Deciphering Aztec Hieroglyphs: A Guide to Nahuatl Writing (Hardcover)
A portal to the ancient hieroglyphic script of the Aztec Empire.
For more than three millennia the cultures of Mesoamerica flourished, yielding the first cities of the Western Hemisphere and developing writing systems that could rival those of the East in their creativity and efficiency. The Nahuatl-speaking Aztecs reigned over one of the greatest imperial civilizations the Americas had ever seen, and until now their intricate and visually stunning hieroglyphs have been overlooked in the story of writing. In this innovative volume Gordon Whittaker provides the reader with a step-by-step, illustrated guide to reading Aztec glyphs, as well as the historical and linguistic context needed to appreciate and understand this fascinating writing system. He also tells the story of how this enigmatic language has been deciphered and gives a tour through Aztec history as recorded in the richly illustrated hieroglyphic codices. This groundbreaking guide is essential reading for anyone interested in the Aztecs, hieroglyphs, or ancient languages.
About the Author
Gordon Whittaker is Fiebiger Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at the University of Göttingen, where he has held joint positions in the Institute of Ethnology and the Department of Romance Philology. He has written extensively on Aztec language, writing, and civilization.
"Deciphering Aztec Hieroglyphs is an exceptionally handsome volume, illustrated with a myriad of Nahuatl signs and symbols reproduced in brilliant colors and judiciously distributed across its pages. Whittaker writes with precision and wit, and through the cunning deployment of dry humor he does all he can to convey his enthusiasm for the subject. . . . He has provided what appears to be a new and largely untried method of entry into the world of the codices, and with it into Aztec history both before and after the conquest."
— New York Review of Books
"Extremely rewarding, this first handbook ever on Aztec writing is already a classic."
— Hispanic American Historical Review
"Whittaker’s study is grounded in a linguistic understanding of glyphic writing and provides insights into how to read Aztec glyphs that may once have seemed opaque, when only understood iconographically. His innovative transcriptive conventions highlight the flexibility and multimodality of the Aztec system. . . . Of great value to a range of readers. As a comprehensive overview of Aztec writing, it serves as an excellent foundational text for students."
— Early American Literature