The Preclassic “Whiplash”

A few newly unearthed hieroglyphic texts from San Bartolo, all Preclassic in date, exhibit a distinctive curved “whiplash” line that runs beneath and along the right side of some signs. This may represent little more than artistic flair, but the line could also hold some meaning or function still unclear. When visiting the Museo Miraflores in Guatemala City last year, I was fascinated to find the same linear feature on a glyph incised into the text panel of Stela 21 from Kaminaljuyu, a Late Preclassic fragment with a style that surely dates to about the same time as the murals.

The well preserved Stela 21 glyphs, both undeciphered, show an infixed le syllable in the head sign at left, and a -la suffix on the block at right.