The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The agricultural term “Chol”

I am preparing a post about "classic Choltian". I must digress into an agricultural term, "chol", which might have bearing on this.

I must first admit I do not find anything like "chol" in a Maya hieroglyph dictionary, like the Montgomery 2003-6. I conclude that as of 2003, Montgomery (for his part) had not found where the ahauob had mentioned their agricultural policies on stelae. If we had “linear b” type administrative receipts from the civilisation, such could surely tell us what the scribes called it. Maybe its glyph’ll turn up on a clay pot with a farm scene. In the meantime we must resort to comparative linguistics.

Chorti’ means corn-farmer in its home base Copan; its modern name Ch’orti’ was done for political-correctness reasons, to pretend otherwise.

A related language has also been recorded, "Ch’olti’". This is recorded in only one manuscript - a 1695 glossary of the Manche Ch'ol (pdf), frequently wrong. The Manche Ch'ol used "ixim" to designate maize itself, teosinte corn. "Chol" is how these people named the milpa system - again, Mesoamerican farming (and not just maize, despite the Nahuatl roots of "milpa"; they rotated with beans too).

The Manche Ch'ol did not farm much by the time the Spaniards got there; the Lakan Tum Ch'ol, even less. By then this region had become a Mesoamerican Seminolia, a hinterland which the Spaniards (and other tribes) could not quite reach. As a result many other peoples have fled there too, including the true Maya from the north. The "Lacandon" surviving today speak Yucatec. But the Ch'ol remembered who they were.

Next I was (12/12) able to turn up “chol” in the west, within the – you guessed it – Chol language. Again, it means milpa. Again, there’s a debate over “chol” or “ch’ol” for the ethnonym. So says the introduction in a 1996 discussion of Chol ritual-jargon (pdf).

And again, to this day, the Chol make their living by chol-work. The scholars even mention a theory among fellow students of the western Cholan languages that the Chol ethnonym derives from the milpa.

Since some cognate of *chol exists in west and east both, separated by time and by jungle, we should agree *chol meant milpa for the common ancestor to the languages now-tagged “Cholan”. *Chol was contemporary with the Classic script, whether or not the scribes bothered to record it.

[SPLIT 12/12/2016: My post on *Choltal is bumped. This post now standing in its place is a necessary first step, containing that part of the argument, backdated.]

posted by Zimri on 14:43 | link | 0 comments

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