6 Ajaw 8 Yaxk’in (August 7, 2019): Stz’ib’al Ab’xub’al Popti’: A Popti’ Maya Alphabet

6 Ajaw 8 Yaxk’in. Drawing by Jorge Pérez de Lara

Stz’ib’al Ab’xub’al Popti’: A Popti’ Maya Alphabet
The Ancient Maya Script Returns to Jacaltenango

This month, we hear back from the highlands of the Cuchumatanes in Guatemala, where Edy Benjamin López Castillo conducted an introductory workshop on Ancient Maya Writing for Popti’ speakers in Jacaltenango this past May. This is one of the first workshops of its kind for Popti’ speakers, and we are very gratful to learn that it was inspired in large part by last year’s Congreso in Huehuetenango, in which Edy López was an active participant. Following instruction in the syllabary, the group created a Popti’ alphabet, using illustrations and Popti’ words for each letter.

Workshops like this one are made possible by the generous donations of our supporters like you, and through this work, the ancient script has returned to live again in many more communities and language groups than ever before. We applaud the insipiring work being carried out Edy López and our other Maya colleagues and teachers, and we look forward to supporting more workshops like this in the future.

Michael Grofe, President

Report on the Maya Hieroglyphic Writing Workshop

Place: Jacaltenango, Huehuetenango, Guatemala.
Headquarters: Popti’-ALMG- Linguistic Community
Date: May 16, 2019.
Responsible: Edy Benjamín López Castillo
Beneficiary ethnicity: Maya Popti’.

Location: The Popti’ Maya ethnic group is located in the northwest of the department of Huehuetenango, Guatemala, also known as the Huista or Wuxhtaj (Brother) Region. It is made up of seven municipalities: Jacaltenango, Concepción Huista, Petatán, Unión Cantinil, San Antonio Huista, Santa Ana Huista and Nentón.

The workshop was conducted over a period of 8 hours, focusing on the Introduction to Reading and Writing in the Mayab’ Tz’ib’ system with the participation of a group of middle level students, Jacaltenango diversified training cycle, university students, and professionals from the Popti’ Linguistic Community of the Academia de Lenguas Mayas de Guatemala.Originally, the workshop was organizedfor 25 people. However, for reasons unrelated to the activity, only 20 participated.


Promote the use and recovery of the Mayab’ Tz’ib’ system in the Popi’ Maya population.


  • Value Mesoamerican hieroglyphic writing as part of Mayan cultural and scientific wealth.
  • Identify the basic reading and writing rules of the Mayab’ Tz’ib’ system.
  • Apply the Mayab’ Tz’ib’ system in writing words in the Popti’ Maya language.

According to the planning carried out, the relevant activities in the workshop are described below:

  1. General description: each participant was given a booklet with examples of words and texts in the tz’ib ’system. With the support of the staff of the Popti’ Linguistic Community and the Administrative Technical Coordination 13-07-051 of Jacaltenango, the participants were welcomed and given the workshop objectives. A description was given of the basic characteristics of the system, type of signs, reading and writing standards.

Figure 1. Booklet on the Mayab’ Tz’ib’ writing system.

Figure 2. Welcome and dissemination of the objectives.

  1. Dissemination: Through exhibitions and the technique of the clock, the history, theory, terminology and basic foundation of the Mayab’ Tz’ib’ system were disseminated to assess the hieroglyphic writing.

Figure 3. Dissemination of the history and theory of the Maya hieroglyphic writing system.

  1. Exercises: Words or examples written in the Mayab’ Tz’ib’ system were deciphered using the writing rules.

Figure 4. Participants decipher Maya hieroglyphs.

  1. Application: knowing the rules of reading and writing, as well as the characteristics of the signs of the system, the participants formed words in the Mayab’ Tz’ib’ system. Therefore, an album of the Popti’ alphabet was created in Mayab’ Tz’ib’. Here are several examples of the work of the participants:

Figure 5. Writing in the Mayab’ Tz’ib’.

Figure 6. Presentation of work done.

  1. Participants:

Figure 7. Participants in the workshop showing their work.

The participants expressed their interest in learning the Mayab’ Tz’ib’ system and suggestd that this theme be followed up, because it helps strengthen and value identity, and the Maya culture specifically, in the scientific contributions that they inherited  from their Mayan ancestors.

Participants are expected to be motivated and interested in writing the Mayab’ Tz’ib’ system and to continue practicing from their homes or in educational activities.

Thanks to the Ahaw for the knowledge acquired; to Mayas for Ancient Mayan (MAM), the Technical Administrative Coordination of the middle level of Jacaltenango and the Popti’ Linguistic Community of the Academia de Lenguas Mayas de Guatemala for supporting the coordinationof the activity.

For the use, promotion and rcovery of the great knowledge of our Maya Grandfathers and Grandmothers, it is a pleasure to share and replicate the learning acquired in the IV Congress on Maya hieroglyphic writing held in Huehuetenango in 2018.

Edy Benjamín López Castillo
Maya Popti’

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