Maya Decipherment

Dr. David Stuart is one of the world’s leading Maya archaeologists and epigraphers. He is a professor at the University of Texas, Austin, specializing in the decipherment of Maya hieroglyphic texts. He is the son of George Stuart, archaeologist who devoted over 50 years to studying the Mayas, both ancient and living, and served the National Geographic Society as staff archaeologist. David went with his parents to Maya sites since early childhood, and began drawing copies of glyphs and learning their meaning. At 18 he became the youngest ever to receive a prestigious MacArthur Prize Fellowship for his work in “breaking” the Maya code, and his insights into reading glyphs contributed to the breakthrough sessions with Linda Schele during the Palenque “Mesas Redondas.” In these round table meetings in the 1970s sponsored by Merle Greene Robertson, the king list of rulers for the ancient site Palenque was deciphered. Young David, just 13 years old, astonished the assembled scholars with his insight and accuracy reading these complex glyphs. His illustrious career has continued with numerous contributions to continued nuances of hieroglyph reading. You can follow his work through his blog, Maya Decipherment.  

Dr. David Stuart


Maya Hieroglyphs


Maya Exploration Center

Founded by Dr. Edwin Barnhart, the Maya Exploration Center (MEC) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the study of ancient Maya civilization. MEC does this through travel courses, lecture series, and education programs teaching students, educators, and the general public about the ancient Maya, the survey and mapping of ruins hidden in the jungles of Mexico and Central America, the study of ancient Maya science, and the exploration and documentation of Maya architecture. In addition to archaeological investigation and teaching, the center seeks to support the illumination of ancient traditions still practiced among the modern Maya. In doing so, MEC aims to better understand the ancient ruins and celebrate the modern Maya as the descendants of one of the world’s great early civilizations. Dr. Barnhart headed the Palenque Mapping Project that discovered extensive ruins hidden under jungle overgrowth, extending understanding of how large this famous Classic Maya site was. He leads tours to Maya sites, teaches courses and workshops, and has made programs for The Great Courses. You can attend classes, take tours, study abroad and become a Research Member of MEC which gives you access to powerful research resources and the guidance of a panel of experts in the field of Mesoamerican studies. MEC publishes an annual Mayan Calendar with beautiful photos of Maya sites, with both Gregorian and Mayan dates.

Dr. Edwin Barnhart



Ed Barnhart leading El Mirador tour, 2015




Maya Elders Provide Indigenous Views

My research includes learning from contemporary Mayan elders.  Below I’m with two Mayan elder friends at Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico, in 2008.  Elder Hunbatz Men “entered the road” in 2016, the Maya way of saying he passed from this world dimension into the watery depths of Xibalba, the Maya Underworld. After a successful transit, in which he matches wits with the Death Lords and wins freedom from the Underworld, he joins the star ancestors and his spirit shines as twinkling starlight. Yum Hunbatz Men.


Manuel Xijum — Leonide (Lennie) Martin — Hunbatz Men

Manuel Xijum is a leader in the Grand Itza Council of Mayan Priests and Elders.  He does ceremonies both public and private, and I learned much about rituals by participating with him.  Hunbatz Men was also a member of the Itza Council, Maya Elder and Daykeeper-Shaman. He founded the Lol Be Maya Cultural and Ceremonial Center, taught internationally and conducted sacred tours to ancient Maya sites.  He was my major teacher in Mexico.  Studying with Hunbatz Men brought me to deep appreciation of how Mayas think, which is really different than “western scientific” thought.  Through him I took Solar Initiation, and became a Maya Fire Woman in the Itza Maya Tradition.  Without the insights I gained from him, I couldn’t write historical fiction novels about Mayan mysticism, their shamanic practices, and their expansive cosmovision.  Through many classes, conferences and personal sessions with Hunbatz, I learned more about Mayan calendars than any textbooks could teach.  Maestro Hunbatz, muchisimas gracias – thanks and appreciation beyond words.

Hunbatz Men – Lol Be Maya Ceremonial Center