Detail from drawing of a carved hieroglyphic text in Temple XIV, Palenque.

The complex and beautiful Maya hieroglyphic script was until recently the world's last major undeciphered writing system. Its decoding has unlocked the secrets of one of mankind's greatest civilizations.

Breaking the Maya Code tells the story of the Maya decipherment from the sixteenth century to the present. The feature documentary film is based in large part on the book of the same title by Dr. Michael D. Coe, called by the New York Times “one of the great stories of twentieth century scientific discovery.”

On this website you can learn more about The Story of the decipherment and The Production of the film, watch animations on the workings of The Maya Script and explore resources including an Archive of over 20 interview transcripts. For exhibition information, go to Screening Schedule. To purchase the film on DVD, go to the Night Fire Films Store.

The 2-hour director’s cut of Breaking the Maya Code was released in March 2008 by Night Fire Films. A 90-minute adaptation of Breaking the Maya Code was released on European television by ARTE France. A 50-minute adaptation was broadcast nationally and internationally on the PBS series NOVA, under the title Cracking the Maya Code. The final step of the project is an outreach campaign including screenings and hieroglyphic writing workshops in Maya communities.


BEST FILM JURY GRAND PRIZE, International Archaeological Film Festival of the Bidasoa, Irun, Spain
BEST FILM AUDIENCE AWARD (PRIX DE PUBLIC), International Archaeology Film Festival, Nyon, Switzerland
BEST FILM JURY AWARD, Archaeology Channel International Film & Video Festival
BEST FILM AUDIENCE AWARD, Archaeology Channel International Film & Video Festival
BEST PRODUCTION, Agon International Archaeology Film Festival, Athens Greece
SECOND JURY PRIZE, International Science Film Festival, Szolnok, Hungary