Tatiana Proskouriakoff, a preeminent student of the Maya, made many breakthroughs in deciphering Maya writing, particularly in demonstrating that the glyphs record the deeds of actual human beings, not gods or priests. This discovery opened the way for a history of the Maya, a monumental task that Proskouriakoff was engaged in before her death in 1985. Her work, Maya History, has been made ready for press by the able editorship of Rosemary Joyce.
Maya History reconstructs the Classic Maya period (roughly A.D. 250-900) from the glyphic record on stelae at numerous sites, including Altar de Sacrificios, Copan, Dos Pilas, Naranjo, Piedras Negras, Quirigua, Tikal, and Yaxchilan. Proskouriakoff traces the spread of governmental institutions from the central Peten, especially from Tikal, to other city-states by conquest and intermarriage. Thirteen line drawings of monuments and over three hundred original drawings of glyphs amplify the text.