Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Palenque House E Painted Band: Calculations into Deep Time

The Palenque House E painted text is situated on the rear wall of the western corridor just above the Oval Tablet and below the vault spring. It consists of two horizontal rows of glyphs roughly three meters long. Today, sections of the text are badly damaged or completely effaced (see above photo- courtesy of the British Museum). Fortunately photographs taken by Alfred P. Maudslay in 1891 and Linda Schele in 1973, record many details now lost. The photos reveal four distinct passages (each separated by dates and intervening distance numbers) that were written in commemoration of the accession of K’inich Ahkal Mo’ Naab III in 721 AD[i]. The following link:
gives a modern photo composite of the entire text with a preliminary number and lettering system.

A Short Summary of the Painted Text[ii]

Passage I (glyph blocks pA1– pI2) begins with a Long Count set deep into the mythic past (by a few hundred thousand years) of the previous era. This is one of only two deep time texts before the era base day that is accompanied by a full long count date (the other being La Corona glyphic panels 1 and 9). The event associated with the Long Count is unfortunately lost. As noted previously by David Stuart, a participant in the event may be the Sun God or an aspect of him as the HUK TZ’IKIN CHAPAT AJAW[iii] (God of the night sun). Passage II (glyph blocks pJ1–pS2) records a distance number leading from the opening Long Count to the accession of the Triad Progenitor on 9 Ik’ Seating of Sak (7 September 2325 BC). Passage III (glyph blocks pT1–pU2) may record a conjuring event by the Triad Progenitor (A.K.A. the Maize God-see note i) one WINAL (twenty days) before his accession. Passage IV (glyph blocks pU2–pD’2) records a long distance number of 1,112,280 days leading from the accession of the Triad Progenitor on the day 9 IK’ Seating of SAK to the accession of K’inich Ahkal Mo’ Naab III on 9 Ik’ 5 K’ayab (3 January 722 AD).[iv]

It is a loss that archaeologists and conservators were unable to save the House E Painted Band. Yet, through the aid of existing photos, drawings and computer technology we have been able to reconstruct this painted monument to Palenque’s mythic origins and royal history and return it to the House E throne room. Back in its rightful place above the Oval Tablet, we see how the text was part of a strategic effort of legitimacy by Ahkal Mo’ Naab III to source his accession on the day 9 IK’ to the Maize God’s accession on the day 9 IK’. The king further wanted to show continuity between his reign and those of his uncles and famous grandfather Pakal by painting the inscription so it was directly centered and above the Oval Tablet (Pakal’s accession monument) and a throne (the now removed Del Rio Throne) recording three generations of Palenque kings.[v] As elsewhere at Palenque, politics and myth are intermeshed, and rulers continually sought to source their power in mythic deeds of the creator gods. The New Composite of the House E Painted Text offers the researcher the ability view the painting as Maudslay would have seen it back in 1891. Placing the painting back into the House E will allow future scholars to compare the painting to other House E monuments and to understand more fully relationships between written text and the surrounding imagery. Finally a more in-depth article on the painted band can be found at:

[i] It is very interesting to consider the fact that the portion of the painted text sitting directly above the Oval Tablet (Pakal’s accession monument), speaks about the accession of the Triad Progenitor who is strongly associated with the Maize God, see David Stuart, The Inscriptions From Temple XIX At Palenque. A Commentary, 2005, 183. Pakal as well made an apparent link to the Maize God on the Oval Tablet, by declaring in his name caption that he was the “HUN YAAX IXIM” or “First Green Maize.”
[ii] Of all the sources mentioned previously, I will use the Maudslay and Schele photos along with the Seler drawing to recreate and interpret numerical coefficients of time periods in the painted text.
[iii] Erik Boot, The Title (WUK) Chapat Tz’ikin K’inich Ahaw: A New Proposal. Unpublished manuscript.
[iv] As David Stuart points out (see David Stuart, The Inscriptions From Temple XIX At Palenque. A Commentary, 2005, 85) the accession date of 9 IK’ 5 KAYAB and its accompanying time interval of days (in connection with the Triad Progenitor’s accession date on 9 IK’ Seating of SAK) is recorded elsewhere at Palenque (see Temple XIX text and the Temple XVIII jambs). Therefore, the associated distance number and event connected to Passage IV are verifiable from two other sources.
[v] For a reconstruction of the Del Rio Throne see Merle Greene Robertson, The Sculpture Of Palenque Vol. II: The Early Buildings Of The Palace And Wall Paintings. 1985.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Birth of the Number Twenty as Recorded in the Dresden Codex

Two of the “Serpent Number” pages of the Dresden Codex
 hold parallel passages describing creation events shortly before the start of the current era on 4 Ajaw 8 Kumk’u (August 13, 3114 BC). Specifically, they record the creation of the Winal–the number twenty (see above figure for the passage on page 61). Scribes reference the Winal’s “birth” with the passage pataj ajwinik, “was formed twenty.” The Winal’s birth is then followed by a short numerical count of twenty days that falls directly before 4 Ajaw 8 Kumk’u. This count of twenty days is expressed by the numbers “19 and 0” written side–by–side. The birth of the Winal, followed by a count of twenty days prior to creation day shares a one–to–one correspondence with a similar pre–era event as recorded in the Post–Conquest writings of the Chilam Balam of Chumayel from the Yucatán. This strong correspondence between the Dresden and the Chumayel leaves little doubt that the Winal episode told on the Serpent Number pages serves as the antecedent to the Chumayel text, and thereby shows that a core mythos of Maya cosmology survived intact in Post–Conquest Yucatán despite the ravages and religious suppression of the European Conquest.

Works Cited
Roys Ralph L.
1967 The Book of the Chilam Balam of Chumayel. Pp 229. The Civilization of the American Indian Series. Oklahoma: Univiversity of Oklahoma Press.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Patron of the Month Pax

The Patron for the Maya month of PAX is not well understood but he has a wide distribution in Classic Maya iconography and writing. The god is the anthropomorphic form of the TE’ sign. The TE’ Sign itself has “normal” and “head variant” forms. The normal form of TE’ is composed of two basic parts. The first is a circular bead with one or two circles inscribed within (see the T87 sign in Thompson1962:446). Attached to the circle is an oval–shaped ornament from whose edge juts one or two jagged “teeth.” Inscribed in the oval is a line or a bar on which hangs two or three dots. This line– and–dot–cluster serves as the essential feature of the TE’ glyph and acts as a main sign that labels wood items such as trees, wooden bowls, and canoes. The head variant of the TE’ glyph is the profile or frontal portrait of a human face missing a lower jaw. The head displays a pair of large crossed eyes (like those of the Sun God), a cruller motif running under the eye socket, and a disembodied jaguar paw above the ear. From its jawless mouth dangle root–like protrusions. This face is a portrait of the very same head that inhabits the trunks of many trees painted on Classic vases (see Kerr vases K1226 and K4013). The TE’ faces on these trees can sometimes show an oval “jade/celt” T24 sign (Thompson 1962:445) emblazoned on the forehead or a pierced nose with an “AJAW” bead for a nose jewel. The mouth of the TE’ head contains either the T712 sign or root–like tendrils. In every instance as a full tree, the lower jaw of the TE’ mouth is below ground level, a fact that argues that the substance trailing from the mouth represents roots or tubers of some sort.

The head variant of the TE’ sign is often referred to as the Patron God of the month PAX or simply the PAX God. Head and full-figure portraits of the PAX god are nested above the central element of the Introductory Glyph from a Long Count inscription when the Long Count records a date falling within the month of PAX (Beyer 1931:105). The face of the TE’ head carries an added nose ornament associated with ink/soot and which is often translated as SIBIK (Zender 2005:13). A full-figured, personified form of the PAX God/TE’ sign occurs on Quirigua’s Zoomorph B (Taube 2005:30). Here, vegetal leaves sprout from the reclining figure’s mouth. Head variants of the PAX God also occur on Yaxchilan Lintel 48 and Copan Stela 9 (Thompson 1971:figure 23). A possible name for this PAX patron is SIBIK TE’ (Zender 2005:13). As Miller and Martin (2004:28-29; see also Zender 2005:12) point out, the personified form of SIBIK TE’ occurs as part of a sculpture on the Amparo Throne Back. The throne shows the PAX patron as possessing a bizarre set of serpent–headed wings underneath his arms. He sits cross–legged between two figures, one of which is dressed as the God Itzamna. The accompanying glyphic text refers to the PAX God as the “messenger of Itzamna” (ibid). Finally, anthropomorphized figurines of the PAX God were carved from pure blocks of jade (Wagner 2001:67; Taube 2005:29). At Copan, the Early Classic grave of K’ak’ Yipyaj Chan K’awiil produced a rectangular shaped pectoral carved as a standing figure of the PAX God, complete with the definitive jaguar ears and stylized roots protruding from its mouth and oval T24 signs on its legs (Wagner 2001:67). Even more remarkable, the back of this pectoral is carved with a square–nosed blossom and oval T24 sign (Elizabeth Wagner pers. comm. 2006). The combination of personified TE’ sign and a portrait of a square-nosed blossom etched on a jade object confirm the intimate connection between jade and this arboreal related god.

Works Cited

Beyer, Hermann 1931. Mayan Hieroglyphs: the variable element of the introducing glyphs as month indicator, Anthropos, 26: 99-108. St. Gabriel Mööbei Wien.

Miller, Mary Ellen and Simon Martin. 2004 Courtly Art of the Ancient Maya. New York: Thames & Hudson.

Taube, Karl A. 2005 The Symbolism Of Jade In Classic Maya Religion. In AncientMesoamerica, Vol. 16, Spring 2005, pp. 23–50. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Thompson, J. Eric S. 1960 Maya hieroglyphic Writing: An Introduction. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. And1962 A Catalog Of Maya Hieroglyphs. Oklahoma: University Of Oklahoma Press.

Wagner Elisabeth. 2001 Jade–The Green Gold Of The Maya. In Maya Divine Kings of the Rainforest, pp. 66–69. Cologne: Könemann.

Zender, Marc Uwe 2005 The Raccoon Glyph In Maya Writing. In The Pari Journal, 5(4) 6–16. Electronic version of original 2005 publication: (Facsimile of the original found

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Note from Carl Callaway

Hello Maya Enthusiasts and Scholars.

I hope you will find the Maya Mythos blog helpful in researching any and all aspects of Maya Mythology. In recent years, the ancient Maya religion is the source of much investigation and debate and there are many new discoveries and hieroglyphic readings to ponder. I hope to add to this field of inquiry my own discoveries as well as those of my colleagues. I will also endeavor to provide helpful links and sources to those who wish to pursue this topic further.

Carl D. Callaway