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Own Research

These works have emerged from my own research or feature my participation.



Mayan Linguistics

Political Relations


Glyphs G & F


Works of the Curriculum

These manuscripts have been written as seminar papers during my studies.


Poopol Wuuj

Maya Medicine

Maya Writing


On this page, I would like to present you my research topics. You will find many of them condensed in papers and articles available for download. Together with the respective titles of the papers, an abstract in German as well as in English will be given.

Since the articles to read contain many figures, it may come to some delays in the case of slow connections while loading a page. Please have patience.

Own Research


Tortuguero, Tabasco, Mexico

The Maya site of Tortuguero has kept my attraction for a considerable period of time. Although literally vanished from earth's surface, the site has inherited a small, but fine corpus of inscriptions. The epigraphy of Tortuguero was topic of my master thesis and a subsequent publication. I also followed up on certain texts and parts of inscriptions.

Master Thesis

Tortuguero, Tabasco, Mexiko: Geschichte einer klassischen Maya-Stadt, dargestellt an ihren Inschriften / Tortuguero, Tabasco, Mexico: History of a Classic Maya Site as known from its Inscriptions. This has been the title of my master thesis (Tutor: Prof. Dr. Berthold Riese) finished in 2004. Under this title, the elite history of the site and its socialpolitical relations with the Western Maya Lowlands during the Late Classic was investigated as recorded in its inscriptions. An epigraphic analysis and a re-documentation of all monuments in a catalog accompanies the work. The original thesis can be downloaded for € 39,90 at Hausarbeiten.de (ISBN: 3-638476-53-7).

Download the Thesis


A shortened version of the thesis has been translated into English and has been published as Tortuguero, Tabasco, Mexico: Its History and Inscriptions as Acta Mesoamericana Volume 17 by Verlag Anton Saurwein. It can be ordered for € 56,00 at the Online Saurwein Store (ISBN: 3-931419-13-4).

Bibliographical Information of the German National Library

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Monument 6 and 2012

In summer 2009, fellow epigraphers and Maya scholars came together for a perpetuing discussion group that focused on the so-called "2012 passage" of Monument 6. The advances not only made a new drawing possible, but - most importantly - allowed a new reading and interpretation of the passage. The resulting article was co-authored with Barbara MacLeod and published as "What Could Happen in 2012: A Re-Analysis of the 13-Bak'tun Prophecy on Tortuguero Monument 6" in Wayeb Notes, No. 34, 2010.

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A revision of the original study under the title El fin, no cerca está: el calendario maya y la terminación del 13o bak’tun según la perspectiva de Tortuguero, Tabasco was presented at the VII Mesa Redonda de Palenque on December 1, 2011. In advance to the presentation, INAH launched a press release, which was taken up by news and media world-wide. The presentation will be published in the conference proceedings, a manuscript version (not to be cited without prior permission) is available.

Read this paper (academia.edu)

The insights on 2012 have also been presented at the 15th German Mesoamericanist Meeting on February 12, 2012 in Bonn. This presentation will be published under the title Die abgesagte Apokalypse: Der Blick der vorspanischen Maya auf das Ende 13. Bak’tun und das autochtone Konzept von Prophetie in the book Die globalisierte Apokalypse, edited by Mechthild Albert, Monika Wehrheim, Karoline Noack and Antje Gunsenheimer.

In addition, I also authored a commentary for the online version of The Independent, which was published on December 20, 2012.

Tamarindito, Petén, Guatemala

with Markus Eberl and Claudia Vela González

I was a member of the 2010 and 2012 field seasons of the Proyecto Arqueológico Tamarindito conducted by Vanderbilt University, Nashville under the directorship of Markus Eberl. The ongoing project that started in 2009 aims at the survey and excavation of residential groups to investigate settlement patterns of the time of the Late Classic and how they got influenced by the political collapse in the Petexbatun. Markus Eberl, Claudia Vela González and I presented a paper on the XXIV Simposio de investigaciones arqueológicas en Guatemala about Investigaciones recientes del Proyecto Arqueológio Tamarindito: temporada 2010 on July 21, 2010, published in the proceedings of the conference.

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Current Research

with Markus Eberl

With permission of the project, I have presented the results of the 2010 field season at the 1st Cracow Maya Conference held on February 25, 2011. The presentation further focused on the question of the borders of Maya cities. The 2010 season partly excavated a walled group that clearly had a defensive function. It is also of particular interest to view this group in the context of Tamarindito's twin capital Arroyo de Piedra and the balcanisation process in the Late Classic Petexbatun. Recent insights into the epigraphy of Tamarindito were also presented.
The lecture was be published in the proceedings of the conference, entitled Archaeology and Epigraphy of the Eastern Central Maya Lowlands, edited by Christophe Helmke and Jarosław Źrałka: 65-89, 2012.

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Corpus Compilation

Besides the arqueological work of the project, I have started to make a record of all monuments and inscriptions that have remained in situ. This compilation, together with notes of monuments in museums and collections was published as A Preliminary Report on the Corpus of Tamarindito, Guatemala in mexicon XXXIII(3): 61-65, 2011.

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A catalogue of greater scale that comprises all known monuments and inscriptions is based on documentation measures in the field and in museums and archives. As far as possible, all monuments are be presented in photos and line drawings. An epigraphic analysis will accompany the catalogue. It is published as Acta Mesoamericana Volume 25 by Verlag Anton Saurwein.

Mayan Linguistics

The Orthographic Conventions of Maya Hieroglyphic Writing: Being a Contribution to the Phonemic Reconstruction of Classic Mayan

This is the working title of my PhD thesis. The recent advances in Maya epigraphy were able to clarify the orthographic workings of Maya script (e.g. distinction between /j/ and /h/, underspellings of consonants, etc.) as a tool for the reconstruction of the language encoded by the script. The current project will focus on these premises and will also thoroughly investigate the overspellings at morpheme boundaries to better reconstruct the phonemics of affixes. A diachronic and spatial perspective will be applied to observe the development of the Classic language and the influence of vernacular languages.
The thesis will be supervised by Professor Peter Mathews, La Trobe University, and is funded via APA, IPRS and FHUSS scholarships.

You may download the exposé of the PhD thesis with additional information on the topic, the implied methodology and the questions the thesis is aiming at.

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Evoking the Dualism of Sign Classes: A Critique on the Existence of Morphosyllabic Signs in Maya Hieroglyphic Writing

As a "side effect" of my PhD investigations, thoughts evolved on the so-called morphosyllabic signs first proposed by Houston, Robertson and Stuart in 2001. These are supposed to be syllabic signs carrying meaning to spell grammatical morphemes. I would liketo argue from a phonological and grammatological perspective why I believe that morphosyllables cannot work as proposed. By comparing the spelling principles of preposed morphemes with suffixes, I expose a pattern that points to a simple syllabic use in these cases. There are indications that sound integrations atmorpheme boundaries are realised by spelling alterations and that the recipient’s knowledge of the written language was required to mentally anticipate under-spelled phonemes. The critique was first presented to a wider audience at the 12th German Mesoamericanist Meeting in January 2009. The arguments were subsequently published in Indiana 28.

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E pluribus unum: Embracing Vernacular Influences in a Classic Mayan Scribal Tradition

Along the investigations of spelling patterns for my PhD thesis, I detected some examples that can be interpreted in favour of vernacular influences that pervade Maya hieroglyphic writing. Instead of being a prestige language used by the elite, Maya writing to a certain degree reflects a substratum of spoken languages. This paper specifically investigates grammatical forms that point to a specific branch or language that is represented in the script. A better understanding of the grammar of the Mayan languages allows for a more correct identification of these vernacular influences. I will showcase several vernacular forms, some already discussed in the literature, and add new thoughts on their morphological analysis. I conclude with how such epigraphic data helps in calibrating data from historical linguistics thereby understanding the dynamic exchange between Mayan languages in Classic times.
This paper will be published in Maya Culture: Identity, Language and History, a volume dedicated to the memory of Pierre Robert Colas, edited by Frauke Sachse and Christophe Helmke, and to be published by Verlag Anton Saurwein as part of the Acta Mesoamericana Series. A manuscript version (not to be cited without prior permission) is available.

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The Linguistics of Toponymy in Maya Hieroglyphic Writing

In onomastics, toponyms embrace a broad variety of categories to name geographical entities, objects and features, whether they are natural or artifical. This paper pursues the question of how toponyms can be classified and seeks examples to illustrate these cases, involving a structural approach of how to identify toponyms in the hieroglyphic record. This in turn leads to the question how toponyms of the different categories are formed, by compounding and affixation patterns. Also, linguistic peculiarities may be indicators to identify a Classic Mayan language geography, also in comparison with general onomastics. This relates to the identification of exonyms in the texts as well, as they can be proposed for Teotihuacan place names. Finally, the formation of demonyms relates how toponyms are integrated into the socio-political sphere and help to shape identities.
This paper is intended to be published in Places of Power and Memory in Mesoamerica's Past and Present: How Toponyms, Landscapes and Boundaries Shape History and Remembrance, edited by Daniel Graña-Behrens.

Political Relations

Statements of Identity: Emblem Glyphs in the Nexus Political Relations

This is the title of lecture presented at the 14th European Maya Conference in Cracow, Poland in 2009.

The meaning of emblem glyphs is now widely accepted as an indicator or the representation of a name for a specific site or a political sphere over which a site had domain.
It is well known that specific emblems show unusual patterns of spatial and individual distribution. A mere view as a territorial reference might not be appropriate to describe the socio-political dimension of emblems.
Thanks to some crucial texts, patterns in the distribution and use of emblems can now be explained much clearer. This paper will argue that emblem glyphs served as an emic identifier for the elite groups governing polities. A number of showcases from the epigraphic record reveal interesting political statements concerning the application of emblem glyphs in certain surroundings. These include:

Such examples, once termed as "uncomfortable details" by Norman Hammond, provide us with an important insight into how elite self-conception shapes political embodiment, relations and delineation. The processes behind the genesis, distribution and extinction of emblems do not only tell us something about the people referring to this emblem, but also about the rise and fall of the cities they were ruling.

The full argumentation has been published in the conference proceedings entitled Maya Political Relations and Strategies, edited by edited by Jarosław Źrałka, Wiesław Koszkul and Beata Golińska: 13-40, 2012.

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Tranceerzeugung in den Selbstkasteiungsriten der Maya: Medizinische Grundlagen und Auswirkungen

Zusammenfassung: Der vorliegende Artikel behandelt die medizinischen Aspekte des Blutopfers, besonders der Zungen- und Penisperforation. Es werden einige Vorschläge für die Blutentnahme aus diesen Körperstellen gemacht, die auf piktorale Wiedergaben und Berichte aus der Kolonialzeit basieren. Es wird der Frage nachgegangen, ob das Blutopfer durch die Ausschüttung von Endorphinen als Folge der Schmerzempfindung und des Blutverlustes in der Lage war, Halluzinationen hervorzurufen, wie es von Linda Schele und Mary Miller vorgeschlagen wurde. Der Autor zeigt nach Konsultation mit Medizinern auf, daß dies nicht möglich war, sondern nur durch rituelle Praktiken, die das Blutopfer begleiteten, z.B. Fasten, die Einnahme bestimmter Drogen, die im einzelnen kurz charakterisiert werden, oder der rituelle Tanz.
Abstract: Trance generation in the self-mutilating rites of the Maya: Medical basics and effects. The present article deals with the medical aspects of bloodletting especially from mutilating tongue and penis. Some proposals for drawing blood from these parts of the body are given, basing on pictorial representations and reports from the Colonial period. After that the question is investigated, whether the bloodletting was able to produce hallucinations and visions due to the pouring out of endorphins as a result of the pain and the loose of blood, as proposed by Linda Schele and Mary Miller. The author shows, after consulting with medicals, that this was not possible, but only by the ritual practices surrounding the blood sacrifice, e.g. fasting, taking certain drugs, which are also characterized shortly, or the ritual dance.

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A revised version of this manuscript has been published as "Bloodletting and Vision Quest Among the Classic Maya. A Medical and Iconographic Reevaluation" in Human Mosaic 32(1-2): 5-14, 2003.

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Glyphs G and F as Aspects of the Maize God

This recent paper shows that the nine G-Glyphs, long thought to be equivalent to the "Lords of the Night" from the Aztec Codex Borbonicus, are in fact different manifestations of the Maize God in the developmental stages that can be encountered at the corn plant. Furthermore, thanks to the recent reading for T128 and allographs as /TI'/ by David Stuart, Glyph F can be determined as a spatial reference. Some rare occurences of "duplicated" F-Glyphs, showing two main signs, allow to identify the principal content of this collocation as the hu'nal, the Jester God as a fertility aspect of God K. The usual superfix forms a spatial reference, telling that the Maize God is an envelope for the Jester God, even today believed to be inherent in every maize plant.

An excerpt of this manuscript dealing with the inflectional patterns of Glyph F has been published as "Beobachtungen zur possessiven Morphologie von Glyphe F" in Wayeb Notes, No. 1, 2003.

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The entire article has been published as "Glyphs G and F as Aspects of the Maize God" in Wayeb Notes, No. 22, 2006.

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Epigraphy of Edzná

A Ballgame Stone Ring Fragment from Edzna, Campeche

with Antonio Benavides Castillo

This small article documents a recently re-discovered ballgame ring fragment from the bodega of Edzná. It is extremly imortant, as it is covered with four hieroglpyhs. It is therefore an addition to the small corpus of inscribed ballgame rings in Northwestern Yucatán. The senior author of the article, renowned Mexican archaeologist Antonio Benavides Castillo, describes the archaelogical finding of the ring fragment, while I conduct the epigraphic analysis.

The article has been published in Mexicon XXVII(6): 107-108, 2006.

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The Hieroglyphic Stairway 1 at Edzna, Campeche, Mexico

by Karl-Herbert Mayer

This is the first and complete documentation of the Late Classic Hieroglyphic Stairway 1 at Edzna. All Maya glyphs are represented in to-scale black-and-white photographs and corresponding line drawings. In addition, three inscribed limestone panels, Edzna Miscellaneous Sculptures 6, 7, and 9, attributed to this stairway, are described and illustrated.
All line drawings for the documentation of the hieroglpyhic stairway have been exclusively created by me for this publication.

The book can be ordered for € 26,00 at Verlag Anton Saurwein via the Online Saurwein Store.


Works of the Curriculum

Including references to articles that got revised and published.


Cobá, Quintana Roo, México

Zusammenfassung: Hausarbeit zu Berthold Rieses Hauptseminar "Städte Altamerikas" im Wintersemester 2002/03. Um Cobá in seiner Umgebung zu beschreiben, erfolgt zuerst eine Einführung in die physischen Charakteristika der Halbinsel Yucatán. Im Hauptteil wird auf die Subzonen des urbanen Raumes von Cobá und die wichtigsten architektonischen Merkmale im Zentrum eingegangen. Dem schließt sich eine Betrachtung des Straßennetzes an. Anschließend wird auf die Geschichte der Stadt eingegangen, wie sie anhand der Archäologie und der Epigraphik rekonsturiert werden kann. In der Schlußbetrachtung werden eine Reihe von Fragen formuliert, welche wichtige charakterisierende Aspekte für den urbanen Raum von Cobá berücksichtigen.
Abstract: Cobá, Quintana Roo, México. Homework to Berthold Rieses main seminar in the winter semester 2002/03 "Cities of pre-columbian America". To describe Cobá in its environment, at first an introduction into the physical characteristica of the Yucatán peninsula will be given. In the main part, the subzones of the urban area of Cobá and the most important architectural features of the core zone will be discussed. A viewing at the road system follows. Afterwards, it is dealt with the history of the city, as it can be reconstructed by archaeology and epigraphy. In the concluding section, a series of questions will be asked which consider important characterizing aspects for the urban area of Cobá.

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An excerpt of this manuscript has been published as "A Preliminary Ruling Sequence of Cobá, Quintana Roo" in Wayeb Notes, No. 14, 2004.

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Das Poopol Wuuj: "Die Stechmücke als Kundschafter und der Weg nach Xibalba": Übersetzung und Kommentar

Zusammenfassung: Hausarbeit zu Frauke Sachses Hauptseminar "Lektüre von K'ichee'-Texten" im Wintersemester 2000/01. Neben einer Übersetzung der im Titel angegebenen Passage, begründet durch ein analytisches Wörterverzeichnis, untersucht der Kommentar inhaltliche und grammatikalische Besonderheiten des Textes und versucht eine Übersetzung der auftretenden Eigennamen zu geben. Für die inhaltliche Bearbeitung wurden exemplarisch eine Erzählanalyse und eine Untersuchung der Couplet-Strukturen durchgeführt. Mit einer Interpretation der Passage im Hinblick auf Nagualismus schließt die Arbeit.
Abstract: The Poopol Wuuj: "The mosquito as a scout and the way to Xibalba": Translation and Commentary. Homework to Frauke Sachses main seminar in the winter semester 2000/01 "Reading K'ichee' texts". In addition to a translation of the passage stated in the title, explained by an analytical dictionary, the commentary examines content-related and grammatical features of the text, and tries to give a translation of the occurring proper names. For the content-related treatment, a narrative analysis and an investigation of the couplet structures were carried out. With an interpretation of the passage regarding to nagualism the work closes.

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Das indigene Medizinsystem: Krankheiten und Heilung

Zusammenfassung: Schriftliche Ausarbeitung eines Referatthemas von Nikolai Grubes Sprachkurs "Yukatekisch I" im Wintersemester 2000/01. Der Text gibt eine Übersicht über die yukatekische Nomenklatur von Krankheiten, deren Entstehung durch die mal vientos, wer die medizinischen Spezialisten sind, und welche vielfältigen Methoden diese zur Heilung entwickelt haben.
Abstract: The indigenous medical system: Diseases and healing. Written development of the topic of a lecture in Nikolai Grubes language course "Yucatec I" in the winter semester 2000/2001. The text provides a survey of the yucatecan nomenclature of diseases, their origin through the mal vientos, who the medical experts are and which diversified methods they developed for curing.

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Das Schriftsystem der Maya

Zusammenfassung: Schriftliche Ausarbeitung eines Referatthemas von Nikolai Grubes Proseminar "Schriftsysteme der Neuen Welt" im Sommersemester 1999. Der Text gibt eine Übersicht über die Entwicklung und Funktionsweise der Mayaschrift und berücksichtigt dabei auch das Kalendersystem und die Zahlen. Weitere Abschnitte behandeln die schriftlichen Quellen und die Geschichte der Entzifferung.
Abstract: The writing system of the Maya. Written development of the the topic of a lecture in Nikolai Grubes basic seminar "Writing systems of the New World" in the summer semester 1999. The text provides a survey of the development and functioning of the maya script and also considers the calendaric system and the numbers. Other features are the treatment of the written sources and the history of decipherment.

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