Maya glyphs seen in Palenque, present day Mexico. The Maya writing system is the only Mesoamerican writing system that has been deciphered. It’s a complex system composed both of logograms (symbols representing words or morphemes) and syllabograms (symbols representing syllables). It was usually written in columns and read in pairs of two letters, left to right, top to bottom.
The key to deciphering Maya writing was found in the writings of the 16th century Spanish bishop Diego de Landa, who is infamous for his cruelty to the Maya and his large-scale destruction of their culture and customs. Despite his fervent attempts to convert the Maya to European, Christian ways, he compiled a small “alphabet” of the Maya script. It was based on the false assumption that there was a more or less one-to-one correspondence between sounds and letters, like in the Latin alphabet. Nevertheless, Landa’s alphabet has been important in the modern effort to figure out the way the Maya writing really works.
It’s an interesting historic fact that writing developed independently at least two times in history (possibly more), in Mesopotamia in Asia’s Fertile Crescent and later in Mesoamerica.