Sunday, April 5, 2015

The 'Bone Codex' of Jasaw Chan K'awiil I of Tikal

Bone MT-38A from Temple I, Burial 116 Tikal
Photo by Paul Johnson 
Hi All,

In co-authorship with Péter Biró, I will be giving on April10-11 of 2015 the following presentation at the CSU Los Angeles Mesoamerican Symposium- In the Realm of the Vision Serpent: Decipherments and Discoveries in Mesoamerica. A Symposium in Homage to Linda Schele

The 'Bone Codex' of Jasaw Chan K'awiil I
Carl D. Callaway & Péter Biró


As a leader in the field, Linda Schele opened new lines of inquiry into Maya art and epigraphy by posing bold new questions. In honor of her influential research, this paper examines a remarkable burial cache of inscribed bones from the royal tomb of Jasaw Chan K'awiil I (682-734 AD) from Tikal Temple I, cataloged as Burial 116. Aubrey S. Trik the excavator of Burial 116, first speculated if this cache was a 'bone codex'. Trik's collaborator Linton Satterthwaite deduced that several bones could be aligned vertically, side-by-side in single columns, and their respective texts linked via corresponding dates. Advances in Maya epigraphy now allow for a fuller reading of the bones in question. Some texts reveal subjects and themes like-in-kind to those found in existing Maya codices while others are unique in character. Death scenes and texts connecting Jasaw Chan K'awiil I to the sinking of the Maize God's canoe presage the king's own the death journey. Additionally, drawings on several bone 'pointers' allude to the mythic origins of hieroglyphs and display patron deities of writing. While not a continual series of unified texts from a single manuscript, the bones do display select passages and scenes, that were no doubt sourced from specialized hand books containing: astronomical almanacs, god histories, family rites and royal obituaries—information that Jasaw Chan K'awiil I utilized for his own scribal practice.

Hope to see many of you there.

MT-51A from Temple I, Burial 116 Tikal
 Photo by Paul Johnson