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Breaking the Maya Code (2008)

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The complex and beautiful hieroglyphic script of the ancient Maya was until recently one of the last great untranslated writing systems. Based on the best-selling book by Michael Coe, ... See full summary »

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Michael D. Coe ...
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Ian Graham ...
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Nikolai Grube ...
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The complex and beautiful hieroglyphic script of the ancient Maya was until recently one of the last great untranslated writing systems. Based on the best-selling book by Michael Coe, called by the New York Times "one of the great stories of 20th century scientific discovery", Breaking the Maya Code traces the epic quest to unlock the secrets of the script across 200 years, nine countries and three continents. Written by David Lebrun

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5 May 2008 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Cracking the Maya Code  »

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$1,000,000 (estimated)
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Definitive, Cinematic
30 May 2010 | by (Virginia Beach) – See all my reviews

If you study cinema, you need to understand visual languages. You will end up here, with a society not hampered by the need for commercial counting systems. That is what drove the written language of the "west."

You will end up here for another reason. The great migration out of Africa of humans was preceded by at least a million years of language without speech. Here and Australia are where the image/gesture essentials of that language are best preserved. You'll need that if you you communicate in image.

You'll end up here because this documentary is the definitive introductory film, much better than the book on which it is based because it features interviews with real experts, key players in the process. It shows the artifacts. It includes archival footage. But most of all, it shows the glyphs themselves with animated explanation. No printed description could possibly have captured that. The image language needs an image language to describe it.

If you do some simple mapping from culturally situated Mayan metaphors to today's metaphors and analogies, it still lives. If you are in DC, I suggest you visit Dunbarton Oaks, mentioned here.

Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.


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