Notes on a Sacrifice Scene Reply

by David Stuart, The University of Texas at Austin

The Late Classic cacao vase K8719 (from Justin Kerr’s The Maya Vase Database) depicts one of the more grisly scenes of human sacrifice known from Maya art. (Happy Halloween!). The surrounding imagery and texts provide some interesting tidbits of information about the timing and setting of such events, and also how they related to the pomp and circumstance of royal performance in the courts of the Classic era.

Figure 1. Rollout of vase K8719  (Photograph by Justin Kerr).

Figure 1. Rollout of vase K8719 (Photograph by Justin Kerr).

In the scene we see a king seated upon what looks to be a portable throne and looking on a scene of decapitation sacrifice.  The victim, perhaps a war captive, lies prone upon a stone altar and before a small stela. His head lies atop the stone monument, placed on a surface of amate paper-cloth (huun) and suggesting some sort of corporeal metaphor involving the upright stone (see Stuart 1996 for a further discussion of steel-body symbolism). Judging by similar scenes (see K8351), the familiar stela-altar pairing one so often see at Maya sites was often a formal place for human sacrifice. Indeed, I suspect that most stelae-and-altars erected in the plazas (Figure 2) were conceived as settings for the execution of prisoners, much as we see on this vase. To the left of the dead victims are two performers in fantastic animal costumes, wearing red scarves. As Elliot Lopez-Finn points out to me, similar portly animal performers are depicted on other vessels (see K1835, K4947. K4960). And elsewhere many similar clawed figures with red scarves are explicitly identified as wahy beings, who I have interpreted as the spooky embodiments of witchcraft and dark forces wielded by Maya rulers and elites (Stuart 2005). On this vessel the costumed figures are performing in an extraordinary setting of courtly sacrifice, perhaps as executioners that embody the animated forces of the king’s power and control over life and death.

Figure 2. Uncarved stelae and altars at Tikal.

Figure 2. Uncarved stelae and altars at Tikal.

Figure 3. Main text caption from K8719. (Photograph by J. Kerr)

Figure 3. Main text caption from K8719. (Photograph by J. Kerr)

A lengthy text runs down the middle of the image above the slain victim (Figure 3). Unfortunately it shows considerable modern repainting and “touching up” by someone who knew nothing of hieroglyphs. Nevertheless, we can see that it is a complex name caption for the seated king, opening with a CR date and then perhaps the possessed noun u baah, “the person of…” (A2 and B2). The date looks to me to be 4 Ahau 13 Yax, correspond to the k’atun ending 9.15.0.0.0. (August 16, 731 A.D.). The royal name and accompanying titles extend down into the vertical column. At B3 we see the well preserved sequence CHAN-na-K’INICH, after an initial name glyph that is largely illegible. This may well be the name Tayel Chan K’inich, in reference to the Late Classic king of the Ik’ polity who is named on a number of other vessels (Just 2012:102-123, Reents-Budet, Guenter, Bishop and Blackman 2013, Tokovinine and Zender 2013). A possible Ik’ emblem glyph might be at block A7, though again much garbled by the vase’s “restorer.”

A date of 731 A.D. agrees well with Tayel Chan K’inch, who we know from other sources to have been in power by 726 and seems to have ruled for at least a decade afterwards, perhaps a good deal more (Tokovinine and Zender 2012: 43). The 9.15.0.0.0 k’atun ending would have been among the major ceremonial event of his reign, and I suggest that the scene on this vase depicts at least one of the ceremonies from that very day.

Ascribing this vessel to the Ik’ polity and its workshops also is in keeping with the general style and color palette of the scene. Orange-colored glyphs are known from other pots of this style. We also see elaborate animal costumes worn by rulers and other performers on many other Ik’ vessels (K533, 1439, among others). As already noted, I suspect that this pair of weird-looking performers are the sacrificers responsible for the beheading. The white color here, also worn by the king, may be significant, as we find white sacrificers also shown on K2781 and K8351.

8719txt2hi

Figure 4. The glyph aj laj, “finished one,” near the victim. (Photo by J. Kerr)

Placed near the stela and just above the legs of the sacrificial victim is a lone hieroglyph (Figure 4) readable as AJ-la-ja, for aj laj. This presumably is an agentive noun based on the root laj, meaning “end, finish, die,” found throughout lowland and highland Mayan languages (Kaufman [2003] reconstructs the common Mayan form as *laj or *laaj). The connections of this word to death are widespread, and are particularly acute in colonial Tzotzil, where we find laj meaning “be dead” and the nominalized form lajel, “death” (Laughlin 1988,I: 241). There can be little doubt that here we are meant to read the glyph on the pot as a somewhat obvious descriptor of the slain figure as “the finished one, the deceased.” As far as I am aware this is a unique example of such a title used to refer to a sacrificial victim.

Overall this vessel offers a remarkable and maybe even surprising look into the nature of Maya calendar ceremonies. Written records of k’atun endings, for example, feature the ritual acts of kings who “bind the stone” or “cast the incense.” They never directly mention human sacrifices nor the bloody anointing of stelae, and why they don’t raises an interesting issue worth pondering further. The wider canvas of a portable cylindrical vase perhaps allowed for such grisly displays, more so than the stiff and narrow face of a stone stela set in a plaza. For whatever reason, cacao vases that circulated at the courts of the Late Classic period were deemed a more appropriate media for the display of some darker subject-matter, including the gorier aspects of royal ceremony and performance.

Sources Cited:

Just, Bryan. 2012. Dancing into Dreams: Maya Vase Painting of the Ik’ Kingdom. Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton.

Kaufman, Terrence. 2003. A Preliminary Mayan Etymological Dictionary. PDF ms.

Reents-Budet, Dorie, Stanley Guenter, Ronald L. Bishop and M. James Blackman. 2013. Identity and Interaction: Ceramic Styles and Social History of the Ik’ Polity, Guatemala. In Motul de San Jose: Politics, History, and Economy in a Classic Maya Polity, edited by A. E. Foias and K. F. Emery, pp. 67-93. University Press of Florida, Gainesville.

Stuart, David 2005. Glyphs on Pots. Sourcebook for the 2005 Maya Meetings. Department of Art and Art History, The University of Texas at Austin.

Tokovinine, Alexandre, and Marc Zender. 2013. Lords of Windy Water: The Royal Court of Motul de San Jose in Classic Maya Inscriptions. In Motul de San Jose: Politics, History, and Economy in a Classic Maya Polity, edited by A. E. Foias and K. F. Emery, pp. 30-66. University Press of Florida, Gainesville.

The Reading of Two Dates from the Codz Pop at Kabah, Yucatan 3

by David Stuart and Meghan Rubenstein, The University of Texas at Austin

A few important hieroglyphic inscriptions are known from the ruins of Kabah, Yucatan, but most of them remain poorly published, much less analyzed. The site’s lengthiest inscription comes from on the so-called Hieroglyphic Platform (2B2), and remains a disordered puzzle that has thus far eluded much in the way of interpretation (Grube 1986). The dedicatory panels from the Manos Rojas structure have been only partially documented, published and studied, and require further investigation (Carrasco and Pérez de Heredia 1996, Pérez de Heredia 1998, Graña-Behrens 2002). Perhaps the best-known inscription of Kabah comes from the well-preserved carved doorjambs on the eastern side of the so-called Codz Pop (Structure 2C6), one of the most ornately decorated buildings in the long history of Maya architecture (Figure 1, 2).

Figure 1. Structure 2C6 (the  Codz Pop) of Kabah, Yucatan (Photograph by M. Rubenstein)

Figure 1. Structure 2C6 (the Codz Pop) of Kabah, Yucatan (Photograph by M. Rubenstein)

Analyses of the date inscribed on the Codz Pop jamb have been wildly inconsistent and contradictory. Here we would like to clarify the reading of this date once and for all (we hope) as well as announce a new date from the same structure, inscribed on another door jamb recently discovered in excavations conducted by INAH in 2013. We hope that pointing to these two dates will help to refine the chronology of Kabah’s architectural history, and by extension the chronology of the Terminal Classic period in the Puuc as a whole.

The Eastern Door

With the exception of the famous western façade of the Codz Pop (Figure 1), the most reproduced image from Kabah is the set of carved doorjambs located on the eastern side of the same building (Figure 2). The stone jambs from Room 21 were first excavated, photographed, and reburied between 1934 and 1935 by Harry Pollock during his architectural survey for the Carnegie Institution of Washington. Drawings of the jambs by two different illustrators are included in Pollock’s masterwork on the architecture of the Puuc region (1980: 196, 197), and their first formal publication seems to have been in Proskouriakoff’s A Study of Classic Maya Sculpture (1950: 169, Fig 103a,b).

Figure 2. The north jamb from Room 21 (Eastern Door) of the Codz Pop, (a) detail photo by D. Stuart, (b) Drawing by M. Rubenstein.

Figure 2. The north jamb from Room 21 (Eastern Door) of the Codz Pop, (a) detail photo by D. Stuart, (b) Drawing by M. Rubenstein.

The carved jambs of Room 21 mirror each other: in the upper scene, a dance is performed, and in the lower scene, a prisoner subjugated. A horizontal hieroglyphic band separates the two events. Neither Pollock nor Proskouriakoff attempted to interpret these inscriptions.

Excavations at Kabah in the early 1990s, under the direction of Ramón Carrasco Vargas at the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH), renewed interest in the Codz Pop jambs known at the time. Carrasco and José Ligorred Perramón, the archaeologist who oversaw work at the Codz Pop, relocated them using Pollock’s reports. They also offered the first interpretation of the inscription (Carrasco et.al. 1991: 83; Carrasco and Pérez 1996: 302; Ligorred Perramón 1993: 196-97). The southern jamb, broken at the hieroglyphic band, is illegible. For the north jamb, they proposed a reading of the Calendar Round date as 2 Chuen 3 Xul (this and other dates are written in the Yucatecan system). Ligorred Perramón calculated its placement in the years 987 or 1195, but leaned toward the earlier of these based on associated ceramic and architectural data (1993:196). This would place the Long Count at 10.7.19.5.11 2 Chuen 3 Xul (March 16, 987), making for one of the very latest monument dates in all of the Maya area.

Soon after this Linda Schele and Nikolai Grube proposed a different calculation for the date on the north jamb, placing it a century earlier at 10.2.13.15.11 2 Chuen 3 Xul, in the year 883 (Schele and Grube 1995: 203). Schele’s field drawing, published alongside their analysis, seems to confirm the reading of the Calendar Round as 2 Chuen 3 Xul, but settling on an earlier position in the calendric cycle than Ligorred Perramón.

Grube, in his appendix to his overview of hieroglyphic inscriptions from northwest Yucatan (1994: 344), offered a different analysis of the date, reading the month as Muan and not as Xul. He lists the date for the jambs as 10.1.10.0.11, or October 14, 859. Daniel Graña-Behrens also noted this in his later dissertation on the Northwest Yucatan (2002: 393). Graña-Behrens does not settle on a year, however, but suggests 807, 859, or 911.

To summarize: In the short span between 1991 and 2002 no less than six(!) assessments of this inscribed date on the Codz Pop were proposed or at least considered, ranging over an almost three hundred year span: 807, 859, 883, 911, 987, or 1195. The situation raises a highly confusing and important archaeological question, and above all reveals just how little is known about the chronology of the Puuc area in the Terminal Classic period.

FIgure 3. Detail of the text on the northern jamb of Room 21. (Photograph by D. Stuart)

FIgure 3. Detail of the text on the northern jamb of Room 21. (Photograph by D. Stuart)

Here we would like to clarify that the reading of the date on the Room 21 jamb is certainly 2 Chuen 3 Muan, just as Grube and Graña-Behrens proposed. Although Schele and others had suggested Xul as the month glyph, the contours and features of the month sign clearly show it to be a bird with a –ni suffix. This can only be read as Muan (MUWAAN-ni). We can narrow this further by proposing that the two most likely placements of 2 Chuen 3 Muan in the Long Count are:

10.1.10.0.11 2 Chuen 3 Muan (October 14, 859)
10.4.2.13.11 2 Chuen 3 Muan (October 1, 911)

A placement one Calendar Round earlier, in 807, seems far too early considering other dates from buildings in this same “florescent” Puuc style. Of these two, we consider 859 to be the most likely, agreeing with the previous proposals by Grube and Graña-Behrens.

The event recorded with this date on the north jamb of Room 21 seems to be “his death” (U-KAM?-mi-ya, u kamiiy) surely in reference to the scene of a warrior being slain in the image below the text band. The text on the southern jamb of the same doorway, given further information no doubt, is unfortunately destroyed.

The Northern Door

In 2013, excavations overseen by Lourdes Toscano Hernández and Gustavo Novelo Rincón of INAH revealed two important doorjambs originally placed within the central doorway of the northern room of the Codz Pop complex. This is Room 1 of Structure 2C6. Similar to the examples from Room 21, each jamb is carved with images divided by rows of hieroglyphs. In this case, we have three scenes on the eastern jamb and three scenes on the western jamb, with a total of four bands of text separating them.

Figure 4. Text band from the jamb of the northern doorway. (Photograph by ***; Preliminary drawing by D. Stuart)

Figure 4. Text band from the jamb of the northern doorway. (Photograph by M. Rubenstein; Preliminary drawing by D. Stuart)

The upper band of the eastern jamb records a date using a variation of the Yucatecan style, where a Calendar Round is described by its position in a numbered tun within a named k’atun.

[9-CIMI] U-K’IN-ni-le tu-8-TE’-e SUUTZ’-tz’i u-ti-ya tu-4-TUUN-ni 1 a-AJAW-wa ?-cha?-ja?
[Bolon Kimi] u k’iniil tu waxak-te’ suutz’ uhtiiy tu kan tuun (ti) juun ajaw ?..aj
Nine Cimi is the day on the eighth of Zotz’, it happened in the fourth stone (year) of 1 Ahau…

1 Ahau marks a specific k’atun ending of the Maya calendar, which can only correspond to 10.3.0.0.0 1 Ahau 3 Yaxk’in. The date falls in the fourth tun of that k’atun, or in the 360 days after 10.2.4.0.0. The month position 8 Zotz’ narrows this further to one possibility (again in the Yucatecan system):

10.2.3.11.6 9 Cimi 8 Zotz (March 9, 873)

The k’atun ending recorded on this northern doorway firmly anchors its date to 873 A.D. In doing so it should affirm the placement of the eastern door’s date (in an earlier phase of the building) to 859, only fourteen years prior.

Conclusions

The new jambs from the Codz Pop show a date falling in the year 873, helping to confirm one of many previous readings of the date from the eastern door as 859. It is important to note that these two dates might conform to the overall construction sequence of the Codz Pop and its modification over time. That is, the later of the two is associated with the northern extension of the structure that appears to have been a later addition to the original building. That being said, it would be a mistake to take the two dates as simple dedication records. As noted, the eastern door records the death of Kabah’s vanquished enemy, whereas the nature of the event on northern jamb remains to be determined. Nevertheless, the anchoring of these two dates should help us be confident in the chronological placement of the Codz Pop, and of its place in the wider context of archaeology in the Puuc region.

Acknowledgements

We are most grateful to our colleagues Lourdes Toscano Hernández and Gustavo Novelo Rincón for their permission to share our analysis of the date recently discovered at the Codz Pop complex. A more thorough study of the building’s dates and construction sequence will be produced by them at a future date. A formal presentation of the new Codz Pop jambs will take place at the upcoming Maya Meetings at UT-Austin in January. We also thank Sid Hollander for pointing out a couple of typos (now corrected) in our transcription of Maya dates.

Sources Cited

Carrasco Vargas, Ramón, et. al. 1991. Proyecto Kabah: Informe de los trabajos realizados en la temporada 1991. Tomo II. Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Centro Regional Yucatán.

Carrasco Vargas, Ramón, and Eduardo Pérez de Heredia. 1996. “Los últimos gobernadores de Kabah.” In Eighth Palenque Round Table, 1993. M. Macri and J. McHargue, eds. pp. 297-307. San Francisco: The Pre-Columbian Art Research Institute.

Graña-Behrens, Daniel. 2002. Die Maya-Inschriften aus Nordwestyukatan, Mexiko. Thesis, Fakultät der Rheinischen-Friedrich-Wilhelms, University of Bonn.

Grube, Nikolai. 1986. Die Hieroglyphenplattform von Kabah, Yucatán, México. Mexicon Vol. VIII (1): 13-17.

_____________. 1994. “Hieroglyphic Sources for the History of Northwest Yucatan.” In Hidden Among the Hills: Maya Archaeology of the Northwest Yucatan Peninsula. H.J. Prem, ed. pp. 316-358. Acta Mesoamericana. Möckmühl: Verlag von Flemming.

Ligorred Perramón, José de Calasanz. 1993. La escultura Puuc: Análsis iconológico del Codz Pop de Kabah. Thesis, Escuela Nacional de Antropología e Historia.

Pérez de Heredia, Eduardo. 1998. El edificio de las Manos Rojas de Kabah, Yucatán: chronologia y funcionalidad. Thesis, Facultad de Ciencias Antropológicas, Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán.

Pollock, Harry Evelyn Dorr. 1980. The Puuc: an Architectural Survey of the Hill Country of Yucatan and Northern Campeche, Mexico. Cambridge: Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University.

Proskouriakoff, Tatiana. 1950. A Study of Classic Maya Sculpture. Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Institution of Washington.

Schele, Linda, and Nikolai Grube. 1995. Notebook for the XIXth Maya Hieroglyphic Workshop at Texas: Late Classic and Terminal Classic Warfare. Austin: Art Department, University of Texas.

New Book: Language Contact, Inherited Similarity and Social Difference by Danny Law Reply

cilt_328_hb

Language Contact, Inherited Similarity and Social Difference: The Story of Linguistic Interaction in the Maya Lowlands, by Danny Law (Department of Linguistics, The University of Texas at Austin). Current Issues in Linguistic Theory, 328. John Benjamins Publishing Company, Amsterdam.

This book offers a study of long-term, intensive language contact between more than a dozen Mayan languages spoken in the lowlands of Guatemala, Southern Mexico and Belize. It details the massive restructuring of syntactic and semantic organization, the calquing of grammatical patterns, and the direct borrowing of inflectional morphology, including, in some of these languages, the direct borrowing of even entire morphological paradigms. The in-depth analysis of contact among the genetically related Lowland Mayan languages presented in this volume serves as a highly relevant case for theoretical, historical, contact, typological, socio- and anthropological linguistics. This linguistically complex situation involves serious engagement with issues of methods for distinguishing contact-induced similarity from inherited similarity, the role of social and ideological variables in conditioning the outcomes of language contact, cross-linguistic tendencies in language contact, as well as the effect that inherited similarity can have on the processes and outcomes of language contact.

Availiable from the John Benjamins Publishing Company

Lagunita’s Unusual “Six Ajaw Stone” Reply

by David Stuart, The University of Texas at Austin

Stela 2 of Lagunita, Campeche. Photo: Ivan Sprajc.

Stela 2 of Lagunita, Campeche. Photo: Ivan Sprajc.

The rediscovery of the ruins of Lagunita, Campeche, by Ivan Sprajc and his team has been widely cited in the news of late. This is indeed an exciting development. The site was first visited back in the 1970s by Eric von Euw, who was then working with Harvard’s Maya Corpus program. He photographed and sketched a few stelae, but after his visit the site of Lagunita became “lost,” at least to archaeologists. When I was working on the Corpus Project, Ian Graham often mentioned to me how much he wanted us to go find Lagunita, but we never had the time given our other commitments in the field.

Figure 2. Lagunita, Stela 2. Photo: Ivan Sprajc.

Figure 2. Lagunita, Stela 2. Photo: Ivan Sprajc.

The hieroglyphic text on Lagunita, Stela 2 is perhaps the most interesting of those I know from the site (solely from von Euw’s photos and drawings; the new project there may reveal more cool things). It is read in individuals rows, not columns, and opens with the date 9.14.0.0.0 6 Ahau 13 Muan (711 A.D.). Thereafter we find a very unusual appearance of the Dedicatory Formula (or, more awkwardly, the “Primary Standard Sequence”) — the stock phrase we so often see on inscribed portable objects, especially ceramic vessels, but hardly ever on stelae. Here the “step” (T’AB?-ya) glyph is the main dedicatory verb, followed by a possessed noun referring to the stele itself: “his carved Six Ajaw stone (wak ajaw tuun).” Back in 2005 I commented on this odd Lagunita text in my overview of the Dedicatory Formula (Stuart 2005) (Figure 3).

Figure 3. Drawing od Dedicatory Formula on Lagunita, Stela 2. From Stuart 2005.

Figure 3. Drawing of Dedicatory Formula on Lagunita, Stela 2. From Stuart 2005.

The name of the ruler is eroded unfortunately, but he seems to be called a “four k’atun lord.”

It’s exciting that Lagunita is now found again, and it will be very interesting to see what other tidbits, epigraphic and otherwise, come from the site.

SOURCES CITED:

Stuart, David. 2005. Glyphs on Pots: Decoding Classic Maya Ceramics. Excerpt from the 2005 Sourcebook for the Maya Meetings, The University of Texas at Austin. Department of Art and Art History, UT Austin, Austin, TX.

Reconstructing a Stucco Text from Palenque’s Palace 1

by David Stuart, The University of Texas at Austin

Back in the early 1980s — I can’t recall exactly what year — I found myself intrigued by the badly preserved stucco inscription from House A of Palenque’s Palace. A few date elements were clearly visible, showing what had once been an Initial Series (I.S.) date, a partial Distance Number (2.9 or 3.9), and the remnants of a record of a station in the 819-day cycle. There was also a nice example of the Palenque emblem glyph in the very last glyph block, indicating the presence at one point of a king’s name, most likely that of K’inich Janab Pakal. The preserved “11 k’atuns” in the first column gave a good working time-frame for the text, falling firmly in Pakal’s reign.

Figure 1. Maudslay's photograph of Pier A from House A of the Palace, Palenque.

Figure 1. Maudslay’s 1891 photograph of Pier A from House A of the Palace, Palenque.

I looked up Eric Thompson’s reconstruction of the dates in this inscription, which he published as part of a “Carnegie Note” back in 1954 (Thompson 1954). He was unsure of many elements, and proposed two possible reconstructions of the dates:

9.11.6.12.15 9 Men 8 Tzec
-3.9
9.11.6.9.6 5 Cimi 19 Pop

or

9.11.14.14.15 4 Men 8 Tzec
-3.9
9.11.14.11.6 13 Cimi 19 Pop

Thompson hinged his reconstructions on the mandible visible on the head variant number on the k’in of the Initial Series (at B3; see the drawing below in Figure 2), which pointed him to a day number from 13-19.

I quickly saw problems with Thompson’s reconstructions, and my excitement mounted as I came up with a better solution. The presence of an 819 day count record — something Thompson couldn’t recognize at the time — meant we could easily anchor the placement of the 19 Pop preserved at position D3. Only one possible station would fit the time-frame: 9.11.15.11.11 1 Chuen 19 Pop.  The Distance Number at B8 must then reckon back to the missing Initial Series and its month is 8 Tzec at B4. Working backwards in this way I was thrilled to find that only one possibility would work:

9.11.15.15.0 5 Ahau 8 Tzec
– 3.9
9.11.15.11.11 1 Chuen 19 Pop

One detail Thompson didn’t consider was that the mandible on the k’in number could equally point to “0” as a possible reading. Everything seemed to fall into place, and at that point I did a pencil drawing of the glyphs based on Maudslay’s 1891 photograph (Figure 2) and thought the “new” solution to Pier A’s dates would make for a nice little article.

Some month passed, maybe more, before I saw that Heinrich Berlin had long before published the same solution, using precisely the same logic (Berlin 1965:340). His discussion of the Pier A text was buried in an article he had written on the inscription of the Tablet of the Cross — the same paper, in fact, wherein he had worked out much of the Early Classic dynastic history of Palenque (referring to the kings as “Topics”).  After seeing Berlin publication I immediately put aside my old drawing of Pier A and went on to other things. But looking back I find that Pier A’s text offers a good illustration of how one can utilize a small number of clues to solve what at first might seem a hopeless case.

Figure 2. Sketch of Pier A's inscription, with reconstructed components at right. (Drawing by D. Stuart)

Figure 2. Sketch of Pier A’s inscription, with reconstructed components at right. (Drawing by D. Stuart)

When I published my study of Maya architectural dedication rites in 1998, I briefly revisited Pier A in a table listing building dedication dates at Palenque (Stuart 1998:Table 1). There, strangely, I listed the date as 9.11.15.14.19 4 Cauac 7 Tzec — a mistake of one day. I think in my haste to finish the article I must have glanced at Maudslay’s photograph and took the apparent “7 Tzec” at face value, not remembering it was actually 8 Tzec in Berlin’s correct solution.

It’s hard to know what exact event was being commemorated on Pier A. Based on parallels elsewhere (the Temple of the Sun, for example) I strongly suspect it was a dedication record for the House A gallery itself, but no verb or revealing phrase is preserved from the area that would tell us (blocks D4-D6). The date would correspond to May of 668 A.D. As noted, the protagonist was without doubt K’inich Janab Pakal.

To put this event in some context, we have a number of other dedication dates for the various structures within the Palenque’s Palace.  House A was built some years after the central buildings of the complex (Houses E and C), at a time when Pakal was rapidly adding on to his impressive complex. And to set the record straight, correcting the mistakes in my old 1998 table, I list the actual dates from the Palace here, in chronological order:

Figure 3. "He of the Five Platform? Buildings," as title of K'inich Janab Pakal that probably refers to the Palace's main structures. From the Tablet of the 96 Glyphs. (Photograph by Jorge Perez de Lara.)

Figure 3. “He of the Five Platform? Buildings,” a title of K’inich Janab Pakal probably referring to the Palace’s main structures. From the Tablet of the 96 Glyphs. (Photograph by Jorge Perez de Lara.)

9.11.1.12.8 9 Lamat 6 Xul (654) – Subterraneos
9.11.2.1.11 9 Chuen 9 Mac (654) – House E
9.11.9.5.19 4 Cauac 2 Pax (661) – House C
9.11.15.15.0 5 Ahau 8 Tzec (668) – House A
9.14.8.15.18 6 Etznab 6 Zac (720) – House A-D (built by Pakal’s son, K’inich K’an Joy Kitam)

Two major buildings in the Palace complex do not have firm dates: one is House D, but its style and decoration suggests it was constructed around the time of House A, perhaps a little afterwards. The other is House B, on the south side of the courtyard of the captives. It too was almost surely Pakal’s edifice. I suspect that the five “houses” of the Palace (in order: E, C, A, D, and B?) were the five buildings referenced in one of Pakal’s important titles, “He of the Five Platform? Buildings” (Figure 3).

Figure 4. South end of House A of the Palace, showing Pier A in its present condition. (Photograph by D. Stuart).

Figure 4. South end of House A of the Palace, showing Pier A in its present condition. (Photograph by D. Stuart).

References Cited:

Berlin, Heinrich. 1965. The Inscription of the Temple of the Cross at Palenque. American Antiquity 30(3):330-342.

Stuart, David. 1998. “The Fire Enters His House”: Architecture and Ritual in Classic Maya Texts. In Function and Meaning in Classic Maya Architecture, edited by Stephen D. Houston, pp. 373-425. Dumbarton Oaks, Washington D.C.

Thompson, J. Eric S. 1954. Memoranda on Some Dates at Palenque, Chiapas. Notes on Middle American Archaeology and Ethnology, No. 120. Carnegie Institution of Washington, Division of Historical Research, Cambridge, MA