LINGUIST List 7.1389

Sun Oct 6 1996

Sum: Mayan Decipherment

Editor for this issue: Ljuba Veselinova <>


  1. "John O'Meara", Sum: Mayan Decipherment

Message 1: Sum: Mayan Decipherment

Date: Fri, 04 Oct 1996 08:58:51 EDT
From: "John O'Meara" <JOMEARACS-ACAD-LAN.LakeheadU.CA>
Subject: Sum: Mayan Decipherment

In a LINGUIST posting approximately six weeks ago I asked for
opinions about the critical position taken by Michael Coe in his
book 'Breaking the Maya Code' concerning the impact of Eric
Thompson (a leading figure in Mayan studies in the twentieth
century) on the decipherment of Mayan writing. I wanted to know
if Coe's negative assessment of Thompson's impact on the course
of decipherment was justified.

After submitting my posting I concluded that my use of the term
'diatribe' to describe some of Coe's tone in the book was not
appropriate, since his criticisms evidently could be severe but
justified. As well I failed to note that Coe does give Thompson
credit for his many positive contributions to Mayan studies.

My query did not elicit a large number of responses. A number of
respondents asked not to be cited publicly, and one even sent in
a contribution by postal mail rather than risk having comments
float around on electronic mail [his name is not listed below]!
Presumably this is a sensitive issue among people interested in
the topic.

Overall, the consensus was that Coe's critique was by and large
justified, even if severe. Several correspondents suggested that
Coe was perhaps 'overboard' in terms of his style of criticism,
or was not very diplomatic.

One correspondent suggested that Coe's rather negative assessment
of the state of Mayan decipherment (in which he suggests that
cross-disciplinary communication is rather poor and thus impeding
progress, Ch. 11) was not accurate.

Thanks to those who responded:

James L. Fidelholtz
Elin Danien
Peter Daniels
Gregg Kinkley
Rick McCallister rmccallisunmuw1.MUW.Edu
Richard Luxton

John O'Meara
Native Language Instructors' Program
Faculty of Education
Lakehead University
Thunder Bay, ON P7B 5E1
Phone: 807-343-8054
FAX: 807-346-7746
Web sites: (personal)
 (Native Languages)
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