Monday, 3 December 2018


In 1975, in order to honour a Rosetta Stone level breakthrough in ethno-linguistics by epigrapher Yuiry Valentinovich Knorozov (*1922 - †1999), the state-run printworks of the USSR issued a special edition of playing cards decorated with Mayan priestesses and chieftains and hieroglyphs.
Knorozov, who as part of the vanguard advancing into Berlin at the closing stages of World War II happened to rescue a rare manuscript from a burning university library—the Dresden Codex—one of the then-known three extant codices of Mayan script and named for its permanent home (having been spirited away with other treasures from the fire-bombed city)—a discovery that would go on to inform and inspire his career as an ethnographer specialising in Mesoamerican studies, realised in 1952 that the symbols were representational and phonetic and could consult modern, spoken Maya as a guide. Learn more and see more of the deck at Atlas Obscura at the link up top.