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Ancient Mayan Glyphs Detail Prominent Priest’s Life

December 29, 2009

The first Mayan hieroglyphic script dealing with the life of a high priest is now being studied by experts.

Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History said that the blood sacrifices and acts of penance are among the topics being studied.

The text of the script contains 260 glyphs carved into multiple seashell earrings and manta ray stingers found inside a burial urn. The urn also contained the remains of an important Mayan priest wrapped in bright red cloth. The urn was uncovered 11 years ago in Comalcalco, in southeastern Tabasco, according to the institute.

“It is the longest Maya hieroglyphic script ever found to date in Tabasco” and the first relating a high priest, instead of a Mayan ruler and his wives, INAH said. The ancient text covers fourteen years in the life of the Mayan priest who lived in the eighth century A.D. It includes references of blood sacrifices and acts of penance preceding the spring solstice.

Mayan priests used manta ray stingers to pierce their body in painful, bloodletting sacrifices to induce a state of hallucination in which they believed they were able to speak to their gods. Common piercing sites would have included the earlobes, forehead, tongue, and even the penis, as well as other areas of the body.

One of the glyphs referred to the equivalent modern date of January 31, 771. The Mayan dynasties thrived between 426 and 820 AD through much of Central America and southeastern Mexico. They were masters of architecture, astrology, and mathematics and utilized an extremely accurate calendar system.

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