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Deciphering Aztec Hieroglyphs

A Guide to Nahuatl Writing

Gordon Whittaker


Gordon Whittaker, a world authority on the world of the Aztecs, presents the first ever guide to understanding Aztec hieroglyphs


For more than three millennia the cultures of Mesoamerica flourished, building the first cities of the Western Hemisphere and developing writing systems that could rival those of the East in their creativity and efficiency. The Nahuatl-speaking Aztecs reigned over one of the greatest imperial civilizations the Americas had ever seen, and up until now their intricate and visually stunning hieroglyphs have been overlooked in the story of writing.

In this innovative volume Gordon Whittaker provides a step-by-step, illustrated guide to reading Aztec glyphs, as well as the historical and linguistic context needed to appreciate and understand this fascinating writing system. He also tells the story of how this enigmatic language has been deciphered, and gives a tour through Aztec history as recorded in the richly illustrated hieroglyphic codices. This groundbreaking guide is essential reading for anyone interested in the Aztecs, hieroglyphs or ancient languages.

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'The fascinating world of Aztec glyphic writing, magnificently explained by an erudite expert in the ancient art of tlacuilolli'
Dr Maria Castaneda de la Paz, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

'At last! Gordon Whittaker has written a book that many of us have long wished for. He presents the Aztec glyphs in all their complexity and playfulness, and he does so in terms that any careful reader can follow ... richly rewarding'
Camilla Townsend, Distinguished Professor of History, Rutgers University and author of 'Fifth Sun: A New History of the Aztecs'

'Sheds fresh light on intellectual achievements of long-vanished empire'

'There is undoubtedly a need for this first book on the subject … copiously and colourfully illustrated with Aztec glyphs that are visually compelling but intellectually challenging … [a] pioneering book'

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Product Information

Book Details

Format: Hardback

Size: 24.5 x 18.6 cm

Extent: 224 pp

Publication date: 15 April 2021

ISBN: 9780500518724

About the Author

Gordon Whittaker is Fiebiger Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at the University of Göttingen, where he has held joint positions in the Institute of Ethnology and the Department of Romance Philology. He has written extensively on Aztec language, writing and civilization. His areas of specialization are Linguistic Anthropology and the Anthropology of the Americas.

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