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Depicted Sign Language:

An Ancient System of Communication

Museo de Antropologa de Xalapa, Xalapa, Veracruz, Mxico,

El Zapotal Figurine

Clifford C. Richey
January 2013
(Revised May 2014)

(Re-write March 2015)

The question of when and where the compositional system was invented is unknown. As far back in time as these signs
have been found they seem to have already been part of a complete system. At this point in time it seems that the system
may be 40,000 years or more old. The system was carried by various cultures in their migrations (the Image sign of the
Deer) ultimately ending up in the Americas. The relative isolation of the Americas from the rest of the ancient world may
have preserved the system as a snapshot of earlier times. The cosmological theme that was commonly recorded using the
compositional system may be very ancient indeed and seems to have been widespread among the various cultures in the
Americas. The multiple migrations of groups to the Americas and their subsequent isolation from events in the rest of the
world may well have preserved some of the oldest examples of an ancient belief system. For more information related to
evolution of the depicted sign system we may need to look toward Asia, Africa, and even to Europe.
The ancient depicted sign language system, was used by people speaking a variety of different languages. The eloquence
of any translation would have been dependent on the reader and the manner in which the signs were paraphrased. It
should be mentioned here that any paraphrased theme might use very different signs and the resulting message could
appear very different yet the two themes migh,t basically, be very similar. Some compositions seem to have an
awkwardly detailed phrasing that may relate to the original language used in creating the composition.
The ancient depicted sign language system, was used by people speaking a variety of different languages. The eloquence
of any translation would have been dependent on the reader and the manner in which the signs were paraphrased. It
should be mentioned here that any paraphrased theme might use very different signs and the resulting message could
appear very different yet the two themes might basically, be very similar. Some compositions seem to have an
awkwardly detailed phrasing that may relate to the structure of the The ancient depicted sign language system, was used
by people speaking a variety of different languages. The eloquence of any translation would have been dependent on the
reader and the manner in which the signs were paraphrased. It should be mentioned here that any paraphrased theme
might use very different signs and the resulting message could appear very different yet the two themes might basically,
be very similar. Some compositions seem to have an awkwardly detailed phrasing that may relate to the original
language used in creating the composition.
It is not presently known whether there was more than one ancient system of written sign language. While many of the
compositions of different cultures may, initially, appear quite different these differences seem to be mainly of style and
artistic taste. These stylistic differences may have been intentional, as a matter of pride, such as a means of branding a
culture. Because Imagery and Form were based on gesture signs this allowed much leeway for stylistic differences.
Depicted sign language was just as logical as the system used in gesture signing. The basic concepts are easily learned.
But the system quickly becomes more complicated because it involves Form and Imagery and these have their own
meaning and associations. Often one can figure out the meaning of the Form and Imagery through the gesture signs and
the context of the overall message.
The depicted system is non-linear and non-sequential and is almost subliminal, to present day researchers, in its ability to
bear linguistic content. One area of difficulty is that some Forms and Images may not be shown in their totality because
they are either merged, or compounded into other signs. At times, some parts of their Form hidden behind other or
combined with other Forms. The readers then has to use their knowledge of the Forms to complete the hidden part of the
The scientific basis for a written form of sign language is fairly solid as hundreds of the basic hand signs are quite well
documented historically. We are of course on less solid ground when we attempt to understand the meaning of Form and

Imagery. For this we have to look for hints in historical texts where documentation can be quite lean. Our case has been
built up from what historic hints that are available as well as built upon what is learned about Form and Imagery from
their Basic Sign Element context. Many trial and error substitutions were involved in defining Form and Imagery. Proof
of their meaning basically rests upon each sign remaining consistent in a large variety of contexts. In early studies
compositions were translated first and only then was there any search for historical documentation as to content. The
extent of the use of written sign language was only learned when the existence of the same, elemental, signs were found
over great geographical distances. Some Imagery such as the Feline or Jaguar in Central and South America was also
found in areas of North America due to the presence of Mountain Lions and other large cats.. On the other hand, some
associational imagery, for specific concepts, was different due to differences in regional flora and fauna. An example of
this would be the representations for a Storm. Monkey imagery was used in Central and South America but a Bird, the
Thunderbird, was used as the storm sign in North America.
Because of the subtlety of the compositional system it is unlikely that all the principles used in such compositions have
been recognized or uncovered. The actual associations and the extent of these associations is also somewhat
problematical. We cannot assert that all the cosmological associations are known, nor the depth of the metaphorical
associations, the ancients made that were based in nature. Hopefully we have uncovered enough of the rules for the
reader to gain a general idea about the meaning of the various compositions. For the present it appears that the following
rules were used in organizing and composing the compositions. The compositional system was non linear or non
sequential. It could be read beginning at any given point as long as the logical order was rearranged mentally. Generally it
appears helpful to follow the Size of Form and Imagery on a diminishing scale. One should first view the overall Form
and then move to its Imagery, and then on to the basic signs of which they were composed. This needs to be done for
each Form or Image section of a composition.

The System's Structure

Use of Hands and Fingers
Signs were made by use of the left and right hands. In signing the left hand represented the east while the right hand
indicated the west. This results in a strange situation where no actual signs are needed to represent the individual cardinal
directions as they are all represented by position. The hands used in gesturing could be closed, open, or with fingers
pinched together. The fingers could be spread wide, an individual index finger could be used, or multiple fingers. Such
variances would show up in depictions as lines curving to the left or right as well as single or multiple lines.
Layered Organization
Gesture signs were depicted by hand motions made in the air and relied on the reader's memory to retain the meaning
from one sign to the other. The same system could not have been used in depicted sign language because placing signs
on top of one another would have resulted in a hopeless tangle of signs. Thus signs were separated by organizing them
spatially such as grouping the Forms and Imagery into patterns (sections). For our purposes Form, Imagery, and Gesture
elements are all considered Signs. Generally the signs appear to have been read from the largest sign to the smallest. Each
complete Form or Image is independent of the others and contains its own message. The message of course, relates to the
entire composition but not directly from section to section. For example, when the earth was depicted as a female figure
its face would be the face of the earth. But when one concentrates just on the Form of the Face, separate from the female
figure, the shape of the head might have been depicted as the sign for, a male-spirit.

1: Vessel

Illustration 2: Setting

The Initial or Total Form and Settings

This could be considered the title or subject of the composition. It has not yet been learned how one should determine
Total Form. At times it seems that one should just visually trace the outline to gain the Form. At other times this seems to
result in an incoherent shape or perhaps we are not able to recognize a shape that was well known among the ancient
cultures. Some signs present a kind of illustration or Setting that sets the scene of the rest of the composition. Such scenes
should, perhaps, not be taken too literally. For example, a battle scene may represent a cosmological struggle between
natural or spirit forces as opposed to actual warfare. A market place scene may represent a place of exchange or
transformation in the underworld as opposed to an actual market.
Basic Gesture Signs.
Literally hundreds of gesture signs have been historically documented, in texts1 on Native American sign language, and
can be used to assist in learning the meaning of the Associational Imagery through context. All the signs illustrated in this
paper are based on Tomkin's book on American Indian Sign Language. Ancient signs were drawn leaving out the
depiction of the hands so one should concentrate on the Lines and/ or Motions made by the hands and their position in
relation to a Body template. The resultant Lines and the Form they took was what was considered important. For
example, a large X shaped sign was based on the representation of two arms (normally using the Index Fingers of both
hands) crossing each other in the act of a trade. This sign was also used for an exchange, or a transformation depending
on its context.2 It is not the intention of this paper to list and illustrate every possible sign but rather to explain how the
signs were derived from gestures and transposed into depicted sign language. The rules that have been uncovered from
the study of many ancient depictions are very important as without them the depicted sign language would have been
merely iconographic, incapable of maintaining and transmitting anything except the most basic level of information.

1Tomkins, William. Indian Sign Language, Dover Publications, Inc. New York 1969.
2 http://www.inquiry.net/outdoor/native/sign/index.htm (a compilation of basic gesture signs)

Illustration 3:

Illustration 4:
Gesture Signs

The above ceramic from El Zapotal3, Mexico is unusual because it combines very Large gesture signs with realistic
Imagery. It is a composition of a Female whose Stance is one of Sitting which indicates, awaiting, an event. We are
alerted to the fact that this is just not any woman by the Triangular signs created from the Space between her arms and
chest. These signs indicate the, Female-earth, and position the Trunk of Her Body between the sides of the earth, or the
center of the earth.

Illustration 5: Sign
The compositional system was well thought out and very logical as will be seen from the analysis of the gesture signs and
their position overlaying the Mouth, a water-source. A Straight Line sign for the land. The gesture sign for Prairie
would also work as it uses both hands, palms up, placed together then and moved away from each other. In either case the
result is a straight line. If we wished to write, on the surface we would simply position a Vertical Line on the Line
indicating the surface. For beneath the surface we position the Vertical line under the surface Line. For crossing through
the surface we would draw a + like sign. A sign for an opening would look like a V. Its opposite, an up side down
V meant, held down. In the above case the message is, the great one, within, a great opening in the land. The great
one, also alludes to the Imagery of the Bat. The Bat as associational Imagery refers to the essence of the Bat, as the one
who flies erratically.
3 https://www.academia.edu/11093359/El_Zapotal_A_Ceramic_Figurine

Illustration 6: The
One, His Location

Illustration 7: Finger

A simple Circle, based on a Finger-tip, represents a location. It also represents the Number, one. An Aboriginal
pictograph below shows a (green) Circle and positionally below it a (tan) Severed Finger along side and pointing a
direction, here, positionally, below, where we see a (brown) Severed Leg and Foot (a long walk or journey). This again
demonstrates the independence of Imagery as words and phases as they can be placed or positioned wherever needed.

Illustration 8:
The Hand, On
the Dark Side
A Circle was often divided into Halves in order to represent the upper half or the upper-world and a lower half to
represent the under-world. A Circle could also be divided in quarters representing the four quarters or four directions.
Such division also leads to a conception of fractions. A Vertical Quarter Circle was used to depict, a side. Above we see
an Ica Vessel that positions the (light-blue) Vertical Quarter Circle to represent, the side. It is a compound sign where the
black internal area indicates, darkness. Also note even the Form of this sign in the illustration below tell us that this is the
western-half. This represents, the darkness of west where the Sun sets. The Hand positioned against the Quarter Circle
provides us with the message, the steward of the Sun, on the dark side.

Illustration 9: The Ancient Cosmos

Illustration 10: Gesture

for Half

Illustration 11: Mountain-half,


A concept of division could also applied to other signs such as a mountain by dividing it in half and drawn separately. A
Rectangle indicates, a place. Place signs can be positioned at a variety of angles. Even the Form of the above mountain
sign could be viewed as a series of stacked Horizontal Rectangles or horizontal-place signs. It is quite common to see
Vertical Rectangles and Horizontal Rectangles representing horizontal and vertical space. Place signs, like all signs (this
includes Form and Imagery), can be Compounded with other signs and may have a Stance of their own:
We have already seen several examples of compounded signs in this paper. However, one might not expect a Color and a
Stance to be compounded with another sign. For example,

a vertical-place

Rightward Leaning Stance: waiting

darkness. --a dark, vertical-waiting- place

The signs are positionally sensitive. A Body, could be that of a human, an animal, a plant, or even an object that served
as a template upon which the signs were overlaid. Relative direction as well as unwritten signs can be determined by their
position. For example, the position of a sign on a face or Body4 can represent, or allude to, a body part without it needing

At times Bodies of large animals and even human figures appear to represent the earth while human shoulders and the

to be depicted. The part not depicted is incorporated into the message along with the sign that occupies its position. At
times, this resulted in some rather bizarre imagery. A Leg and Foot might appear, at the position, where an Arm and
Hand would be expected. Because the Leg and Foot hold the meaning of a long walk or journey and the Arm and Hand
held the meaning of a warrior and steward (priest) of the Sun. The resultant, combined, message would be, the long
journey of the warrior priest.

Illustration 12: Gesture for

a Hole
An excellent example of position is shown in Illustration 2 where the Index Finger is placed in front of the Face to
represent a male, the one. In this illustration of a Mayan mask we can see how a (light tan) Vertical Finger was used to
indicate the Index Finger referring to the Face as the male. The Nose-Finger was recolored for purposes of
demonstration. The two (colored dark-blue) Quarter Circles are side signs and the Finger is, positionally, between or at
the center. The Ear Spools of the Mayan Mask allude to the Ears as orifices and are the Concentric Circles (this is the
sign for a hole as if viewed from above) with a dark center that indicates, a hole, positionally, on the side. This also
explains why one often sees imagery of Severed Fingers, Limbs, or even Heads in compositions. They are words, or
phrases, that maintain their meaning independently.

Illustration 13: Moche

Vessel, Leg and Foot

Illustration 14: Moche

Vessel, Arm and Hand

above illustrations of Moche human limbs are an example of how such Forms and Imagery stand on their own. The
ceramic Leg, a walk or journey, positionally, on the side, is, below, the Handle that is in the Form for, a cave or a
cavern. The cave sign was composed of Double Lines and is considered as hidden or unseen. Metaphorically this sign
was considered as, the womb of the Female-earth. Above the Roof of the cave is the Throat of the Vessel, a connecting
tube or tunnel that leads to a hole, the Mouth, the water-source, of the Vessel, the one that contains. The Arm represents
a warrior, much in the sense that we use the words, armory or sergeant at arms today. The Hand, metaphorically, is the
Hand of the Sun, the steward of the Sun, The Hand is making the gesture sign for, defiant. The Arm is a Vessel, the one
that contains.
backs of animals present a Horizontal Line indicating the surface. In such cases it appears that the Figures represent the
phrase, the one that bears the burden (of the weight of all the people animals, plants and mountains that are on the
earth's surface). Such use of the animal figures does not negate their additional use as clan or tribal signs.

Illustration 15: "T" in

Eye Position

Illustration 16:
Circle and Crook in
Eye Position

Above a couple of Mayan glyphs are used to illustrate allusion. In the first glyph we see that the right portion of the glyph
has a Mouth, Nose, and Eye. But in the position of the Eye we find a T shaped sign that indicates, below. The Eye is
part of the message, the Eye, below. The second glyph has a Circle in the position of the Eye. Again we begin with the
alluded to Eye -- the Eye, the Circle indicates, the one, while the Pupil, shaped like a Shepherd's Staff, means taken
downwards. Its Double Lines mean, unseen. Although these glyphs do not explain the metaphorical association that is
related to the Eye it has been determined, through other contexts, that the Eye is the Eye of the Sun --Venus. When one
sees a sign in an unexpected position one should consider the possibility that it is an allusion.

Illustration 17:
Everything Below

Illustration 18: Below

Illustration 19: Everything

In the above Mayan incense burner, His Face, his appearance, we see associative Imagery for a Mouth, the watersource, and the T shaped sign for, below. This sign was positioned within the Narrow Oval shaped sign that means,
all or everything. The black color around the T indicates, in by darkness. We also take note of the (blue) Half Circle,
under-world sign below the Large signs that allude to the Eyes, These Large (white), great, male-spirit signs are
positioned Left and Right indicating, in the east and the west. From the surface of the underworld the sign for, arising,
moves upwards and terminates with a (blue) Water-drop, a particle of water, positionally, within it. Of course, as an
incense burner, its smoke would arise like a mist arising to the sky as further re-enforcing the cosmological message.
Form, Imagery, and gesture signs may all possess their own Stance. Earlier an example has earlier was shown related to
the compounded gesture sign for, a vertical-waiting-place. It was the Rightward Leaning or Tilt of the sign that provided
the Stance that meant, waiting. A Leftward Leaning sign would indicate, stopped. There are numerous other Stances that
include those for Arms, Legs, and Body postures. Examples would be, Stepping to the right means arriving, stepping to
the left, means departing. Feet facing the reader means standing. Feet pointed in opposite directions means, not moving.
Kneeling on one leg means, arising. Sitting, means, waiting for an event. Splayed Legs, indicates, birthing.

Illustration 21: Early

Egyptian Birthing Stance
Illustration 20:
Moche Birthing

Illustration 22:
Moche Arising


Illustration 26: Sign

for Frog
Illustration 24:
Moche Seeds

Illustration 23:
Moche Snail

Illustration 25:
Moche Toad

Imagery and sub-Imagery was composed of Elementary Gesture Signs that held an Associational value (what, anciently,
may have been considered the essence or spirit of the depicted subject), Such imagery was often the equivalent of a
phrase in English. An example would be an Image of a Frog to represent the concept of, the one that leaps. The
Association in the case of the Frog was not only that it jumps or leaps but also that it was considered a transformer It
changed from a fish like creature in the water to one that could climb out of the water and walk and jump on land. As a
Frog it is already transformed. The one transformed. The one that leaps upwards. The Snail, The one that moves slowly.
The Seed, The one that germinates, sprouts. The Seed was, obviously, important cosmologically, as it appears inert or
dead. It seemed to have an unseen element, a spirit, that allowed it to become alive once again and to be reborn and grow
into a new mature plant. It is apparent that the gesture sign for jumping or leaping that indicates a Frog was easily
replaced with the unmistakeable Image of the Frog. To be more precise, the Imagery is of a Toad with the signs for, the
one, the female-spirit, alluding to its Warts. Some of the Warts have Four Dots within them meaning, all four directions,
or everywhere.

Illustration 27: Calakmul Temple Market Scene

Large compositions are often called panels or illustrations, they provide their own association and a context for the
embedded messages. An example would be a market scene. Such scenes should, perhaps, not be taken too literally as
they may represent cosmological events described in metaphorical terms. But of course, they were probably based to
some extent in reality such as an actual place of exchange (cosmologically, a place of transformation). In the Calakmul
Market Scene, surprisingly found in a Mayan temple, we can immediately detect part of a cosmological theme. The great
(brown) Vessel, container, on its (blue) Quarter Circle, side, The Arm, the warrior, the (green) Armband, that separates
the Arm from the Hand, the Three, the many, Its Leftward Slanting Stance meaning, waiting. The many, waiting-places,
of The Hand, the steward of the Sun. The Figure's Left Arm and Hand, the warrior, the steward, the many verticalplaces, The (white) Rectangular Handle, its Stance, Rightward Slanting, the waiting- place, of of the Ladle, Large
(white) Water Drop (blue-green) the great-water-particle, the flowing water.

Illustration 28:
Headless Female

Illustration 29:
Space Alludes to

An unknown culture in Ancient Mexico managed to convey a large a stone slab to a spring site. The Imagery on the slab
appears to be one of a Headless Woman but close observation will show that the Space between the Arms was actually
composed in the Form of a (reddish brown) Vessel. The depiction alludes to the Face of the Female Earth (note the
Figure's breasts) as a Vessel, a container of water (the, blue-green, Saw-toothed sign at the vessel's Mouth). The Mouth
was the association made with a water-source. This tells us that the spring site was conceptualized as a Mouth of the
Earth. Speaking of a Mouth of the Earth, the following will demonstrate that the Inca culture of Peru was aalso familiar
with this metaphor.

Illustration 30:
Natural Mountain

Illustration 32: Inca

Spring Site

Illustration 31: Spring Site Signs

Mountain springs and their pools of water were considered revered or sacred places by many ancient
cultures because they envisioned such areas as portals between the earth and the sky. It is here that the
spirits of their deceased warriors and/or warriors-priests, after completing their journey through the
underworld, arose to the surface of the middle-world, in a stream of water. Ultimately, the spirits were
taken up by the Sun to the stars, joining the other ancestors, from where they were able to observe
events below on the earth.
The (blue) sign above the pool is the ancient sign for, a doorway or portal. A Groove is cut into the
stone surface to allow the water to flow down to the pool. The (blue-green) Groove is in the shape of
the sign for a side view of a hole in the (brown) Straight Line which is the sign for a surface.
The (brown) Stepped Lines for the sign for, a mountain. The Double Lines of the same Form
indicated, unseen, or hidden, positionally, (of the Center Line) pathway, within, the mountain. The Wet
Sides of the rock is a natural sign for, moisture.
The main portion of the water formed a Stream that fell into a Horizontal-Rectangle or, a horizontalplace. Although parts of the design (bottom left and right) of this site have been defaced it is likely
there were Serpents (the Image-sign for, a stream or current of water) on each side of the base of the
Mountain sign. The Serpents would probably have had open gaping mouths to indicate, the mouth of
the stream or the water-source on the Left and Right or the east and the west. From the above
description we can see how what was, originally, a natural mountain spring was later incorporated into
a structure based in depicted sign language that partially explained its religious connotations.
We can now take the above a step further and convert the entire shrine into depicted sign language.

Illustration 35:

Illustration 33: Applied


Illustration 34: Cross

Sectional Sign View

The (light-green) Curvilinear or Undulating (movement) Multiple Lines (flowing) is the compound
sign for, flowing-movement of water from the, portal, a (light-blue) hole, in the surface of the (brown)
mountain, positionally, below, (light-green), a flowing-movement, to the (green) HorizontalRectangle, a horizontal-place, within it, the (blue) Saw-toothed Lines for, water. The (dark-green)
Form of Triangular Dots, particles, of water on the wet rock background indicate, female-moisturespirits.
Without the background of the photograph the variety of lines and curves might appear quite
mysterious. The water particles are depicted as female because stem from the female-underworld.
Everything within the domain of the Female-earth is female while the surface of the earth, the middleworld, could support both male and female genders. The Sky and everything within it, is male.

Illustration 37:
Moche Original

Illustration 36:
Color Coded

Now the question is, how did the male-spirit get from the spring site, discussed earlier, to the sky? A
Moche Setting of a Crucifixion provides the answer. The definition of a crucifixion is, an extreme and
painful punishment, affliction, or suffering. In the composition we see a male bound to a Y shaped
wooden post (based on the Form of a Tree branching), a captive. The Large (great) size of the Double
Lined, (unseen) Form of the Y represents, the great one, unseen, who opens up the way ahead, a
great-spirit-scout. The color of the Post is white which indicates, a spirit. The V shape sign means
an opening whose color is white meaning a spirit-opening. The Vertical Line indicates, the one,
positionally, below. The (red) coloring on the Vessel, refers to the rising Sun, and re-birth.
The (brown) Cord, the tie that binds the multitude, of horizontal-places, together, positionally, both
above and below, the (green) horizontal-place, at the center, the place of the (white) spirit opening.
Below, the (green) horizontal-place sign that alludes to the Stomach as, a container, and the lower
Cord we see the Legs and Feet of the Figure. This indicates, the long walks in the east and the west.
Between the Legs of the Figure or, at the center, is the Phallus indicating his gender. The phallus is a
compound sign composed of the (green) the vertical-place sign and a (light-blue) of the, male-spirit,
sign that was obviously based on the glans penis.
The Face, his appearance, is that of a, perhaps, decaying Head, is Egg shaped indicating, the one who
will emerge or will be born. The Head of the Figure is tilted to the right making the (black) Line of the

relatively Large Mouth, a, great, water-source, also Rightward Slanted which means, the waiting, The
Teeth are in the Form of, numerous, Curved, male-spirits signs. The Figure's Nose alludes to the
Nostrils, the dual holes, in, while the Form of the Nose is Triangular, indicating, the Female-earth.
This positions the hill and the water-source on the sides of the Female-earth, The left Leg is stand on a
Large (light-blue) the great, one, his location, and a (green) vertical-place sign that has a V shaped
opening sign cut into it.

Illustration 38:
Eagle Drinks Up
the Eye

Illustration 39:
Gesture for Bowl

The Signs that allude to the Eyes of the Captive indicate, a hill, the Eye, within it, (the lower Eye) and
an (upper) Eye-socket, that is the sign for, held as in a bowl. The (white) Circle of the bowl indicates,
the one, his location. The Bird is an Eagle or the sign for the Daytime Sun. The Stance of the Eagle is
that of, drinking from the bowl shaped Eye-socket. The implication is that the Sun, drinks up, the
alluded to Eye. The Eye itself is an association made with the Eye of the Eagle, the Sun Venus. This
is shown by the Eye of the (white) Headed (spirit-eye) Eagle. The (yellow) Beak of the Bird alludes to
its Mouth, a water-source.
The Body, Head and Beak of the Eagle appears to have been composed out of four male-spirit signs of
contrasting sizes. The (yellow) Beak is in the Form of a male-spirit sign that is Smaller than the
(white) male-spirit sign that creates the Larger Head of the Eagle. The (red) Eye of the Eagle, is
positioned in the (white) Larger male-spirit sign. The Eye of the Sun Venus. The (light-blue) Body of
the Eagle is a Larger male-spirit sign than the (darker-blue) Wing that alludes to the Hand of the Eagle
(the steward of the Sun). The (tan) Feet of the Eagle indicates, the walks or journeys in the east and the
Most likely there is more associational information depicted by this ceramic than any present day
researcher can be aware of. There are probably misconceptions related to some of the Forms in the
composition. Despite such issues the general pictorial imagery combined with the form and gesture
sign elements clearly presents the concept that it is the Sun that drinks up or takes up the male-spirit to
the sky. The Sun drinking from a bowl, the water-source, tells us that the Moche were aware of the
water cycle and the part that evaporation played in it. Other cultures used depicted flying or feathered
serpents (flying particles and/or streams of water) to convey the idea of evaporation.


Illustration 41: Mayan Glyph 1

Illustration 42: Mayan

Glyph 2

Illustration 40: Mayan

Numbers also appear to have been affected by their Position (vertical and horizontal) and could be alluded to with a
gesture sign, as a kind of place keeper, where a number would normally be expected.
In the Mayan glyphs used as examples above, we see signs in place of the numbers. In Both glyphs we see a Jaguar
Image, The Stance of the Eye is, closed or not seen. The allusion to the Eye, the (blue) Oval that means, all or
everything and within it, the (yellow Three Lined sign for, a hidden-pathway, and at the Ear (allusion to an orifice
positionally, on the side) and a (red Dots) female-spirit Image ( a, pink, Double Lined, unseen, Shepherd's Crook
meaning, taken downward).
The Jaguar probably represents the spirit of a deceased Jaguar-warrior. On the upper portion of the glyph we see the
Form of an Egg, in the center, the one who will emerge. There is a (dark-blue) Oval at the position of the Eye that
represents, everything, Double Lined, unseen). The Egg has a Rightward Leaning Stance meaning, waiting the
unborn, the one who will emerge, waiting, at the center. On both sides of the Egg we find the (yellow) signs of a Double
Lined (unseen) cave or cavern (metaphorically, the womb of the Female-earth) positionally, the one at the center, the
one who will emerge, in the east and the west.
Positionally, on the side, we see the (green) Vertical Rectangles, the vertical-places, and the (light-blue) X for
exchanging or changing, positionally, above and below. Between the X signs we see the (white) Form of an Eye, The
Eye of thew Sun, --Venus, it Rightward Leaning Stance meaning, Venus, waiting. The Numerical value of the signs is 18
as can be seen in the chart on the left.
In the similar glyph on the reader's right we see the (blue) sign for, an unseen cavern, We again have the number 18 and
positionally, the unseen cavern, at the center, . The Two Egg shaped signs, the one that will emerge, are positioned,
above and below. If the our premise is correct then it would seem that Mayan numbers and those of some other cultures,
are more complicated than presently thought.
We have seen that the sign for a location could also be used numerically. The reverse seems also to be true. The number
Three appears frequently and seems to be a kind of linguistic shorthand for, many. The number Four apparently refers to
the four directions or everywhere. The number Five seems to incorporate the four directions plus a central number one
the center. The associative meaning of number six is unknown. The number Seven means hallowed or revered while the

number Eight appears to relate to the Eight rays of the Asterisk like sign for a, non gendered, spirit. Thus when the
Multiple Lined sign for a flow of water, add up to a count of eight, this may indicate flowing of spirits within the water.
The number Nine appears to refer to the nine levels of the under-world. There may well be other numbers that bear other
non-numerical associative values that may be determined, through context, in the future.
In cultures that used a simpler numbering system only the Circle was used for counting of numbers but other signs, of the
same exact type, for example, 3 Eyes, could also be used as a Count of 3.
Listing of Signs
Many of the signs listed below should be considered tentative. To date they have been found in
contexts that are not contradictory. Some may refer to fine distinctions that are not yet recognized.
They are presented here as a basis for assisting in gaining a general, if not precise, understanding the
meaning of some ancient compositions as well as for use in further research.

Table of Form and Imagery

Form and Imagery Meaning

Earth Shaker, Earthquake


Protected, The Armored One


Arises from Cave, Rebirth (hibernation)


The one who cuts wood, Woodcarver


The one who Flies, Flight


The Strong One, Horns=Leader


The crust, the surface of the earth


The one who tears apart the flesh or the dead


Outlook, Sentinel, Guard


The one who Roams, a Nomad


The one who Forewarns, Prophet, Prophecy


The One puts his head under water


The Sun, Great Hunter of the Daytime


A Great One (?) Antlers=Leader


Nighttime Sun, Hunter of the Nighttime


The one that swims, swimmer


Wonder, Marvel, Miracle


The One that leaps upward


The Long Throat, The Long Tunnel


Venus (on the Left=East, Right=West)


The one who deceives, deception


The One that climbs toward the Sun


A Great One (?) Antlers=a Leader


The one who walks out of the water


The Storm-spirit


The Little One


(?) Messenger from the underworld

Owl, Burrowing

Walks up from below the earth and flies away


Digs up the ground, breaks the surface


Jumps up from and back into the water


The Pretender (feigns death)


The Moon (Form of Rabbit perceived)


The Hands that swim


A Stream or current


The one that moves slowly


The Enemy


Flies out of and back into the water


A Transformer


The Storm-spirit


An Island, the island earth


The one who eats the flesh, the dead


The great Diver


The Scout, The Spy


The one that makes the tunnels


Farmer (?),or The one that germinates




The Limb, the Arm of a plant


Difficulty, Pain


Song, poetry, beauty


The Hand of a plant

Leaf Pores

Cup, chalice, goblet


The Feet of a plant, The Origins


The one that sprouts, germinates


A kind of portal between earth and sky


The one that gathers, a worker.


Many legged one (many walks or journeys)


She who weaves, the weaver


A warrior, a defender (defends it hive,

metaphor for a community)


(?) The Sun


A container, a metaphor for the earth


A container, metaphor for the earth


The Community


Ray of the Sun, a warrior of the Sun


The Birthplace


The Protector


Death, The Dead


A Container, a metaphor for the earth

Body Parts





Orifice s, holes, on the side (as an allusion)


The Eyes of the Sun

Female genital area (Triangular) Female, female-earth


Numerical, The ones


Walk, Journey


Growth, Development


Stewards of the Sun. Sun-priests

Horns, Antlers

A Leader, Larger Antlers, an Elder

Pre pottery


Long, length


The edges of the water-source


A Water-source


Dual orifices (holes)


Male, Man


Bowels (of the earth)


The ones that chew or grind up


The (numerical) ones

Table Of Basic Signs (Linear)

One, Single


Within An Opening

Through An Opening

Opening in Surface



An Opening

Opening to Left (east) Opening to Right (west)

Trade, Exchange

House, Lineage

Hidden, Unseen,
(Double Outlines)


Merged, Union


Doorway, Portal





Table Of Basic Signs (Curvilinear)

One, Single


Upper and Lower




A Hill

A Hole

A High Hill

A Deep hole


Alive (living water)

Mountain Peak

Taken Down

Taken To Direction

Taken Up

Taken Far Upwards

Taken Far Downwards

Medicine, Mysterious



Ascending Over


Captured, Prisoner

All, Everything

Flow, Flowing