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