You know about their temples, art, and even their 12/12/12 doomsday prediction, but how much do you know about the history of the Mayan language? The Maya civilization began in 2,000 B.C. and lasted for over three millennia until European conquistadors infiltrated their lands across Central America and exploited their resources. Dozens of ancient Mayan temples and palaces are now uncovered and drawing thousands of visitors each year to Guatemala. But what you may not know is that you’ve probably already come in contact with the legacy of the Mayans- their language.
An estimated 6 million people, all descendants of the Maya, speak ancient Mayan. Like many people, I believed that the majority of Central Americans spoke Spanish, but the reality is that there are over 20 Mayan dialects still spoken to this day. Huasteco, Kaqchikel, Mam, Q’echi’, and Tojol-a’b’al are just five modern sub-types of Mayan language.
It wasn’t until the 1950’s that Russian professor Yuri Valentinovich Knorosov proved the Mayans had a comprehensive writing system that included hieroglyphics, syllables, and numerals used in mathematical calculations.
I have been in Guatemala for almost 3 days now and I hear renditions of ancient dialects almost everywhere I go. It is fascinating to know that people are still communicating with the 5,000-year-old words of their ancestors.
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