Ancient Mesoamerica

NAHUA IN ANCIENT MESOAMERICA: Evidence from Maya inscriptions

Martha J.  Macri  a1 c1 and Matthew G.  Looper  a2
a1 Department of Native American Studies, University of California, Davis, Davis, CA 95616, USA
a2 Department of Art and Art History, California State University, Chico, Chico, CA 95929-0820, USA

Article author query
macri mj   [Google Scholar] 
looper mg   [Google Scholar] 


This paper examines Nahua words found in both the Maya codices and the monumental texts. These words, spelled with syllabic signs, occur for the most part in contexts associated with foreign influence: Nahuatl deity names and words for “helmet,” “tribute,” and “heart.” One word—“and then”—is a conjunction used frequently in discourse. Sound correspondences between these loan words and the Nahua sources suggest an Eastern Nahua dialect as the likely source during the Classic period. Thus, Mexican influence in the Maya area, frequently attributed directly to Teotihuacan, may in fact have come by way of Nahua-speakers settled in the Gulf region. The epigraphic evidence establishes that Nahua speakers were influential in Mesoamerica far earlier than previously believed.

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