For a people to lose their history is a tragedy; to recover it, a miracle.
For almost 2000 years, the ancient Maya of Central America recorded their history and ideas in an intricate and beautiful hieroglyphic script. Then, in the 16th century, Spanish invaders burned their books and ruthlessly extinguished hieroglyphic literacy. By the 18th century, when stone inscriptions were discovered buried in the jungles of Central America, no one on earth could read them. Breaking the Maya Code is the story of the 200-year struggle to unlock the lost secrets of this ancient civilization.
Based on archaeologist Michael Coe's book, called by The New York Times "one of the great stories of twentieth century scientific discovery", this amazing detective story is filled with false leads, rivalries and colliding personalities. It takes us from the jungles of Guatemala to the bitter cold of Russia, from ancient Maya temples to the dusty libraries of Dresden and Madrid.
The heroes of the story are an extraordinary group of men and women: linguists and mathematicians, artists and adventurers, archeologists and eccentrics - each finding a different piece of the puzzle. They include an English photographer, a German librarian, a Russian soldier, a California newspaperman, and an art teacher from Tennessee. An 18-year-old boy, immersed in the glyphs since early childhood, makes the final breakthrough.
The deciphered texts reveal an epic history of alliances and betrayals, powerful rulers, brilliant generals and sophisticated artist-scribes. They also unveil a world of kings and queens who shed and burned their blood to invoke the Vision Serpent, and an intricate cosmology that weaves together the lives of humans, the deeds of mythic heroes and the cycles of the planets and the stars. For the six million Maya living today the decipherment is a doorway to the past, uniting them with their own lost history and opening up an invaluable treasure for all of us.