Sacred Texts  Native American  Maya  Index  Previous  Next 

p. xi


Among the various avenues of approach to the investigation of Maya civilization, the study of the native literature of Yucatan is, next to the actual archæological exploration of the remains, one of the most promising, for it contains much of what the Indians remembered of their old culture after the Spanish Conquest.

The Books of Chilam Balam form the most important part of this native Maya literature. Written in the Maya language, they reflect more closely the thought of these Indians than any other records that have come down to us. Not only do they contain a wealth of historical and ethnological information invaluable to the student of the pre-Columbian career of the Maya, but they also furnish a record of the reactions of the native mind to the European culture and of the manner in which the latter was adapted to suit its new environment. It is hardly necessary to dwell upon the value of these old texts to the linguistic student.

The translation of the Book of Chilam Balam of Chumayel depends primarily upon the reading given to the badly punctuated and often misspelled Maya text, and such a reading is based upon an extensive comparison with other similar texts. The difficulties of translation are not to be underestimated, but they can be greatly lessened by such a comparison.

That I have been able to avail myself of the assistance afforded by the manuscripts of the Berendt Linguistic Collection, so often referred to in these pages, is due to the collaboration of the Museum of the University of Pennsylvania and to the kindness of Dr. Horace H. F. Jayne, Director, who has supplied me with the necessary photostats. Professor Alfred M. Tozzer, whose previous extensive survey of Maya literature was the indispensable preliminary to the present work, has given cordial assistance; both he and the Peabody Museum of American Archæology and Ethnology have cooperated generously with the loan of material necessary to the work. Mr. Frans Blom, Director, and the Department of Middle American Research of the Tulane University of Louisiana have kindly loaned photographs of Sixteenth Century Maya documents in their collection, which have proved most valuable in the study of the present text.

Dr. Sylvanus G. Morley has spent much time and thought in going over my manuscript and has offered many valuable suggestions as well as searching out and obtaining related material in Mexico and Yucatan. Mr. Thomas R. Johnson has undertaken the tedious task of copying the drawings in the Chumayel manuscript. Mr. Juan Martínez Hernández has again, as in the past, come to my aid in the elucidation of obscure phrases and badly written

p. xii

passages in the Maya text. Linguistic data furnished by Dr. Manuel J. Andrade and ethnological analogies suggested by Dr. Robert Redfield will be found acknowledged elsewhere in this book. The manner of editing the Maya text is that suggested by Professor Otis J. Todd, who has assisted me in adapting the methods of classical scholars to this newer field of endeavor. For a number of the text-figures, Alice P. Roys has made copies from photographs and other reproductions. To Librarian John Ridington and Assistant Librarian Dorothy Jefferd, I am indebted for the many facilities afforded by the Library of the University of British Columbia. Throughout the preparation of this work, Dr. Alfred V. Kidder has given generously of his time and attention to the practical problems involved in the task. To all these I wish to make grateful acknowledgment at this time.


March 30, 1932

Next: Contents