The Book of Chilam Balam of Chumayel is an ancient Maya book also called the prophecy of Chilam Balam. Download the public domain. The Mayan Chilam Balam books are named after Yucatec towns such as Chumayel, Mani, and Tizimin, and are usually collections of disparate texts in which. CHILAM BALAM OF CHUMAYEL. by RALPH L. ROYS. [] of the Spanish Conquest ยท XV: The Prophecy of Chilam Balam and the Story of Antonio Martinez.

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Search the history of over billion web pages on the Internet. Doctor Daniel Garrison Brinton, Professor of American Archaeology and Linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania, died inhaving a short time before presented his balxm collection of books and manuscripts to the University to be kept forever in the Museum library. This famous collection, ‘brought together by Dr. Brinton for the purposes of the chief work with which he was occupied in his lifetime, contains among many items -of great value and extreme rarity, one set of documents which possess a supreme interest, and which for students of ancient American history are unrivaled in importance.

These are the manuscripts written in the Maya language in the earlier centuries succeeding the conquest of Mexico and Central America and gathered for preservation and in the exercise of his scholarship by Dr. Hermann Berendt, after whose death at Guatemala City they passed chumagel the hands of Dr. Berendt, therefore, the student of American history and antiquities owes a very great debt.

That indefatigable scholar, during many years of travel in Yucatan and Guatemala, among the ancient seats of the Mayas, felt the spell of the past upon him and devoted the best energies of a mind well fitted for such studies, to the task of rescuing from oblivion such unconsidered frag- ments of their ancient literature as still survived.

Laboriously and in a clear firm hand, he copied whatever he found and these copies make up the principal part of the collection. Berendt had a more intimate knowledge of the Maya language and literature than any other scholar of his time, and no one since has been so fortunate as he in the enjoy- ment of an opportunity for research or in the possession cbilam an accomplishment that enabled him to improve that oppor- tunity.

It is, therefore, a matter of very great regret that he contented himself with copying and has left us no fruit of his scholarship in the form of translations or commentaries.


Al- though the loss to Maya literature and history involved in the omission must always be deplored, every true student of aborig- inal American history and literature derives satisfaction from the fortunate circumstance that transferred the documents gathered by Berendt to the library of Dr. Brinton, making the more famous and more fortunate scholar the heir at once to the treasures and the labors of the other.

Into this unexplored field of Maya literature, Dr. Brinton brought the knowledge and experience gained during many years of study of American linguistics, supported by a ripe scholarship based on a scientific training. The result of these labors was the publication in of the Maya Chronicles as the first volume of Brinton’s Library of Aboriginal American Literature.

These chronicles consist of passages from the Books of Chilam Balam selected, arranged and translated by Dr. In the collection left by Dr. Berendt are two volumes of special interest and importance, all written in Berendt’s own hand and copied by him from originals in Yucatan. These two volumes have the following titles: Meridai vol, 4 pp.

Juan Pio Perez, copiados en Meridai vol. In these two manuscripts are comprised all the known fragments of the historical writings of the Mayas. They consti- tute at the same time the principal part of all the extant Maya literature. It is probable that every village in Yucatan, during the century succeeding the conquest, possessed a book to which this title was applied and which was compiled by a native priest who had learned the use of the Spanish alphabet.

What the original sources of these compilations were, and to what extent the books represent the literary productions of the priesthood after the conquest cannot be discussed in this introduction, but there is evidence that the original writings which served as the models and the sources of these compilations were written in the days before the conquest in the hieroglyphic characters of the native culture, and therefore formed part of a large body of ancient literature that was the product of native genius and that perished in the general catastrophe that overtook the native civilization after the coming of Europeans.


An increased interest in American antiquities and especially in those of the Mayas which the science of archaeology has witnessed in recent years, has created a demand both in America and in Europe for more materials for study than have hitherto been accessible to scholars generally.

Museum and work in its library. In order to place this body of material where any one interested in the subject could have it at hand no matter where he might be situated, the Museum authorities decided more than two years ago to undertake the publication of all the important Maya documents in its collec- tion, and the Book of Chilam Balam of Chumayel was selected to form the initial volume.

The difficulties attending the undertaking were very great. The first question that presented itself was whether the text should be published in facsimile or in type.

The second and much more diificult question was whether the original text should be accompanied by a translation. At the outset the whole of the text after being transcribed from Berendt’s copy was set up in type. A proof was sent to Senor Audomaro Molina of Merida, Yucatan, whose intimate knowledge of modern Maya and of Yucatecan history are matters recognized by all Maya scholars.

Molina kindly undertook the collation of this text with that of the original document, to which he had access through the chumyael of those blaam have it in their keeping. It was then found that Berendt’s copy of differed in some details from the original of The plan followed by Molina was to use the 1 original as his model and correct the proof of Berendt’s copy according to this reading.

All differences between the two manuscripts would thus be eliminated on the assumption that they were the mistakes of copying. Molina made no attempt at the punctuation of the document or its division into sentences, nor did balqm attempt to adopt a uniform orthography. His plan was to follow the text of the original, with all its peculiarities, its irregular spelling chimayel its undivided sentences. The printing of this corrected proof of Berendt’s copy proved inexpedient.

Meantime, during the summer ofI went to Merida and succeeded, through Sefior Molina’s courtesy and the kind- ness of those who have it in their keeping, in borrowing the original document and in bringing it to the Museum, where each page was photographed.

This is the photographic copy which is reproduced in this volume. My reason for publishing the original text in facsimile instead of printing Bbalam copy is based on the fact that the interest of students can at present best be served by making the original in its actual form accessible to everybody.

The question of preparing a translation has received the most careful consideration. It presents a peculiar problem. The relationship between the language of the document and the modern Maya is very close. There are, however, certain forms of expression and certain use of words in the book of Chilam Balam of Chumayel which are not current in modern Maya and which are without significance to those who speak the language.

It is not to be inferred that these forms have been rendered obsolete by the changes which the language has undergone in the century and a quarter since the original com- pilation was written. It seems that such changes are not at all marked.

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This chumajel cult made use of verbal formulas which were not in common circulation and which had a meaning only in connection with the practice of their profession. Our chief difficulty, therefore, in producing an intelligible translation is due to the extinction of that profession and of the specialized knowledge that went with it and to the want of historical information about the religious observances and other customs of the ancient Mayas.

A large part of the Book of Chilam Balam of Chumayel, as well as of the other ancient writings in the Berendt collection dealing with various matters, present no great difficulties in the way of translation, but other portions are of such obscure meaning that it is more than doubtful whether a satisfactory translation can be made at the present time. These passages are found on plates of this volume which correspond to the folios of the original.


At one point, however, there will be found a discrepancy between Brinton’s text and that of the original. On plate 74 of this volume the katuns are arranged in order with their cilam numerals written in the Roman style.

Opposite each numeral appears its Maya name followed by the word abau.

These numerals run in their proper sequence accord- ing to the Maya method of numbering the katuns. Q name of the numeral indicating the name of the katun, and this is followed by an historical note. In making his copy Berendt filled in the Roman chumayyel. Brinton, however, by some oversight, omitted not only the Roman numeral but the words Uaxac ahau as well, and brought the historical note into line with Labun ahau, which is the name of the preceding katun. This omission is mentioned to illustrate the method fol- lowed by Berendt, than whom there never was a more careful and conscientious copyist, who sometimes filled in an omission of the scribe without comment and more often corrected his work in a different colored ink.

It is mentioned also to make clear the importance of publishing a facsimile of the original. It consists of a number of abstracts on various topics selected by the compiler Berendt’s copy was made inat which time some portions of the text were slightly more perfect than at present, a circumstance which adds greatly to the value of the copy.

The paper on which it is written has become very much worn, stained by use and discolored by age. The first leaf is missing, as well as leaf Several of the leaves are torn, cjumayel margins are sometimes very much worn or decayed, and small portions have been eaten away by insects. The whole is protected by a leather cover, in the front portion of which a hole has been burnt.

The fac- simile reproduction presented in this volume preserves the exact size of the original writing and a chymayel shows that nothing is lost in the process. Brinton’s translations of the abstracts which he published stand as the result of a conscientious effort to render the Maya text into intelligible English. It is well known today, for instance, that abau was never used as the name of nalam period of time, but was the designation of one of the twenty days of the Maya month.

This day name, with a cardinal number from one to thirteen attached to it, appears, not only as a means of distinguishing a particular day occurring at certain intervals in the calendar, but also as a means of identi- fying thekatuns.

This method of naming the katuns proceeded from the fact that the chronological calendar is so constructed that a katun always begins with a day so designated.

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Such an expression as lahun chumaye, therefore, is not to be translated tenth ahau but ten ahau and is to be understood as meaning balzm ten ahau. With this correction applied throughout Brinton’s translation of the chronicles may stand today after thirty years as substantially correct, although some passages of the Maya text are very obscure and of doubtful meaning.

Whatever may have been his errors, the place which Dr. Brinton once filled in the world of letters has not been occupied since his death and his work on the Maya chronicles has not been superseded. In a volume which is now in the course chumyel preparation it is proposed to print the text complete after the original here reproduced, supplemented according to Berendt’s copy. In this volume will be included critical notes and commentaries, and the question of a translation will also come under discussion.

To those who have encouraged and supported this pub- lication, I wish to return my thanks, and especially to the President of the Museum, Mr. I wish cuhmayel record also my very deep obligation to the late Senor Audomaro Molina for his kind offices in procuring for me the loan of the MS.