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The Maize Tamale in Classic Maya Diet, Epigraphy, and Art

  • Karl A. Taube (a1)

Iconographic, epigraphic, and linguistic data provide new evidence that the tamale constituted the primary maize food of Classic Maya diet. Archaeological and ethnohistoric data pertaining to the tamale and tortilla are reviewed and discussed in terms of the widespread representation of the tamale in Classic Maya epigraphy and art. Iconographic forms of the tamale are isolated and compared with hieroglyphic signs. Glyphs T:14, 39, 86, 130, 135, 506, 507, 754, 577, 584, and 739 are identified as representations of the tamale. Affix T130 contains either of two tamale types, both possessing the phonetic value wa or wah in the ancient script. This syllable provides readings for the Postclassic water group, the action of standing, and an unusual emblem glyph possibly referring to a supernatural region. In addition, the two tamale forms of T130 provide partial readings for the Classic terms for the numbers six, eight, and the name glyph of God N. It is suggested that the tamale constituted an important offering in Classic ritual, and is a principal subject of 819-day cycle texts.

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American Antiquity
  • ISSN: 0002-7316
  • EISSN: 2325-5064
  • URL: /core/journals/american-antiquity
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