History of the Corpus of Maya Hieroglyphic Inscriptions

Since its inception in 1968, the Corpus of Maya Hieroglyphic Inscriptions (CMHI) has been the leading program for recording ancient Maya hieroglyphs, one of the most artistic and creative graphic writing systems in the world. Founding Director, Ian Graham, a pioneer who laid the foundations for recording the ancient Maya hieroglyphic texts, created an unsurpassed register of carved monuments that has been instrumental in their decipherment.

black and white photo of Ian Graham on steps with camera at night
Ian Graham doing night photography at Dos Pilas in 1970s.

Dates

  • 1966, Luminaries in the field in including, Dr. Ignacio Bernal, Dr. Michael D. Coe, Dr. Gordon F. Ekholm, Dr. Luis Lujan Munoz, Dr. Floyd Lounsbury, Tatiana Proskouriakoff, and Dr. Gordon R. Willey, envisioned the project that forever changed the way Maya hieroglyphs were recorded and understood.
  • 1968, Ian Graham appointed as the program's founding director.
  • 1968, Funding provided by the Edgar H. Brenner of the Stella and Charles Guttman Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities
  • 1968-present, Program housed in the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University
  • 2004, Ian Graham donated his life's work to Harvard's Peabody Museum where it remains a unique collection, the largest archival collection and publication series of Maya hieroglyphic texts in the world.

Milestones

  • Set the standards for hieroglyphic recording
  • Produced meticulous scientific photographs and accurate illustrations superceding those made in the 19th century.
  • Published 19 fascicles published with the Peabody Museum Press
  • Compiled a vast archive of field maps, drawing, photos, and references that continues to be an invaluable resource for epigraphers and researchers.
  • Standardized nomenclature for sites and monuments
  • Set forth a three-letter abbreviation for each site [PDF] (e.g. Yaxchilan is YAX; Naranjo is NAR)

References

1975 Graham, Ian
Introduction to the Corpus, Corpus of Maya Hieroglyphic Inscriptions, Vol 1.1
Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Cambridge, Mass.

1975 Williams, Stephen
Foreword, Corpus of Maya Hieroglyphic Inscriptions, Vol 1.1.
Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Cambridge, Mass.

n. d. Edgar H. Brenner
"The Corpus of Maya Hieroglyphic Inscriptions Project: Initiated in 1967 by the Stella and Charles Guttman Foundation," www.mesoweb.com/pari/publications/RT10/Corpus.pdf.