In this post I offer up another rare and unusual sign in the Maya script. This is what I call the “fringed crossed-bands,” which looks to be an obscure logogram (word sign). I have no good suggestion to make about its value or meaning, but only show some of its scattered examples in the hope it might spur progress toward an eventual reading.
The sign seems visually complex. Its main feature is a fringe-like design on its left side, which appears to droop over a small rounded central element. A crossed-bands motif appears in its upper central area. This sign often (not always) takes a superfix resembling a twisted cord or knot – I suspect these are all variations on the same form – and there’s a possibility that this an integral of a larger sign.
It appears in four places to my knowledge, mostly in personal names. An early example is from an unpublished Early Classic Tzakol-style vessel, where it looks to be part of a personal name (Figure 1a). On Kerr 1440 (Figure 1b) it may also be part of a name phrase, according to the recent analysis of the passage by Hull, Carrasco and Wald (2009). There it takes the affixes –ya and -si. Yet another name that makes use of the sign is that of a sculptor who contributed to the carving of Piedras Negras, Stela 14, named on its front, where it again takes the -ya-si suffixes (Figure 1c). Unfortunately, these cases don’t help us much when working toward a decipherment of the sign – names are contextually “neutral” in terms of their semantic constraints. The -ya-si affixes are difficult to account for, but they suggest a connection to the “body-part” nominal suffix -is noted by Marc Zender (2004).
One last instance of the sign maybe is more revealing (Figure 2). This appears in the text that ran above along the top of the throne of the platform within Temple XXI at Palenque, in a passage describing a ritual that took place on 184.108.40.206.0 3 Ajaw 3 Yaxk’in (June 14, 709), There it appears as one of two verbs that take a –n-aj verb suffix, in a context that indicates a passive construction for non-CVC transitive stems (Lacadena 2004).
ha-o-ba ?-na-ja ?-na-ja TA-CH’AB-AK’AB-li
ha’oob ..?..naj .. ..?..naj ta ch’ab ak’bil
it is they (who were) ?ed and ?ed in creation-and-darkness
The mystery sign may stand for a non-CVC transitive verb, paired in this instance with some other obscure action. The subjects (“they”) are the protagonists of the scene on the Temple XXI panel, the future king K’inich Ahkal Mo’s Nahb and his possible brother, Upakal K’inich. With such a nicely specific grammatical setting, we may have an eventual in-road toward an eventual decipherment of the “fringed crossed-bands,” but that’s probably a long way away.
Hull, Kerry, Michael Carrasco, and Robert Wald. 2009. The First-Person Singular Independent Pronoun in Classic Ch’olan. Mexicon 31(2):36-43.
Lacadena, Alfonso. 2004. Passive Voice in Classic Mayan Texts: CV-h-C-aj and -na-aj Constructions. In The Linguistics of Maya Writing, edited by S. Wichmann, pp. 165-194. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City.
Zender, Marc. 2004. On the Morphology of Inanimate Possession in Mayan Languages and Classic Mayan Glyphic Nouns. In The Linguistics of Maya Writing, edited by S. Wichmann, pp. 195-210. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City.