CM . . .
. Volume VIII Number 15 . . . . March 29, 2002
Secrets in Stone: All About Maya Hieroglyphs.
Coulter. Illustrated by Sarah Jane English.
Markham, ON: Scholastic/Madison Press Books, 2001.
48 pp., pbk. & cloth, $9.99 (pbk.), $21.99 (cl.).
ISBN 0-439-98791-1 (pbk.), ISBN 0-439-98790-3 (cl.).
Mayan languages-Writing-Juvenile literature.
4-7 / Ages 9-12.
by Gail Hamilton.
During one fierce
battle, the Maya commander managed to kill the Spanish army's enormous
captain with a single blow of his club. Seconds later, he watched
in amazement as the dead warrior split in two. One half lay on the
ground, but the other half stood up and ran towards him, his sword
Tekun Uman had never seen a horse before. He thought the animal and
its rider were a single living thing. His mistake cost him his life.
historians, epigraphers and archaeologists from all over the world have
tried to decipher the messages in ancient Mayan hieroglyphs since 1839
when the lost cities of the Maya were discovered in Central America.
Markings on pyramids, temples and palaces, as well as on everyday household
items, provided clues, not only to Mayan history but also to the daily
life of the people. This book examines the thought process by which
countless codebreakers were able, over several years, to interpret the
symbols (numbers, letters and pictures) that were used by an ancient
civilization in order to communicate. Several contributions of the Maya
are featured, the calendar perhaps being the most notable. Other contributions
include the math concept of "zero," a writing system, chicle
used for chewing gum (hence "Chiclets") and rubber balls,
an invention which has influenced the development of games and sports
The text follows the codebreakers chronologically
as they piece together the puzzle of the hieroglyphs. Geometric patterned
borders on ochre-toned backgrounds lend an ancient flavor to the pages
and provide suitable backdrops for the plentiful colour illustrations
which include maps, drawings, diagrams, paintings and photographs. There
is also a section devoted to secret codes, games and activities for
readers to try. A "Glyphmaster," consisting of raised glyphs,
found on the back inside cover and end papers, will enable readers to
make rubbings for sending secret messages and making cards, signs, bookplates
and stelae (monuments telling one's name, age, family history, etc).
A glossary, index and a selected bibliography are also provided.
just for history buffs, this fascinating book, with its centuries-old
code-cracking mystery, will appeal to many readers.
Hamilton is a teacher-librarian at Bird's Hill School in East St. Paul,
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