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By Sue Bradford Edwards

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1 When linguist Yuri Valentinovich Knorosov examined the Mayan system in the 1950s, he discovered approximately 800 symbols. This was far too many for either type of alphabet, but not nearly enough for each symbol to represent a single word. 2 Knorosov knew written languages all use multiple types of symbols. indd 52 10/23/14 10:33 AM Hundreds of years after he wrote them, de Landa’s notes helped linguists decipher the Mayan alphabet. lived in the Yucatán in the 1500s. De Landa had asked local scribes to record what he believed to be the Mayan alphabet, though he was unable to understand it himself.

In the northern regions, there are no rivers, and rainfall is the only source of water. When rain erodes the stone and the ground collapses, sinkholes known as cenotes open up. Inside these massive holes, the Maya built stairs. They climbed up and down to reach a steady supply of water even during the dry season. The southern region is rich in rivers, which were important both for the water they provided and for trade purposes. Only when the population grew too large for the river to support them were the Maya forced to build reservoirs.

The Maya lined the area with stone slabs. They through this canal into a reservoir in the middle of the city. To prevent the water from draining away, covered the stone with black clay they collected from nearby wetlands, forming a waterproof coating. The people then extended a wall around the reservoir so it could hold even more water. 2 Cities were often built around cenotes. indd 32 10/23/14 10:32 AM CHAPTER 3 CITY-STATES W hen archaeologists write about the Maya and their cities, they are writing about a group of people who shared a common culture.

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Ancient Maya by Sue Bradford Edwards

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