Stephen Chrisomalis wrote:
> [...]
> I'd like to think that I have some small degree of expertise
> in this field, and that I can help answer questions posed by
> people on this list
> [...]

(Lifts hand.)

I have a question which I have been pondering for years. Its about the
*modern* usage of Maya numerals.

A few years ago I visited Mexico, and was surprised to see that Maya
numerals (these: were used for
house numbers in many villages and towns in Yucat√°n and Chiapas. I think one
of these places was Palenque (Chiapas), a little town nearby the famous
archeological site of the same name, but I should check my photographs.

Another thing I noticed is that native people often say monetary values in
Spanish even when they speak in their Maya dialect. I heard several such
conversations at the market: the seller and customer spoke in the local
language, but when the customer asked for the price (or, rather, pointed to
a product asking something I could not understand), the other guy replied
with a price in Spanish.

One guy explained me that the reason for this is that banknotes and price
tags are "written in Spanish", so they don't have to translate. This
surprised me at first, because price tags are normally written in *digits*,
not in words. But then I realized that he probably was talking about
converting from the decimal to the vigesimal numbering.

If a price tag reads "234", it is straightforward to understand that 234 =
2*100 + 3*10 + 4 and, thus, that "234" reads "dos cientos cuarenta cuatro".
On the other hand, it is not so straightforward to calculate that 234 =
11*20 + 14 and, hence, that "234" reads "<eleven.twenties> <fourteen>".

(All this sounds very OT, but I'm coming to the point!)

From this, I argued that the use of Maya numerals for house numbers could
have a similar explanation. If you are seeking for someone leaving in
"<eleven.twenties> <fourteen> Zapata road", it is not easy to calculate that
you should look for the figures "234" painted on the wall. OTOH, it is
straightforward to look for the signs "<eleven><fourteen>".

But, years later, an anthropologist destroyed my explanation saying that, in
his opinion, this usage is just a revival invented to amuse tourists in
places near Maya archaeological sites. And, I must admit, in Mexico I have
mostly been visiting archeology or other tourist areas.

What is your opiniong about this? Are those house numbers a seriously modern
numbering system or just an archaeological divertissement?

_ Marco