Archaeologists and epigraphers have investigated the beginnings of writing in Mesoamerica and Maya writing in particular (Coe 1976; Justeson 1986; Justeson, Norman, Campbell, and Kaufman 1985). However, the development of Maya hieroglyphic writing in the centuries after its "invention" has not yet been subject to systematic research.
The most comprehensive work about the Mayas was Fray Diego De Landa's Relacion de las Cosas de Yucatan ("Account of the Things of Yucatan") written around 1566. De Landa's work contains a description of "Maya calendrical signs and a mysterious alphabet" which became the key to solve the Mayan Hieroglyphs (Houston 1989: 8).
Ancient Mayan Signs
The first modern advances were made in reading Maya numbers and identifying glyphs for the months in the calendar cycle. By the 1940s, scholars could read the dates rather well, and because so many inscriptions and the four remaining books seemed to be numerical and related to the calendar, most specialists believed that the Maya writing was primarily about the calendar system and that the Maya were obsessed with time.
There were more than 1000 different signs used in the writing of the Maya, although at one time, there were probably no more than 500. Two hundred of the signs are syllables or phonetic. Of these, more than half are homophones.
Ancient Mayan Language
Of the many Maya languages, only two (possibly three) were written down with the hieroglyphic system. It is thought that speakers of the Ch'olan language, and possibly also those of the Tzeltalan language, were the inventors of the Maya writing system. Another group, the speakers of Yucatec, adopted the script to write their own language.
The Mayan hieroglyphics codices contain information about Maya beliefs and rituals, as well as activities associated with daily life, which are framed within an astronomical and calendrical context.
Ancient Mayan Glyphs
Mayan glyphs are among the most amazing written languages ever. They're not syllabic, but morphemic- part of the symbol is the root of the word, additions on the symbol are morphemes, changing the tense, possession, quantity, and much more.
During the 1950s the linguist Yury Knorozov demonstrated that Mayan writing was phonetic as well as hieroglyphic. In 1958 Heinrich Berlin established that a certain category of glyphs referred either to places or to the ruling families associated with those places.
Mayan hieroglyphs have proved to be much more challenging than the Egyptian system of hieroglyphs. There is no Rosetta Stone and, while the two writing systems do appear somewhat similar, they are actually completely unrelated.
These signs are either logograms(to express meaning) or syllabograms(to denote sound values), and are used to write words, sentences and phrases. In fact the mayan can write anything that they can say.