The LAKAM Logogram

Back in 1992 or so I proposed a reading for a “tree”-like sign (T767) as LAKAM, an adjective meaning “big, large, wide” and a noun meaning “banner.” Here’s a copy of my original informal note which I circulated to a few people back then, giving the basic flow of the argument. If memory serves, I wrote this as a fellow at the School of American Research in Santa Fe, NM.

By far the most common usage of the sign is in the widespread term for “stela,” lakam tuun, literally “big stone” or “wide stone” (Stuart 1996). Incidentally, this was also the ancient name of a kingdom or polity centered near the Río Lacantun in Chiapas, Mexico. Several inscriptions of the area refer to nobles with the “emblem” title Lakamtuun Ajaw, “Lakamtuun Lord.” Obviously, the modern geographical name preserves the very ancient one; in the colonial period, this in turn gave rise to the slightly corrupted form in Spanish “Lacandon,” used to label various groups of unconquered Maya in the very southern lowlands and Verapaz regions of Chiapas and Guatemala.

I should note that my colleague Alfonso Lacadena reached the very same reading of the sign a few years later, unaware of my obscure note on the subject. He later expanded his own analysis to show that the word Lakam served also as a rare but important title for junior members of royal courts (see Lacadena 2008).

“The LAKAM Sign” by David Stuart, 1992


Lacadena García-Gallo, Alfonso. 2008. El titulo Lakam: Evidencia epigráfica sobre la organización tributaria y militar interna de los reinos mayas del clásico. Mayab no. 20, pp. 23-43.

Stuart, David. 1996. Stones of Kings: Stones of Kings: A Consideration of Stelae in Classic Maya Ritual and Representation. RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics, nos. 29/30, pp. 148-171.