MAY'AS, a race of Indians found in the countries of Yucatan, Guatemala, and' Tobasco, presenting- a subject of interest 88 to their origin aud habits, and their position as regards civilization. They differ decidedly, and in many respects, from other native. races of that region. By some they are regarded as of wholly distinct origin; but by most ethnologists it is thought that they are descended from the ancient Toltecs, the builders of the extensive and grand stnietures whose ruins may be seen at I.Txmal, Copan, Itza, and other sites in the neighborhood. The traditions of the -Mayas indicate that they have occupied the country for from 600 to SOO years, and it is not improba ble that the Toltecs may have merged with tribes immigrating from Cuba or the Antilles. The comparatively high degree of civilization is, doubtless, derived through the Toltec descent. Mayapan, the northern part of Yucatan, was in ancient thnes their chief home; and in that locality are the ruins of many noble cities. In their early his tory, though possessed of skill in architecture, with some knowledge of navigation and commerce, and though using an alphabet and written language, the Mayas were semi barbarous in many respects, such as painting and tattooing the body and compressing. the heads of their infants. ..kfter the Spanish invasion the Mayas were gained over to
Christianity, after the usual fashion of the invaders, by fire and sword. Many of their savage customs were laid aside; but in 1848 occurred a most extensive uprising of the natives in many parts of Mexico, and the race regained its independence. Little com munication has been held with them since, but it is said that they are once more lapsing into their old religion, which, like all those of Mexican origin, was founded on the basis of human sacrifice, and was blood-stained and revolting in the extreme. TheĽ ancient language and the alphabet of the Mayas have long been a subject of discussion_ by grammarians and students of comparative philology. The alphabet proper contains 29 characters, two or three forms being used for some of the English letters, while d, f, g, q, r and 2) are wanting; s and z are denoted by the same hieroglyphic, as are also andj. There are in use, additionally, a set of marks indicating syllabic sounds. The manuscripts in existence are written upon bark, and the lines read from right to left. A number of grammars and dictionaries of the language exist, mostly in Spanish and French. The latest is that of Dr. Behrend (1875).