Mesoamerican Writing Systems: Propaganda, Myth and History in Four Ancient Civilizations

Mesoamerican Writing Systems: Propaganda, Myth and History in Four Ancient Civilizations


By (author) Joyce Marcus

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  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Format: Hardback | 524 pages
  • Dimensions: 241mm x 264mm x 38mm | 1,950g
  • Publication date: 3 March 1993
  • Publication City/Country: New Jersey
  • ISBN 10: 0691094748
  • ISBN 13: 9780691094748
  • Illustrations note: 20 half-tones, 270 line drawings

Product description

This is an anthropological study of the role of hieroglyphic writing in the pre-hispanic 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. She 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.

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Review quote

"With her many years on the Maya and Zapotec as an ethnohistorian and archaeologist, Marcus is perhaps uniquely qualified to present a detailed comparative and synthetic treatment of all of these writing systems.... Marcus's own clear writing, the exhaustive comparative treatment, and the many illustrations will be greatly appreciated by Mesoamerican specialists desirous of owning a single authoritative reference on the different writing systems."--"Ethnohistory"