castas de Yucatan, Tomo I, Prologo, pp. lxvii, et seq. (Merida 1865.) The completion of this meritorious work was unfortunately prevented by the war. The author was born near Chan [C]enote, Yucatan, in 1837, and was appointed Juez de Letras at Izamal in 1864.

[20-1] See, for example, El Toro de Sinkeuel, Leyenda Hipica (Merida, 1856), a political satire, said to be directed against General Ampudia, by Manuel Garcia.

[20-2] D. G. Brinton, The Myths of the New World; a Treatise on the Symbolism and Mythology of the Red Race of America, Chap. VI (2d Ed. New York, 1876).

[23-1] Maya-uel may be from maya and ohel, to know either intellectually or carnally; or the last syllable may be uol, will, desire, mind. This inventive woman would thus have been named "the Maya wit" (in the old meaning of the word).

[23-2] Sahagun, Historia de la Nueva Espana, Lib. X, Cap. XXIX, p. 12.

[24-1] Fray Diego Duran, Historia de las Indias de Nueva Espana y Islas de Tierra Firme, Cap. XIX (Ed. Mexico, 1867).

[24-2] See Lettre de Fray Nicolas de Witt (should be Witte), 1554, in Ternaux Compans, Recueil des Pieces[TN-2] sur le Mexique, p. 254, 286; also the report of the "Audiencia" held in Mexico in 1531, in Herrera, Historia de las Indias Occidentales, Dec. IV, Lib. IX, Cap. V.

[27-1] I mention this particularly in order to correct a grave error in Landa's Relacion de las Cosas de Yucatan, p. 130. He says, "Suelen de costumbre sembrar para cada casado con su muger medida de cccc pies que llaman hun-uinic, medida con vara de XX pies, XX en ancho y XX en largo." The agrarian measure uinic or hun uinic (one man) contained 20 kaan, each 24 yards (varas) square. One kaan was estimated to yield two loads of corn, and hence the calculation was forty loads of the staff of life for each family. Landa's statement that a patch 20 feet square was assigned to a family is absurd on the face of it.

[28-1] "La lengua castellana es mas dificultosa que la Maya para la gente adulta, que no la ha mamado con la leche, como lo ha ensenado la experiencia en los estranjeros de distintas naciones, y en los negros bozales que se han radicado en esta provincia, que mas facilmente han aprendido la Maya que la castellana." Apolinar Garcia y Garcia, Historia de la Guerra de Castas en Yucatan. Prologo, p. lxxv. (folio, Merida, 1865).

[31-1] Friedrich Mueller, Grundriss der Sprachwissenschaft, II Band, s. 309. (Wien, 1882).

[31-2] Lucien Adam, Etudes sur six Langues Americaines, p. 155. (Paris, 1878).

[35-1] Gabriel de San Buenaventura, Arte de la Lengua Maya, fol. 28 (Mexico, 1684).

[40-1] Memoire sur la numeration dans la langue et dans l'Ecriture sacree des anciens Mayas, in the Compte-Rendu of the Congres International des Americanistes, Vol. II, p. 439 (Paris, 1875).

[41-1] Leti u Ebanhelio Hezu Crizto hebix Huan, London, 1869. This translation was made by the Rev. A. Henderson and the Rev. Richard Fletcher, missionaries to the British settlements at Belize.

[41-2] Leti u Cilich Evangelio Jesu Christo hebix San Lucas. Londres, 1865. The first draught of this translation, in the handwriting of Father Ruz, with numerous corrections by himself, is in the library of the Canon Crescencio Carrillo at Merida. A copy of it was obtained by the Rev. John Kingdon of Belize, and printed in London without any acknowledgment of its origin. It does not appear to me to be accurate. For instance, chap. X, v. 1, "The Lord appointed other seventy also," where the Maya has xan lahcatu cankal, "seventy-two;" and again chap. XV, v. 4, the ninety-nine sheep are increased to bolon lahu uaxackal, one hundred and fifty-nine!

[42-1] Apuntes para una Gramatica Maya. Por Don Juan Pio Perez, MSS. pp. 126, 128.

[42-2] "Me parece que tu es sincopa de ti u." (Note of Dr. Berendt.) There is no doubt but that Dr. Berendt is correct.

[43-1] This is not correct. Beltran gives for 45, hotu yoxkal, which I analyze, ho ti u u ox kal.

[44-1] Apuntes del Diccionario de la Lengua Maya. Por un yucateco aficionado a la lengua, 4to, pp. 486, MSS.

[45-1] "CAL: hartar o emborrachar la fruta." Diccionario Maya-Espanol del Convento de San Francisco, Merida, MS. I have not found this word in other dictionaries within my reach.

[46-1] Calepino en Lengua Cakchiquel por Fray Francisco de Varea,[TN-4] MS. s. v. chuvi. This MS. is in the Library of the American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia.

[46-2] F. Pantaleon de Guzman, Compendio de Nombres en Lengua Cakchiquel, MS. This MS. is in my collection.

[48-1] Codice Perez, p. 92, MS. This is a series of extracts from various ancient Maya manuscripts obtained by the late distinguished Yucatecan antiquary, Don Juan Pio Perez, and named from him by Canon Crescencio Carrillo and other linguists. A copy of it is in my collection. It is in quarto, pp. 258.

[54-1] All the examples in the above paragraph are from the Appendix to the Diccionario Maya-Espanol del Convento de San Francisco, Merida, MS. It also gives its positive authority to the length of the katuns, as follows: "Dicese que los Indios contaban los anos a pares (sic), y cuando llegaba uno a veinte anos, entonces decian que tenian hunpel katun, que son veinte anos.'[TN-6] I think the words a pares, must be an error for a veintenas; they may mean "in equal series."

[54-2] The Diccionario de Motul MS. has the following lengthy entries:—

"TZUC: copete o coleta de cabellos; o de crines de caballo, o las barbas que echa el maiz por arriba estando en la mazorca; y la cabeza que tienen algunas hachas y martillos en contra del tajo, y la cabeza del horcon, y las nubes levantadas en alto y que dan que denotan segun dice tempestad de agua. Partes, enpartimientos. Cuenta para pueblos, para partes, parrafos i articulos, diferencios y vocablos montones."

[55-1] Historia de Yucatan, Lib. IV, cap. V.

[56-1] M. Delaporte's calculations are mentioned by Leon de Rosny, Essai sur le Dechiffrement de l'Ecriture Hieratique de l'Amerique Centrale, p. 25 (Paris, 1876); Professor Thomas' will be found in the American Naturalist, for 1881, and in his Study of the Codex Troano, Washington, 1882.

[57-1] Pio Perez, Cronologia Antigua de Yucatan. Sec. VIII.

[57-2] "Katun, para siempre." Beltran de Santa Rosa, Arte del Idioma Maya, p. 177.

[58-1] The following extracts from two manuscripts in my hands will throw further light on this derivation—

KATUN: espacio de veinte anos; hun katun, 20 anos; ca katun, 40 anos, etc.

KATUN: batallon de gente, ordenada de guerra y ejercito asi, y soldados cuando actualmente andan en la guerra.

KATUN (TAH, TE): guerrear, hacer guerra, o dar guerra.

KATUNBEN: el que tiene tantas venteinas de anos, segun el numeral que se le junta, hay katunben ech? cuantas venteinas de anos tienes tu? ca katunben en, tengo dos venteinas.


CAT (he): generalmente sig^a cortar algo con acha, cuchillo o hiera; detener algo que se huya, atajarlo, etc.

Varea, Calepino en Lengva[TN-8] Cakchiquel, MS., 1699.

[61-1] Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, 1880.

[62-1] The example he gives is the word le, which he says "para escrivirle con sus caracteres habiendoles nosotros hecho entender que son dos letras, lo escrivian ellos con tres," etc., thus plainly saying that they did not analyze the word to its phonetic radicals in their system. Relacion de las Cosas de Yucatan, p. 318.

[62-2] Las Casas says, with great positiveness, that they found in Yucatan "letreros de ciertos caracteres que en otra ninguna parte." Historia Apologetica, cap. CXXIII. I also add an interesting description of their books and letters, furnished by the companions of Father Alonso Ponce, the Pope's Commissary-General, who traveled through Yucatan in 1586, when many natives were still living who had been born before the Conquest (1541). Father Ponce had traveled through Mexico, and, of course, had learned about the Aztec picture-writing, which he distinctly contrasts with the writing of the Mayas. Of the latter he says: "Son alabados de tres cosas entre todos los demas de la Nueva Espana, la una de que en su antiguedad tenian caracteres y letras, con que escribian sus historias y las ceremonias y orden de los sacrificios de sus idolos y su calendario, en libros hechos de corteza de cierto arbol, los cuales eran unas tiras muy largas de quarta o tercia en ancho, que se doblaban y recogian, y venia a queder a manera de un libro encuardenada en cuartilla, poco mas, o menos. Estas letras y caracteres no las entendian, sino los sacerdotes de los idolos, (que en aquella lengua se llaman 'ahkines'), y algun indio principal. Despues las entendieron y supieron leer algunos frailes nuestros y aun las escribien." (Relacion Breve y Verdadera de Algunas Cosas de las Muchas que Sucedieron al Padre Fray Alonso Ponce, Comisario-General en las Provincias de la Nueva Espana, page 392). I know no other author who makes the interesting statement that these characters were actually used by missionaries to impart instruction to the natives.

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