Teotihuacan Writing:

Where are We Now?

Authors

  • Christophe Helmke University of Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Jesper Nielsen University of Copenhagen, Denmark

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.34314/vl.v55i2.4607

Keywords:

Mesoamerica, Writing Systems, Teotihuacan, Epigraphy, State of descipherment

Abstract


Teotihuacan, the great metropolis of the Central Mexican highlands, has often been characterized as a state without a writing system. This paper redresses this notion and provides an overview of the city’s writing system and weighs in on its state of decipherment. The corpus of texts is defined and outlined as are its media and contexts. The geographical distribution of the writing system is considered, identifying the localities that define the heartland of Teotihuacan writing and culture, as well as more distant sites and enclaves elsewhere in Mesoamerica where examples of Teotihuacan writing have been found. The temporal distribution is also appraised before going on to present the underlying graphic characteristics of the writing system, leading to an appraisal of the sign inventory, showing clear correspondences to other Mesoamerican logophonetic writing systems. A synopsis of previous work on the writing system is presented in a historical précis, before considering candidate languages of the script and features of the underlying language recorded in the writing system.

Author Biographies

Christophe Helmke, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Christophe Helmke (Ph.D.) is Associate professor of Native American Languages and Cultures at the Institute of Cross-cultural and Regional Studies, University of Copenhagen, Denmark. Trained as an archaeologist, his work focuses on Mesoamerican writing systems, researching the hieroglyphic writing of the ancient Maya, as well as that of Teotihuacan and the Epiclassic city-states of Central Mexico. Other research interests include the Pre-Columbian use of caves, as well as rock art and comparative Amerindian mythology.

Jesper Nielsen, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Jesper Nielsen (Ph.D.) Associate Professor of Native American Languages and Cultures at the Institute of Cross-cultural and Regional Studies, University of Copenhagen, Denmark. His research focuses on Mesoamerican iconography, epigraphy and religion, especially that of Maya, Teotihuacan and Epiclassic cultures of Central Mexico. He is also interested in the early Colonial era in Central Mexico and the Maya area, as well as research history in Mesoamerica.

Published

2021-09-24

Issue

Section

Journal Article