A tablet fragment from Miraflores, Chiapas Reply

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Here’s a drawing of an inscribed tablet fragment from Miraflores, an important subsidiary center of Palenque. It will appear in my upcoming Palenque book to be publsihed in 2007 or 2008 by Thames and Hudson.

This and a few other carved panel fragments were seen by Heinrich Berlin, who published photos in his Ethnos article “News from the Maya World” (see my previous Michol Celt posting for the full reference). Karl Herbert Mayer later published good enlargements of these and other Berlin images now archived at the Peabody Museum, Harvard University. Author Karena Shields took a photograph of this piece as well sometime in the 1950s, details of which were key in producing this drawing.

The text identifies the standing figure as a Yajawk’ahk’ — a priestly or military office of some sort — who was a Sajal of K’inich Janab Pakal.

Its current location is unknown.

Palenque’s Temple of the Skull Reply

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The sole surviving portion of the stucco decoration on the Temple of the Skull (Temple XII) at Palenque is — no surprise — a skull. Visitors to the ruins might notice it just as they enter the ruins, looking up at the temple’s one remaining pier. The skull was clearly part of a larger composition, and its position at the base suggests it served as a pedestal for a standing figure, much like the skeletal heads (seeds?) beneath the feet of the royal portraits on piers of the Temple of the Inscriptions.

Looking recently at the deer skull, I noticed that its shell ears (or ear ornaments) have a distinctive and telling appearance. At first they appear to be the same as the spondylus shell ears characteristic of the gods Chahk or GI, but on closer look one can see that he upper halves of each shell are half-covered in jaguar pelt. This odd feature occurs in only one other setting in Maya art and writing: on the rather strange long-lipped head that substitutes for WAY-wa-la or WAY-la, written several times in Palenque’s inscriptions (see second jpg attached with this post). We don’t know the exact reading of the head (I’ll provisionally refer to it as WAYWAL?), but it’s consistently paired with BAAK, BAAK-le or BAAK-la in a title used by two Palenque kings, K’inich Kan Bahlam and K’inich K’uk’ Bahlam. The entire combination my read something like Baakel Waywal, but the semantics are obscure to me; baak, “bone,” is perhaps related to the standard Palenque emblem glyph, the head variant of which is a deer skull. At any rate, the two main elements of the strange title, BAAK and WAYWAL?, therefore seem to be conflated in the stucco decoration on the temple. It’s an iconographic version of the hieroglyph.

The identification should point to a close association between the Temple of the Skull and one of the two rulers mentioned, K’inich Kan Bahlam or his great nephew K’inich K’uk’ Bahlam. To me the style of the stucco looks not too terribly late and more in line with the earlier king.

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(So, could the rich tomb discovered beneath the Temple of the Skull in 1994 be that of K’inich Kan Bahlam? I would never put this in print, so forget you ever read it…)

Galindo’s Glyphs 2

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In his 1831 visit to Palenque, explorer Juan Galindo removed four stucco glyphs from the Temple of the Inscriptions, most likely from one of its inscribed outer piers (Piers A or F). Drawings of the glyphs – truly excellent for the time — were published in Galindo’s report of 1834, and Heinrich Berlin reproduced these in his 1970 article “Miscelánea Palencana” (Journal de la Société des Américanistes, vol. LIX, pp. 107-108). Even so, the glyphs remain obscure today and seldom studied. Last year I did these drawings, based solely on the old images Galindo published. I’ve never seen photographs of the glyphs, if they exist.

Three of the glyphs seem to be part of the opening I.S. from Pier A. Considering these in connection with other date elements from Pier A (a “Kawak” day sign and an I.S.I.G. with a Pax patron), Berlin rightly proposed this as the best solution for reconstructing the opening date:

9.12.18.13.19 9 Kawak 17 Pax G9

The fourth and last of Galindo’s glyphs is ye-TE’-na-hi, probably a variant spelling of the proper name (9-(Y)EHT(?)-NAAH) given to the tomb and temple on the west panel of the Inscriptions text. If they were removed together, it suggests that the peir I.S. corresponds to the dedication of the Temple of the Inscriptions. Dedication dates on stucco piers may be a pattern at Palenque, also seen on House A of the Palace and on the Temple of the Sun.

The ceiba tree on K1226 11

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We all know the ceiba tree so naturalistically represented on vase K1226, but there are a few things to say about the facial motif and other elements shown on the tree’s trunk. What follows is probably obvious to many, but it will hopefully correct a few misconceptions that reappear from time to time in writings about this famous vase.

The face at the base of the ceiba tree, shown frontal-view, is not the same as the “mirror” face we see on the cruciform trees depicted at Palenque, as is often assumed (see Pakal’s sarcophagus lid). Instead — and again this is already known to many — the face is the deity known as the “Patron of Pax,” recognizable by the jaguar paw attached to the top of his ear spool (i.e., there is no jaguar hiding behind the tree, swatting at the alacran). As I showed back in the early 80s, the Pax Patron is a hieroglyphic sign that can be used as the head-variant of TE’, “tree.” The same head marks the base of trees in other representations; K1345 offers a good comparison, with the TE’ in a more conventional profile view.

What may be new to a few out there is the YAX sign just to the left of the tree’s trunk, attached to the TE’ and offering a visual balance to the paw. This is the “iconographic” YAX identical to what we see often on the top if God D’s head, where it helps to indicate his full name Yax Itzamnaaj. On K1226, the elements combine to give an emblematic hieroglyph YAX-TE’, for yaxte’, “ceiba.”

No big deal, but maybe a clarification.

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A political transition at Palenque? Reply

Once when perusing the early Palenque history recorded in the east tablet of the Temple of the Inscriptions, I noticed an fascinating pattern in the accession records of the eight rulers recorded up to and including K’inich Janab Pakal. The verb is always “seating” but the prepositional phrase that follows, specifying the office or status attained, differs among the kings and the queen who precede Pakal.

As we see here, at least four (and probably five) of the early kings attained an office or status simply written HU’N-na, for hu’n, “paper, headband.” Only when Ajen Yohl Mat came to power in the early seventh century does to the usual ajawlel, “rulership,” status appear:

Ahkal Mo’ Nahb’ I – Seated as Hu’n
K’an Joy Chitam I – Seated as ? (missing)
Ahkal Mo’ Nahb’ II – Seated as Hu’n
Kan Bahlam I – Seated as Hu’n
Ix Yohl Ik’nal – Seated as Hu’n

Ajen Yohl Mat – Seated in Ajawlel
Muwaan Mat – Seated in Ajawlel
K’inich Janab Pakal – Seated in Ajawlel

In 599 A.D. (during Ix Yohl Ik’nal’s rule) Palenque was defeated by Calakmul, and I have to wonder if the shift indicated by these “office” glyphs was directly related to the political upheaval of those times. It would appear that the new “ajaw-ship” of the later kings was connected to Palenque’s own resurgence after the Calakmul wars, when the stage was set for Pakal’s long and remarkable reign.