Knots, Skulls and Jaguars Reply

Dusting off a minor paleographical tidbit others have probably noticed:

A familiar royal name in the history of the Usumacinta kingdoms is “Knot-eye Jaguar.” This nickname came about as a convenient term of reference, based on the form of the name glyph: a jaguar’s head with a strap or cord running from its eye up to a bow-tie knot (see attached image, at lower left). This name, however it was originally read, was used by the ninth king of the Yaxchilan dynasty as well as by a near-contemporary lord associated with the nearby Lacanha and Bonampak (one wonders if these may be the same person), and by others who came later in the history of the region.

We lack a firm reading of the whole name, but there’s good reason to think the jaguar is simply BAHLAM, “jaguar,” with the eye-knot being a separate sign. Many years ago, while looking at photographs of a Bonampak-area stela in the Musees Royaux d’Art et d’Historie in Brussels, I noticed what looks to be a visually expanded version of the same name (it may still be a different individual) accompanied by a Bonampak emblem glyph. In the detail attached we see that the upper portion of the glyph is a jaguar head prefixed by a skull showing precisely the same curved strap and top knot. This rare “knot-eye skull” seems to be a new logogram — representing a trophy head, perhaps — and its use in other settings might offer clues to a reading. Despite the unknowns, the Brussels example strongly suggests that the standard and familiar form of the royal name “Knot-eye Jaguar” is a conflation of these two components: a “knot-eye skull” before BAHLAM.

knotskulljaguar.jpg

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