Finding the Founder: Old Notes on the Identification of K’inich Yax K’uk’ Mo’ of Copan Reply

KYKM name

Figure 1. Name of K’inich Yax K’uk’ Mo’, from Altar Q of Copan (Photo by D. Stuart).

by David Stuart (The University of Texas at Austin)

One of the most famous of ancient Maya rulers is K’inich Yax K’uk’ Mo’ (KYKM) (“Solar-Green-Quetzal-Macaw”), the Early Classic founder of the Copan dynasty (Figure 1). He was celebrated by ancient Copanecos throughout the site’s 400 year history, and his legend lives on today in the key sources on Copan’s archaeology (W. Fash 2001; B. Fash 2011:35-47). He was even the subject of a 2001 PBS documentary, The Lost King of the Maya.

Given KYKM’s notoriety it’s interesting to reflect on how little we knew of his history before the mid-’80s. By that time archaeologists and epigraphers had a general outline of Copan’s Late Classic dynasty, and KYKM’s glyph had even been recognized as a personal name of some sort (the K’inich prefix being a strong indication, given its established use as a pre-posed title on late royal names at Palenque). But whose name? Proskouriakoff identified the glyph as a title, a reference to “certain ‘parrots’ that seem to turn up in troubled times” (Prouskouriakoff 1986:129). And both Gary Pahl (1976) and Lounsbury (corresponding in 1978) were closer to the mark, each seeing the glyph as a personal name but still unsure as to its exact nature. Pahl proposed it to be a variant name of the sixteenth ruler, whereas Lounsbury couldn’t commit to any historical identification, but thought it to be in reference to a Late Classic figure as well.

KYKM note

Figure 2. Stuart’s 1984 notes on identifying KYKM as an Early Classic ruler

COP St J back

Figure 3. Back of Copan, Stela J. (Photo by D. Stuart, 1987)

In retrospect this ambiguity is understandable, for the name glyph was in those years known only from much later inscriptions dating the reigns of the last five or six Copan kings (very early texts from close to KYKM’s reign finally appear in excavations during the 1990s, such as the “Xukpi Stone” and the “Motmot Marker”). It’s no wonder therefore that Proskourikoff surmised the glyph to be a general title for troublesome parrots (are there any other kind?), and not that of a definable historical figure.

This all changed in the mid 1980s, when KYKM’s true role in Maya history finally came into focus. In 1984 I became convinced that he was not a Late Classic protagonist at all but rather an early king, probably the founder of the dynasty and the first in the long line of sixteen rulers. I recently came across my old notes from that time (Figure 2), showing my line of thinking in proposing his early placement at or near the beginning of the dynasty (Note 2). The famous mat-shaped text on Stela J (Figure 3) offered the most important clue, for it showed that KYKM’s accession could be linked to the much earlier Bak’tun ending of 9.0.0.0.0, in 435 AD. Another piece of the puzzle came a couple of years after these scribblings when, in the summer of 1986, Linda Schele and I recognized that the the first figure depicted on Altar Q wore on his headdress an elaborate combination of the sings K’IN-YAX-K’UK’-MO’, placing  him at the very beginning of the famous sequence of sixteen kings (Figure 4) (Stuart and Schele 1986).  The inscription atop Altar Q soon made more sense as well, for it became clear that that the opening three dates belonged to this same Early Classic time-frame, narrating KYKM’s ch’am-k’awiil accession rite at Teotihuacan in September 6, 426 followed by his arrival back at Copan 152 days later. The last two dates of the altar’s text concerned its dedication centuries later in 775, early in the reign of the sixteenth ruler, Yax Pasaj Chan Yopaat (Note 3).

KYKM Alt Q name

Figure 3. The name-headdress of K’inich Yan K’uk’ Mo’ on the west side of Altar Q (Photo by D. Stuart).

Of course we have learned a good deal more about KYKM since the 1980s. Soon after he was properly placed in Copan’s dynastic sequence, some archaeologists still expressed informal doubts about his historical veracity, positing that he might not have been a true ancestral king but a character in some constructed, questionable history (a strangely cynical outlook on Maya histories in general, I think). But then in the 1990s his tomb and resting place were identified deep within Copan’s acropolis by the University of Pennsylvania excavations, within the so-called Hunal building phase directly under Structure 10L-16 (see Bell, Canuto and Sharer [2004] for an excellent overview of early Copan archaeology and history). Since then, one epigraphic clue suggested that KYKM may originally have been from the site of Caracol, Belize. KYKM’s story remains enigmatic in many ways, but we know that he settled at Copan in 427, probably in anticipation of the great Bak’tun ending that came less than a decade later. After several generations he was remembered as the singular cultural and political hero of ancient Copan, and after nearly twelve centuries of obscurity he’s emerged once again as a great figure in Maya history.

Notes

Note 1. In my overview of early Copan history I mistakenly noted that the identification of KYKM’s role as the dynastic founder came in 1983 (Stuart 2004:227). The dates on surrounding pages in my notebook make it clear it was in 1984.

Note 2. Looking at my old notes, students of epigraphy will see that I make use of old sign readings that are rejected today and may even seem unfamiliar – Thompson’s “hel” reading for the TZ’AK sign, for example, and Lounsbury’s “mak’ina” for what we know to be K’INICH. In fact, on the right margin of the notes here illustrated, one can see the clear inklings of the K’INICH decipherment, noting the K’IN-ni-chi substitution found on Copan’s Hieroglyphic Stairway and in a few other texts. This was confirmed around the same year.

Note 3. In my hand-written notes I botched the Long Counts for the Early Classic dates on Altar Q, even though I correctly placed them roughly 17 k’atuns before the altar’s dedication. I wasn’t using a computer program, and I was thrown-off by the mention of “17 k’atuns” which I took far too literally as a precise expression of elapsed time. It did not take much time to realize that this was instead a rare rounded Distance Number, used from time to time in Copan’s inscriptions. The actual dates on Altar Q’s top are: 8.19.10.10.17 5 Caban 15 Yaxkin (“takes k’awiil”); 8.19.10.11.0 8 Ahau 18 Yaxkin (“comes from the ‘wite’naah'”); 8.19.11.0.13 5 Ben 11 Muan (“arrives”); 9.17.5.0.0 6 Ahau 13 Kayab (PE dedication); 9.17.5.3.4 5 Kan 12 Uo (unknown). On the west face we find the isolated record of Yax Pasaj Chan Yopaat’s accession on 9.16.12.5.17 6 Caban 10 Mol, placed between his portrait and that of the founder.

References

Bell, Ellen E, Marcello Canuto and Robert J. Sharer (eds.). 2004. Understanding Early Classic Copan. Philadelphia: The University of Pennsylvania Museum.

Fash, Barbara. 2011. The Copan Sculpture Museum: Ancient Maya Artistry in Stucco and Stone. Cambridge, MA: Peabody Museum Press.

Fash, William L. 2001. Scribes, Warriors and Kings: The City of Copan and the Ancient Maya. New York: Thames and Hudson.

Pahl, Gary. 1976. A Successor-Relationshop Complex and Associated Signs. In The Art, Iconography, and Dynastic History of Palenque, Part 3, edited by M.G. Robertson, pp. 35-44. Pebble Beach, CA: Robert Louis Stevenson School.

Proskouriakoff, Tatiana. 1986. Maya History. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Stuart, David. 2004. The Beginnings of the Copan Dynasty. In Understanding Early Classic Copan, ed. by E. Bell, M. Canuto and R.J. Sharer, pp. 215-248. Philadelphia: The University of Pennsylvania Museum.

Stuart, David, and Linda Schele. 1986. Yax K’uk’ Mo’, the Founder of the Lineage of Copan. Copan Notes no. 6. Proyecto Acropolis Arqueologico Copan.

New Book: The Gifted Passage by Stephen Houston Reply

Houston-Cover-bleed.indd

The Gifted Passage: Young Men in Classic Maya Art and Text
by Stephen Houston
Yale University Press, 2018

“Deep, smart, and thoughtful, this book should be read by every scholar of Mesoamerica.”—Mary Miller, Yale University

“Lucid and engaging, with a secure grasp of the wider anthropological issues at hand, this volume is without question a significant contribution to Maya studies.”—Simon Martin, University of Pennsylvania MuseumFrom Yale University Press:

In this thought-provoking book, preeminent scholar Stephen Houston turns his attention to the crucial role of young males in Classic Maya society, drawing on evidence from art, writing, and material culture. The Gifted Passage establishes that adolescent men in Maya art were the subjects and makers of hieroglyphics, painted ceramics, and murals, in works that helped to shape and reflect masculinity in Maya civilization. The political volatility of the Classic Maya period gave male adolescents valuable status as potential heirs, and many of the most precious surviving ceramics likely celebrated their coming-of-age rituals. The ardent hope was that youths would grow into effective kings and noblemen, capable of leadership in battle and service in royal courts. Aiming to shift mainstream conceptions of the Maya, Houston argues that adolescent men were not simply present in images and texts, but central to both.

Stephen Houston is Dupee Family Professor of Social Science and Professor of Anthropology at Brown University.

Order here from Yale University Press.

A quick video look at the book from Yale University Press.

The 2018 Mesoamerica Meetings Reply

MESOAMERICAN PHILOSOPHIES: ANIMATE MATTER, METAPHYSICS, AND THE NATURAL ENVIRONMENT

January 9-13, 2018

The 2018 Mesoamerica Meetings are coming soon! Please join us in Austin next month for our stimulating series of workshops and our two-day symposium, focused on “Mesoamerican Philosophies.” Registration for the Meso Meetings is open to the public and all are welcome. Presenters include Chris Beekman, Linda Brown, David Carrasco, Michale Carrasco, Andrew Finegold, Patrick Hajovsky, Chrisptophe Helmke, Lucia Henderson, Julie Hogarth, Nick Hopkins, Zack Hruby, Danny Law, Elliot Lopez-Finn, Leonardo López Luján, James Maffie, Barbara Macleod, Alexus McLeod, Osiris Sinuhe Gonzalez Romero, David Stuart, Alex Tokovinine, Karl Taube, and Marc Zender.

Workshops, Symposium Program and Registration Information

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Forty years ago, in 1978, UT Austin hosted the first Maya Hieroglyphic Workshop by Linda Schele, and an institution was born. Over the years the annual event grew as an open and vibrant gathering of scholars, students and others, sharing in the newest research in (mostly) Maya art, archaeology and related disciplines. 2018 brings exciting new changes, marking not only the beginning of our third k’atun, but also our new identity as the UT Mesoamerica Meetings, emphasizing the interconnectedness of all Mesoamerican cultures. To celebrate our anniversary and our new direction, we will devote our 2018 conference to a novel topic: Mesoamerican Philosophies: Animate Matter, Metaphysics, and the Natural Environment.

Ancient Mesoamerican religion and worldview hinges on a special understanding of “matter” and the metaphysical expression of the sacred. The world and what inhabited it – landscapes, buildings, objects, illnesses, even time itself — were considered animate and “living” in some sense, creating a dynamic system of interactions and relationships between people, gods, and things. These ideas found a constant expression, at different scales, in the region’s art, imagery, architecture, and ritual deposits, yet it is fair to say that these elemental notions have not been organized as a cohesive philosophy in any systematic way. At the 2018 Mesoamerica Meetings scholars and students will bring ancient Mesoamerican philosophy and religion into sharper focus, looking at how the ancient Maya, Aztecs, and other Mesoamerican cultures communicated these important ideas, and developed many notions of their own. In short, the conference will be looking at some of the most foundational but least articulated concepts of a cohesive ancient Mesoamerican worldview.

Among the questions we will be asking are: How do we refine our picture of Mesoamerican ideas as a cohesive system, a philosophy that might be placed alongside other ancient traditions worldwide? How did Mesoamerican peoples represent and interact with “living” things, spaces, materials and landscapes to express their understanding of human action in an animate world? Can we come up with a more accurate idea of “animism” in describing aspects of the Mesoamerican worldview? In what ways do such ideas have direct bearing on archaeological interpretation? These are large issues, and other related questions will no doubt arise during the conference. We see it as the beginning of a new and necessary foray into defining Mesoamerican thought as a set of philosophical traditions with key repercussions in scholarly research and cultural understanding.

Workshops, Symposium Program and Registration Information

Conference: The 2018 Mesoamerica Meetings at UT-Austin Reply

The 2018 Mesoamerica Meetings (Workshops and Symposium), will be held January 9-13, 2018, at the University of Texas at Austin.

Forty years ago, in 1978, UT Austin hosted the first Maya Hieroglyphic Workshop by Linda Schele, and an institution was born. Over the years the annual event grew as an open and vibrant gathering of scholars, students and others, sharing in the newest research in (mostly) Maya art, archaeology and related disciplines. 2018 brings exciting new changes, marking not only the beginning of our third k’atun, but also our new identity as the UT Mesoamerica Meetings, emphasizing the interconnectedness of all Mesoamerican cultures. To celebrate our anniversary and our new direction, we will devote our 2018 conference to a novel topic: Mesoamerican Philosophies: Animate Matter, Metaphysics, and the Natural Environment.

Ancient Mesoamerican religion and worldview hinges on a special understanding of “matter” and the metaphysical expression of the sacred. The world and what inhabited it – landscapes, buildings, objects, illnesses, even time itself — were considered animate and “living” in some sense, creating a dynamic system of interactions and relationships between people, gods, and things. These ideas found a constant expression, at different scales, in the region’s art, imagery, architecture, and ritual deposits, yet it is fair to say that these elemental notions have not been organized as a cohesive philosophy in any systematic way. At the 2018 Mesoamerica Meetings scholars and students will bring ancient Mesoamerican philosophy and religion into sharper focus, looking at how the ancient Maya, Aztecs, and other Mesoamerican cultures communicated these important ideas, and developed many notions of their own. In short, the conference will be looking at some of the most foundational but least articulated concepts of a cohesive ancient Mesoamerican worldview.

Among the questions we will be asking are: How do we refine our picture of Mesoamerican ideas as a cohesive system, a philosophy that might be placed alongside other ancient traditions worldwide? How did Mesoamerican peoples represent and interact with “living” things, spaces, materials and landscapes to express their understanding of human action in an animate world? Can we come up with a more accurate idea of “animism” in describing aspects of the Mesoamerican worldview? In what ways do such ideas have direct bearing on archaeological interpretation? These are large issues, and other related questions will no doubt arise during the conference. We see it as the beginning of a new and necessary foray into defining Mesoamerican thought as a set of philosophical traditions with key repercussions in scholarly research and cultural understanding.

For more information on the symposium and the workshops, including paper submissions, please visit the 2018 Mesoamerica Meetings webpage.

MM 2018 poster

A Note on the Sign for TZ’IHB, “Writing, Painting” 2

by David Stuart (The University of Texas at Austin)

tz'ib glyphs

Figure 1. Spellings of tz’ihb, “writing, painting” (tz’i-bi and tz’i-ba)

Many years ago I wrote on the decipherment of the word tz’ihb, “writing, painting,” in ancient Maya texts (Stuart 1987, 1990). This usually appears in the hieroglyphs as the syllabic sequences tz’i-bi or tz’i-ba, two spellings that probably reflect slight differences in pronunciation and morphology (Figure 1). “Painting” glyphs appear in a variety of settings, including the title for scribes and painters, aj tz’ihb, as well as in glyphs that introduce artists’ signatures (“it is the painting of…”). The most common appears of the term is in the Dedicatory Formula on vessels and other painted objects, where tz’ihbaal specifies the thing’s mode of decoration (painted vs. carved).

From time to time we also find a well-known and visually transparent logogram with the likely reading TZ’IHB (Figure 2, with the -ba suffix), showing a hand daintily holding a brush or stylus (Stuart 1987:2-3). The position of the fingers replicates the distinctive “pinky up” hand gesture that served as a standard representation for artisans, including stone-carvers as well (see Stone and Zender 2011:115)(Figure 3). The logogram’s clear visual connection to the imagery of scribes or painters was recognized long ago, when the Tikal-area bowl on which it appears (K772) was first published (see Robicsek and Hales 1983:135).

AJ-TZ'IHB-ba

Figure 2. The title Aj Tz’ihb, “Painter,” from K772. Detail of photograph by Justin Kerr.

dainty hands

Figure 3. The “dainty hands” of Maya painters and carvers. Left, detail of a scribe from an unprovenced vase; Right, detail of the Emiliano Zapata Panel, Palenque region.

 

Assigning the hand-with-brush sign a TZ’IHB value has always seemed very reasonable on the face of it, but it is important to note that the sign is very rare, and no confirmation of via a phonetic substitution has ever been found (of course, the -ba suffix on the title in Figure 2 is highly suggestive). I have long been struck by the rarity of the sign, which seems especially odd considering the high frequency of tz’ihb in the Dedicatory Formula.  At any rate, until now this “writing” sign, like many in Maya epigraphy, remained a reasonable yet unconfirmed hypothesis, a good example of a graphically transparent sign (Note 1).

San Bartolo TZ'IHB sign

Figure 4. A possible early example of TZ’IHB from San Bartolo, Pinturas Complex,  Xbalanque phase, ca. 300 BCE. Photograph by D. Stuart.

We can point to only a handful of examples of this probable TZ’IHB logogram  One especially important example appears in a Late Preclassic text from San Bartolo, dating to approximately 300 BCE (Figure 4). Again the context of the surrounding glyphs in unclear, making a solid reading of TZ’IHB difficult. But the similarity to later forms from the Classic period make the identification likely — note the-ever so-slightly extended pinky finger at the right of the sign (see Tedlock 2010:26-27). Of course finding a sign for “writing” or “painting” as early as 300 BCE has important implications for considering the origins of writing itself in the Maya area.

With the recent discovery of a new text at La Corona, Guatemala, we can I think confirm the long-suspected reading. Block 9 from Hieroglyphic Stairway 2 was discovered in 2012 as part of a row of inscribed stones in from of Structure 13R-10 (Ponce 2013). The block was clearly not in its original setting, having been taken by the ancient Maya from some prior monument and and re-set in HS 2 as part of a mixed assortment of sculpted stones. Block 9 records the historical date 11 Caban 10 Zotz, or 9.12.6.16.17 (May 1, 679 CE), when a royal woman from the Kaanul dynasty (the “Snake Kingdom”) arrived at La Corona to marry the local ruler named K’inich ? Yook (Freidel and Guenter 2003, Martin 2008). The very same event was already known from another La Corona text, Panel 6, where she is described as the daughter of the great Kaanul king Yuknoom Ch’een.

tzib logogram

Figure 5. Names of a royal woman at La Corona, possibly Ix Tz’ihb Winkil. Drawings by D. Stuart.

Looking closely at her names in the two inscriptions, we see slightly different spellings (Figure 5). On HS2, shown at left, the sequence is IX-tz’i-bi-WINKIL?, perhaps for Ix Tz’ihb Winkil, “Lady Painting-Person(?)” (Note 2). This is a personal name, not a title, so I would shy away from interpreting this as some reference to the woman’s activities or court function. On Panel 6 her name appears with what looks to be a hand-like sign in place of tz’i-bi. The glyph is somewhat eroded, but a long and thin element held by the hand is just barely discernible (Figure 4b). This must be a version of our logogram reading TZ’IHB, a later variant of the sign identified on a visual basis many years ago on the bowl from the Tikal area.

This new substitution at La Corona confirms what we long suspected — that the hand-with-brush sign is the TZ’IHB logogram. And it shows us also that even when epigraphers are confident about guessing a particular reading, it is still gratifying to come across clear backing evidence for it many years later.

Notes

Note 1. Stone and Zender (2010:115) illustrate two examples of the TZ’IHB logogram, including the well-known one on on K722. Their second example shows a hand a distinctive gesture holding an inverted ocote torch, with the ‘ink’ or ‘soot’ (SIBIK) element below.  If TZ’IHB, this is an unusually elaborate version, and I wonder if it could be it a distinct sign altogether.

Note 2. The last sign in her name is T89, which I’ve recently presented as a logogram reading WINKIL, a term that refers to a class of human-like supernaturals and often used in names and titles of elite individuals (Stuart 2014). The translation of win(i)k-il is a bit challenging since it is an abstracted noun derived from winik, “person,” and “being” seems too general; “supernatural person” seems to be the sense of it. The woman’s name, Ix Tz’ihb Winkil, if that is the correct reading, may refer to a supernatural scribe patron.

References Cited

Coe, Michael D., and Justin Kerr. 1997.  The Art of the Maya Scribe. Thames and Hudson, London.

Freidel, David, and Stanley Guenter. 2003. Bearers of War and Creation. Archaeology (On-Line Features): http://archive.archaeology.org/online/features/siteq2/

Martin, Simon. 2008. Wives and Daughters on the Dallas Altar. Mesoweb: http://www.mesoweb.com/articles/martin/Wives&Daughters.pdf.

Ponce, Jocelyne. 2014. La estructura 13R-10 de La Corona: Un area de actividad de la élite maya prehispánica durante el clásico tardio y terminal. In XXVI Simposio de Investigaciones Arqueologicas en Guatemala 2013, tomo II, pp. 975-986. Asociación Tikal, Guatemala.

Robicsek, Francis and Donald M. Hales. 1981. The Maya Book of the Dead: The Ceramic Codex, The Corpus of Codex Style Ceramics from the Late Classic Period. University of Virginia Art Museum, Charlottesville.

Stone, Andrea, and Marc Zender. Reading Maya Art: A Hieroglyphic Guide to Ancient Maya Painting and Sculpture. Thames and Hudson, London.

Stuart, David. 1987. Ten Phonetic Syllables. Research Reports on Ancient Maya Writing 14. Center for Maya Research, Washington, D.C.

_______________. 1990. Hieroglyphs on Maya Vessels. The Maya Vase Book, Volume 1. Kerr Associates, New York.

______________. 2014. Four Interesting Logograms. Paper presented at the 1st Annual Maya Dictionary Meeting, Nordrhein-Westfälische Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Künste, Düsseldorf, Germany.

Tedlock, Dennis. 2010. 2000 Years of Mayan Literature. University of California Press, Berkeley.