Re: Mayan numerals

From: Asmus Freytag <>
Date: Thu, 23 Aug 2012 14:40:32 -0700

I think Jameson makes a case that there is a part of Mayan that doesn't
fit the standard model of an ancient script that is being encoded
(merely) to further the work of specialists working on it.

The use he claims that the digits receive in elementary school education
makes these separate from the rest of the script. While they may be
related to the ancient numbers, their current use is essentially modern
and living.

If Unicode can encode a long division symbol, which is only ever used in
elementary arithmetic instruction then, surely, those digits, in the
countries cited by Jameson, would qualify.

Given that usage, Jameson is correct in that using a PUA encoding (CSUR
or otherwise) is a non-starter as is being put off for 5, 10, or 20
years until the full script is deciphered.

The correct solution here would be a proposal for encoding what amounts
to a "modern representation of Mayan digits", which then would have no
tie in with the encoding of the ancient script itself.

Having a duplicate encoding for "modern" and "ancient" Mayan digits
isn't problematical on any level. The code space needed is "minitesimal"
and, as Mayan as a full script does not see living use, and as the
digits even where used in modern context are not the primary number
system, the practical issues of any duplication are non-existent.

Mayan scholars and encoding experts may later decide that a duplication
isn't necessary and re-use these "modern representations" as part of the
encoding for the ancient system. But that's neither here nor there as
far as the use case presented by Jameson is concerned.

I think it would be highly instructive if Jameson were able to make a
proposal purely based on modern use of these digits, with the proper
citations and examples. In my take, it would not require the support or
consent from the ALMG or other Mayan scholars, because it really isn't
about the script as such.

That's an important distinction, and something that hasn't had a
precedent in the Unicode encoding of ancient scripts before. Therefore,
the whole thing cannot simply be "business as usual", but needs to be
considered with an open mind to the differences that set this case apart
from other ancient scripts.

Received on Thu Aug 23 2012 - 16:43:33 CDT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.2.0 : Thu Aug 23 2012 - 16:43:35 CDT