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This interdisciplinary project, funded by the National Science Foundation (award no. 1328928), focuses on the impact of linguistic variation and social change on the evolution of Classic Maya writing–one of the best examples of a deciphered ancient script. Writing is one of the most important inventions in human history, yet the development of this technological communication system and its impact on broader societal affairs remains poorly understood. A collaborative team of archaeologists, art historians, computer scientists, and a linguist are using quantitative methods and models adapted from evolutionary biology to evaluate sources of lexical, graphic, and linguistic variation in the script as well as test models about cultural transmission and social organization with empirical data. This interdisciplinary project builds on and expands applications of the Maya Hieroglyphic Database to include GIS and social network analysis in a fully-searchable database platform.

In prep Munson, Jessica, Jonathan Scholnick, Matthew Looper, Yuriy Polyukhovych, Martha Macri. Ritual diversity and divergence of Classic Maya dynastic traditions: A lexical perspective on within-group cultural variation.

2014 Munson, Jessica, Viviana Amati, Mark Collard, and Martha Macri. Classic Maya bloodletting and the cultural evolution of religious ritual: Quantifying patterns of variation in hieroglyphic texts. PLoS One 9(9): e107982. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0107982.