More on Tortuguero’s Monument 6 and the Prophecy that Wasn’t

Tortuguero’s Monument 6 continue to be the focus of a good deal of scrutiny, and not just among epigraphers and Mayanists. Many of course claim that the last few glyphs of its long inscription contain the only record of what the ancient Maya had to say or prophesize about the coming end of the Bak’tun in late 2012. I’m partly to blame for the attention given to Monument 6, after some years ago when I posted a brief, off-the-cuff analysis of each glyph on a listserv, where I labelled the passage as the “Tortuguero Prophecy” (see below). Little did I know back then this would soon help set off a frenzy on many New Age websites, associated forum discussions, and even a few book chapters.

Figure 1. The final section of Tortuguero Monument 6. See Figure 4 for a general overview of the text's original form. (Drawing by D. Stuart)

To many, the handful of glyphs at the very end of Monument 6’s text continues to form the linchpin for understanding what the ancient Maya thought about the end of the Bak’tun in 2012, even as the readings of the partially damaged glyphs continue to be discussed and debated. Most recently, Sven Gronemeyer and Barbara Macleod presented their own detailed epigraphic analysis (Gronemeyer and Macleod 2010), and in my recent book The Order of Days (Stuart 2011) I spend a few pages on the topic, without delving into much glyph-by-glyph detail (since the book was intended for a general, non-speacialist readership). One prominent New Age author on 2012 seems especially frustrated with the ongoing discussions among epigraphers — me especially — and the inevitable changes of interpretation that come as a result. So here I take the opportunity to clarify my most recent thinking on the significance of the Tortuguero passage.

On the pages of this weblog Steve Houston offered an important insight into the closing passage of Monument 6, noting that the final glyphs might not pertain to the Bak’tun ending after all, as I and others had earlier supposed. He posited that the closing statement instead serves to reiterate a key dedication episode highlighted earlier in the inscription. I’ve pondered Steve’s cogent reassessment for some time, and in The Order of Days I took a neutral stance on the matter, not knowing quite what to think. Much to the chagrin of some adamant 2012ers, I nonetheless spent a few paragraphs downplaying the significance of Monument 6 in general, given the extensive damage and ambiguities of the pertinent glyphs in the final passage. Upon more reflection, and after looking and a number of comparative examples, I now can lend my full support for Steve’s analysis, as well as his assertion that no prophetic statements about 2012 likely exist in Monument 6’s inscription.

The structure of this text was the topic of some detailed analysis and discussions earlier this year during the Advanced Hieroglyphs workshop led by Danny Law, held  at the 2011 Maya Meetings in Austin. While there it became clear that Steve Houston’s analysis is correct, and that the final passage serves as a re-statement or elaboration of the inscription’s main topic, the dedication of a shrine, tomb or some other structure where Monument 6 was said to have been found. (Rumors at the time, Ian Graham once told me, stated that it had been found covering or blocking a tomb entrance). In other words, the mention of 4 Ahaw 3 K’ank’in on Tortuguero Monument 6 is an isolated chronological anchor within a larger narrative, projected into the future in order to make a rhetorical point about the nature of the main historical event. The last few glyphs of the text, rather than being wedded to the section, should be viewed instead as comprising a record of a contemporary episode — the building dedication — that’s the discursive focus of the entire inscription.

Closing the Narrative Loop

For those who are unfamiliar with the more technical aspects of Classic Maya literary structure and discourse, I’ll illustrate this concept using a modern parallel. Let’s imagine that a scribe living in New York back in the year 1950 wanted to immortalize some great happening of that year on a stone monument. One momentous event of the time was the New York Yankees’ four-game sweep of the Phillies in that year’s World Series (it pains me a bit to write this today, being a traumatized Red Sox fan). If our imaginary scribe were to use the particular ancient Maya rhetorical device under discussion, he or she might say something like this: “On October 7, 1950, the New York Yankees defeated the Philadelphia Phillies to win the World Series. It happened 29 years after the first Yankees victory in the World Series in 1921. And so 50 years before the year 2000 will occur, the Yankees won the World Series” (little would the scribe know, unless he was a prophet, that the Yankees would win it all again in 2000). The last sentence of this commemorative statement is a projection forward to a date of calendrical importance — the fifty-year anniversary as well as the near-start of the new millennium — but notice how the writer swings back to highlight the real event at hand — the 1950 sweep. This is precisely how many ancient Maya texts are structured, including Tortuguero’s Monument 6.

Figure 2. The closing passage of Palenque's Tablet of the Foliated Cross, linking the main event of the tablet to the future K'atun ending Photograph by Jorge Perez de Lara.

Let’s look at some specific cases of this text structure in Maya inscriptions. First we can turn to the closing glyphs from the Tablet of the Temple of the Foliated Cross at Palenque (Figure 2). The single main event of this key inscription, as well as it’s two partners on nearby temples, highlights a ritual burning of something called a chitin, perhaps refering to a sweatbath (Houston 1996) or a kiln for ceramic effigies of deities (Stuart 2005). This occurs on 2 Kib 14 Mol. The last nine blocks of the text serve to anchor this date to the soon-to-come K’atun ending 8 Ahaw 8 Woh.

4-12-WINIK-ji-ya / 1-HAAB’ / u-to-ma / 8-AJAW 8-CHAK-AT / U-13-WINIKHAAB’? / i-u-ti 2-“KIB” / i-PAT-la-ja / U-1-TAHN-na / K’INICH-KAN=BAHLAM K’UH(UL)-BAAK-AJAW

chan(-eew?) lajcha’ winikijiiy huun haab’
ut-oom waxak ajaw waxak(-te’) chakat u uxlajuun winikhaab'(?)

i uht cha’ ?(“kib'”) i patlaj u huuntahn k’inich kan b’ahlam k’uhul b’aakal ajaw.

“Four-and-twleve score days and one year, before Eight Ahaw the Eighth of Chakat, when the 13th K’atun ( 8 Ahaw 8 Woh) will occur, then happens 2 Kib ( 2 Kib 14 Mol) when the precious one(s) of K’inich Kan Bahlam, the Holy B’aakal Lord, is/are fashioned.”

This closing passage follows a lengthy description of the significance of the date 2 Kib 14 Mol, taking up all of the previous two columns of the inscription. The purpose of this closing statement is project forward in time to a notable Period Ending and restate the narrative’s focus using somewhat different terms or supplemental information (the king’s relationship to the god(s), in this instance).

From Copan we have a text that bridges present and future over a much greater span of time. Stela J (not illustrated) was dedicated on the period ending 7 Ahaw 3 Kumk’u, and its text mentions in its final section a projection forward to the Bak’tun ending 7 Ahaw 18 Sip. No prophesy or prediction is offered, only a simple statement that “the 10th Bak’tun will end” (tzuhtz-j-oom u lajuun pik). The scribe does so because the upcoming Bak’tun ending, still centuries in the future, will be a recurrence of 7 Ahaw, establishing a “like-in-kind” connection on the cosmic clock. A number of monuments at nearby Quirigua do the very same thing, on occasion projecting to similar Ahaw anniversaries that will occur eons forward in time. As we will see, the same is basically true on Monument 6, with “4 Ahaw” being the common denominator between the narrative “present” and a distant future.

Figure 3. The final passage from Naranjo, Altar 1. The glyphs that project forward from to the future Bak'tun ending are highlighted. Drawing by I. Graham, CMHI.

As Steve Houston has noted, Naranjo’s Altar 1 does much the same thing, and shows even stronger parallels to what we will soon discuss regarding Tortuguero’s Monument 6 (Figure 3). The celebrated event of this text is a Period Ending on, contemporaneous with the inscriptions carving and dedication during the reign of the important early king known to many as “Aj Wosaj” (a misnomer, probably, for what is written as AJ-?-sa-[ji]).

U-K’AL-TUUN-ni / 5-AJAW / 3-IK’-SIHOOM / U-TZUTZ-wa / U-7-WINIKHAAB? / AJ-?-sa / 3-11-PIK-AJAW / ya-AL / IX-?-CHAN / a-bu-lu-pa-a / U-MIHIIN / ?-CHAN-AHK / 9-TZAK-bu-AJAW / 0-K’IN / 0-WINIK-0-HAAB / 12-WINIKHAAB? / TZUTZ / jo-mo / U-10-PIK / 7 AJAW / 18-CHAK-AT / u-to-ma / u-CHOK-? / AJ-?-sa / 5 AJAW / 3-IK’-SIHOOM

u k’altuun jo’ ajaw ux(-te’) ik’sihoom
u tzutzuw u wuk winikhaab'(?) aj ? ux b’uluch pik ajaw
y-al ix ? abulpa'(?) chan, u mihin ? chan ahk, b’olon tzakab ajaw
mih k’in mih winik mih haab’ lahcha’ winikhaab’
tzuhtz-j-oom u lajuun pik
(ta) wuk ajaw waxaklajuun chakat, utoom
u chok aj ?
(ta) jo’ ajaw ux(-te’) ik’sihoom

“(It is) the stone-binding on Five Ahaw the Third of Woh, when ‘Aj Wosaj’, the three-eleven pik lord, completes the eighth K’atun ( He is the child of the woman Ix ? Chan B’ulpa’, and the child of the man ? Chan Ahk, the dynastic lord. (It is) twelve-score years before the tenth B’ak’tun will be finished (on) 7 Ahaw 18 Sip ( ,when ‘Aj Wosaj’ casts incense(?) on Five Ahaw, the Third of Woh (”

Here the subject of the ut-oom verb is the date 7 Ahaw 18 Sip, which is “fronted” beforehand. The chok or “scattering” verb appearing after ut-oom is not a future event, for it initiates a new phrase associated with the earlier base of the forward calculation. This is the ritual that was performed by the contemporary Naranjo ruler on

Figure 4. The Original Form of Tortuguero, Monument 6. (Main section drawing by I. Graham, right wing by D. Stuart)

Tortuguero’s Main Event

Analysis of the entire Monument 6 inscription clearly shows that it’s main thrust is the ritual dedication of a tomb or shrine in the 7th century, specifically on the day 9 Etz’nab 6 K’ayab (January 11, 669). The record of this episode takes up the majority of text’s overall space, running from block I2 through to the very end. That’s nearly half of the entire inscription. In blocks I6-I8 is the initial portion of this commemoration, stating that some 25 years after B’ahlam Ajaw’s inauguration there was a “house-burning” (el-naah) ritual on the 9 Etz’nab day just mentioned. It goes on to say in blocks J8 through J10 that this occurred just over a year (1.8.18) after the period ending 4 Ahaw 13 Mol. Such side references to period endings are common in texts such as this, and they serve again to contextualize the focus event by relating it to the comsic mechanisms of the Long Count. The 4 Ahaw station for this nearby PE was especially noteworthy given its importance in Maya cosmology and time keeping, and no doubt the mention of the future occurrence of 4 Ahaw on 4 Ahaw 3 K’ank’in later on Monument 6 is designed to reflect an essential symmetry between present and future.

Returning to the Tortuguero text, blocks I11 through J13 to record more about the building dedication, giving the buidling or shrine’s proper name at I12 and J12. These follow a highlighting marker (a-AY?-ya) at I11 and a positional verb at J11 reading i-e-ke-wa-ni, for ek-wan or hek-wan, a term difficult to link to any identifiable root in Mayan languages. Evidently this episode had something to do with a “positioning” of the named edifice, at the same time the “house-burning” dedicatory rite occurred. Much of the rest of this passage is missing, but it surely mentioned the ruler B’ahlam Ajaw before the surviving emblem glyph (I16). His parents are named thereafter in blocks J16 through K3.

So, here we come to the thorny part of the text. The pivotal element here is the verb u-to-ma (block  O4) spelling the future participle utoom, “it will happen.” This comes after the date and before the damaged glyphs that close the entire text. The question is what, exactly, is the subject of this verb? Gronemeyer and Macleod believe that the subject must be the following glyph block, which is in turn attached to those that follow. In this sceanrio the final glyphs naturally would contain some description of a happening associated with 2012, as I also suggested some years ago: “… (before) the thirteenth Bak’tun will end (on) 4 Ahaw 3 K’ank’in, EVENT2 will happen” (EVENT2 being a 2102 occurence). By contrast, Steve Houston’s analysis sees an important break after utoom in the discursive structure of the inscription, whose subject must simply be the future date and Bak’tun ending itself. It serves to reinforce the temporal position of the date just mentioned in order to bring the reader back to the narrative present. In this way the glyphs that follow utoom return to the focused event of the larger narrative — i.e., the house dedication. In other words the subject of utoom is understood to be the date, which has been “fronted” syntactically, as in: “… (before) the thriteenth Bak’tun will end (when) 4 Ahaw 3 K’ank’in will happen, then EVENT1.” Here the restatement of EVENT1, the shrine dedication, does not include a mention of the earlier Calendar Round 9 Etz’nab 6 K’ayab. This should not be seen as a problem, however, as other texts are known to do the same.


My purpose here has not been to go over the damaged final glyphs of Monument 6, trying to determine their original forms and reason out what the passage originally might have said. Gronemeyer and Macleod have recently done so in exhaustive and admirable detail, even positing a reconstruction of a phrase describing a future “investiture” of the deity Bolon Yookte’ K’uh. Although I have some questions about the specifics of their analysis, my real intent has been to focus more on the question of whether those glyphs are really at all relevant to 2012 anyway. In doing so I follow closely on the points Steve Houston made a number of months ago, including his claim that those enticing glyphs probably don’t say anything at all about 2012 and its meaning to the ancient inhabitants of Tortuguero. For the reasons given here, I think the evidence seems fairly inescapable that Steve was correct.

Stepping back a bit, it’s important to reiterate that Monument 6 never featured the 2012 period ending, except to refer to the future Bak’tun ending in order to temporally orient a more significant here-and-now happening of Tortuguero’s local history. Above all — and not surprisingly given what we know about Maya texts — Monument 6 was a lengthy document on the historical and ritual life of the local ruler B’ahlam Ajaw, highlighting the building and dedication of some important ritual structure he commissioned. I have no doubt that others will continue to focus on Monument 6 for its supposed prophecy about 2012, but they would probably be misguided in doing so.

* * *

ADDENDUM: Here’s my original post of April, 2006, from the UTMesoamerica listserv. Note that this reflects my mistaken belief at the time that the Bolon Yookte’ K’uh reference on Monument 6 pertained to the Bak’tun ending.

As promised here’s a quick translation of the final passage of
Tortuguero Monument 6, recording the 2012 Bak’tun ending:

Tzuhtz-(a)j-oom u(y)-uxlajuun pik
(ta) Chan Ajaw ux(-te’) Uniiw.
Uht-oom ?
Y-em(al)?? Bolon Yookte’ K’uh ta ?.

“The Thirteenth ‘Bak’tun” will be finished
(on) Four Ajaw, the Third of Uniiw (K’ank’in).
? will occur.
(It will be) the descent(??) of the Nine Support? God(s) to the ?.”

This is it. The term following uht-oom is the main puzzle, and largely effaced. The “descent” reference is highly tentative, too. The enigmatic deity Bolon Yookte’ K’uh has been known for some time from many sources, and I suspect that he (or they) has some tangential relationship to the Principal Bird Deity, as well as war associations. Interestingly, he is a protagonist in the deep time mythology of Palenque, as recorded on Palenque’s Temple XIV tablet. A long-lasting character who’s still around somewhere waiting, I suppose.

– Dave S.


Houston, Stephen. 1996. Symbolic Sweatbaths of the Ancient Maya: Architectural Meaning in the Cross Group at Palenque, Mexico. Latin American Antiquity 7(2):132-151.

________________. 2008. What Will Not Happen in 2012. Maya Decipherment weblog.

Gronemeyer, Sven, and Barbara Macleod. 2010. What Could Happen 2012: A Re-Analysis of the 13-Bak’tun Prophecy on Tortuguero Monument 6. Wayeb Notes Number 34.

Houston, Stephen D. 1996. Symbolic Sweatbaths of the Maya: Architectural Meaning in the Cross Group at Palenque, Mexico. Latin American Antiquity 7(2):132-151

Stuart, David. 2005. The Palenque Mythology. Sourcebook for the 2005 Maya Meetings. Austin: The Mesoamerica Center, Department of Art and Art History, University of Texas at Austin.

_____________. 2011. The Order of Days: The Maya World and the Truth about 2012. New York: Harmony Books.

24 thoughts on “More on Tortuguero’s Monument 6 and the Prophecy that Wasn’t

  1. bret goodyear October 4, 2011 / 6:54 PM

    Hi David;

    I think that if you repudiate the recent work done by Sven and Barbara it would help solidify your assertions here! At least for me because I am still left with Questions. What about the term ‘investure’ that has been translated from monumnet six. I am under the imprssion that it was very typical for Mayan Kings to name a coronation year and one such inscription was done even in a prophetic manner giving credence to Sven and Barbara’s work. Do these things sway your analyisis at all? Why not?


  2. David Stuart October 4, 2011 / 8:40 PM

    No, those things don’t sway me much, because the point was about the overall textual structure, not the specific readings of the glyphs of the final passage. Any proposed decipherment will always be problematic at best, but even if the glyphs were completely preserved and legible I would still argue that they pertain to the main rhetorical episode of the larger inscription — the shrine dedication in 669.

  3. Franco October 6, 2011 / 11:07 PM

    Had to bring up the Yankees sweep of the Phillies, ouch.

  4. Barbara MacLeod and Sven Gronemeyer October 7, 2011 / 11:00 AM

    Greetings, Dave,

    Thanks for taking the time to post on a topic which unfortunately cannot be divested of its popular millenarian baggage. Our goal in this reply is to focus on structural arguments, with minimal reference to the content of disputed, damaged signs on the right panel. That said, we stand by what we’ve said concerning that content, with one exception.

    Unless otherwise indicated, pages cited refer to our 2010 paper on Tortuguero Monument 6 (Wayeb Notes 34: ).

    Given Steve’s 2008 position (with which you appear to agree) that there is an i- discourse marker in block P4 cued by the i syllable, and given that this was and is invoked as evidence of “an important break after utoom in the discursive structure of the inscription” we wish to point out that there is also a li sign in block P4 under that i. While this detail is left out in your drawing, it is clearly visible on the monument (please see the Van Stone/Johnson high-resolution mosaic photo highlighting the block at Although the sign is damaged, enough subgraphemic detail remains to support the reading. The resulting i-li sequence renders improbable an i- discourse marker, and thus weakens the argument that P4 cues a return to contemporaneous time.

    While we (p. 11-15) first thought the i-li sequence might spell some form of the verb ‘il ‘to see’, Barbara has recently reached another interpretation that resolves the uneasiness we’ve long had with ‘see’ or ‘seeing’. A spelling i-li may represent the Ch’ol demonstrative adjective ‘ili(y) ‘this’. For several reasons we have found Western Ch’olan sources helpful in working with Tortuguero 6.

    Applying this reading, we can resolve the closing passage of TRT Mon. 6 as a couplet with two clauses:

    tzuhtzjoom u(y)-uxlajun pik (ta) 4 Ajaw 3 Uniw
    It will be closed the 13th Bak’tun (on) 4 Ajaw 3 Kank’in.
    uhtoom ili yeen-balun-yokte’ ta chak joy(-aj)
    It will happen this Balun-Yokte’-display in the great investiture.

    We acknowledge the possibility of a fronted subject and a clause break after uhtoom, but we do not favor that interpretation here. There are unequivocal cases of fronting of the subject of uhtoom in the script (nice examples appear on QRG Zoomorph G [N’3b] as well as on the PAL West Tablet of the Inscriptions [C12-D12]), but in those cases, there is–as Nick Hopkins noted in discussions with Barb earlier this summer–no other subject available for the verb. This is not true of the Tortuguero Mon. 6 passage in question. Nor is it–perhaps surprisingly–true of the closing passage of Naranjo Altar 1.

    In our understanding, both clauses on the right panel of Mon. 6 are introduced by a verb featuring the future participle morpheme -oom; each is followed by the grammatical subject and supplemented via an oblique phrase providing more information. The parallel-couplet-structure idea has had obvious appeal to you in the past, as evidenced by your 2006 UTMesoamerica post. To our view, that is the intuitive response of someone conversant with Lowland Mayan syntax. We still see it this way. The structure is clear regardless of any reading preference for the eroded blocks.

    We take your cited parallel texts as evidence to support our line of argumentation. We agree (p. 9-11) that the final passage from NAR Alt. 1 presents a similar construction, but also (p. 20-24) state that it is different in a crucial detail: it ends with the Calendar Round pertaining to the K’atun ending. But we find the nominalised antipassive u-CHOK [CH’AJ]-wi u-chok-Vw [ch’aj] together with the name of Aj “Wosaj” in the syntactic position of the grammatical subject of the uhtoom verb. As a following noun phrase, it’s a shoo-in subject of this verb. What does not “compute” is the meaning of this interpretation, regardless of syntactic integrity. The king will be long dead. Surely the Naranjo scribe didn’t mean to suggest that the guy will be around twelve k’atuns in the future, did he? So they tacked on the calendar round of the dedication of the building. But had they intended no ambiguity, no double-entendre here, they could have expressed that scattering event as a grammatical verb and preceded it with the discourse marker i-. In our view the ambiguity was intentional, and sure enough, we all have done a double-take.

    K’ahk’ Tiliw on QRG Zoomorph G makes clear his expectation to preside at the closing of this same tenth pik. K’inich Janab Pakal on the PAL West Tablet of the Inscriptions is named as a protagonist in the far-future completions of the twelfth and fourteenth pik (the thirteenth is notably skipped). Furthermore, he acts in concert with deities known to have been present on Era Day in 3114, BC.

    You cite other examples of counts-forward (PAL TFC, CRN P. 1, CPN St. J) for the sole purpose of calendric anchoring, noting the importance of a future reiteration of a certain tzolk’in position. But in all these cases, there is no new information. Most of these are bare-bones jumps forward in yo-yo fashion, using Steve’s metaphor, only to bounce right back to the present. NAR Altar 1 is a possible exception, in that the scattering act would actually be new information, but it isn’t really, as one assumes that tun-bindings and scatterings go together.

    But on Tortuguero 6, we have explicit new information. Even if one claims that all but the name of Balun Yookte’ is illegible, his presence in or near a statement is something new and interesting. There’s no mention of Balun Yookte’ in that lengthy inventory of ancestors and deities tied to the temple dedication–which we wholeheartedly agree is the raison d’etre of Monument 6. We see its right panel as having been designed to (1) recall the foundation ritual of the building and (2) anticipate a future reiteration of the present rededication–hence the statement ‘will happen this display of Balun Yookte’–who by all rights would have been feted whenever the Maya celebrated victory in war.

    As Jan Assmann remarks in his theory on cultural memory, historic time is nothing more than the perpetuation of past events, as the formation of them took place in deep mythological time. As several authors (e.g. Erik Boot, Antje Gunsenheimer, Bodil Liljefors-Persson among others) have noted, Maya “prophecy” was the interpretation of the past, and expectations for the future were modeled by experience. If a Maya scribe had seen the Geelong Football Club win the AFL Grand Final in 2007, 2009, and 2011, his “prophecy” surely would be that the Cats will win it again in 2013. That is the pattern based on experience.

    We know from the Dresden Codex and the Vases of the 7 and 11 Gods that Balun Yookte’ attended the previous 4 Ajaw, date. Thus, in the manner of the k’atun prophecies of the Books of Chilam Balam, and in the tradition of K’iche’ daykeepers, what will happen will reiterate what has happened before on this date; thus the interest in tzolk’in reiterations. One does not need to be a prophet to know that! And that is all the scribes of Tortuguero intended to say. We may continue to term it the “Tortuguero prophecy” while acknowledging the emic conceptualisation of prophecy.

    With best wishes,

    Sven Gronemeyer
    Barbara MacLeod

  5. Michael Grofe October 11, 2011 / 11:33 PM

    Hi, Dave, All,

    Thanks for opening up this discussion. I agree that it’s important to consider that the text on Tortuguero Monument 6 should be seen within the context of many such backward and forward reckoning deep time intervals. This helps both to de-emphasize the focus on 2012, while also demonstrating the diverse and interesting patterns that reflect the unique Maya concerns with connecting widely disparate points in time.

    At the same time, I don’t think that considering the possibility that the Tortuguero Monument 6 text describes future events and mythological subjects should be seen as an endorsement of the millennial distortions surrounding 2012, though this may be unavoidable, as Barb and Sven note. However, seeing Bolon Yokte’ as the subject of future events is in keeping with the similar deep time reckonings you mention from Quirigua, which (I think you intended to say) count a vast distance backward in time to specific mythological events and characters in deep time. As you mention, there is an interesting pattern among some deep time reckonings that places these intervals on the same Tzolk’in day, and Lounsbury was particularly interested in 260-day multiples as one component of several deep time calculations. Of course, we also need to consider other motivations in addition to repeating Tzolk’in dates that may have factored into these intervals. Some deep time intervals don’t include any obvious Tzolk’in repetitions, so I think we have to acknowledge multiple factors, and this is part of my recent research.

    In the case of Tortuguero Monument 6, I think Sven and Barb make a compelling grammatical argument. While some of these issues may be unresolvable, I think we can consider that the Tortuguero future reckoning may be one among several other similar deep time intervals that describe mythological events that held some local interest for scribes in Tortuguero. I don’t think we need to conclude from this that the future 13 Bak’tun completion necessarily held a wider significance for all Maya people, since we find no mention of it elsewhere—and evidence to the contrary from future counts in Palenque.

    I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on Sven and Barb’s proposal, as well as what you think about the eroded text, regardless of whether you think it is a future or historical event. As part of the large collaborative team that worked on this decipherment with Barb and Sven, I’d be happy to hear your thoughtful input as part of the collaboration.

    All the best,
    Michael Grofe

    • David Stuart October 12, 2011 / 1:36 AM

      Dear Michael, Sven and Barb,

      Thanks to all for the thought provoking comments. I knew we’d be diving into this sooner than later!

      I have a number of important points to bring up in response, but those will have to wait a little while as I finiget preparing for my long term stay and teaching gig in Guatemala, starting next week. Lots of running around and dealing with UT red tape right now, so I hope you’ll be patient. Once settled in Antigua I’ll dive into the glyphs again and post my thoughts on the readings of those final glyphs, and the larger grammatical issues.

      Thanks again, all. Hasta pronto.

  6. Carl Callaway October 17, 2011 / 10:09 AM

    Hi David and Everyone,

    I hope this conversation into whether or not Tortuguero Monument 6 contains a prophetic statement will evoke a larger discussion into the existence of prophecy within Maya recorded history and what it meant for the ancient Maya. The Oxford on-line dictionary states that a prophecy is “a prediction of what will happen in the future.” With the term clarified, I would like to ask the following question: Are there predictions about future events recorded in Maya inscriptions, and if so how are they stated and can we recognize them? Sven and Barb mentioned an example of a prophetic statement that occurs on Quirigua, Zoomorph G. If a prophecy is recorded in this text then it deserves a closer look. The passage is located within the west text of Zoomorph G, at blocks N’1-N’3 (for a drawing of this text see page 9, figure 4 of Matthew Looper’s report posted on the FAMSI website: ). As Looper (2007:98) states:

    “The text also recounts a prophecy that the dead king [K’ak’ Tiliw Chan Yopat] would come back to celebrate a period ending in the future, in AD 830, presumably conjured from the underworld by a future king of Quirigua.”

    In the Zoomorph G text scribes noted that the king K’ak’ Tiliw has died and they recorded his death passage and death date (11 Ik’ 5 Yax) at blocks N’1-M’2 of the text. In the very next passage they count forward to the 10th Bak’tun period and clearly state that the “5 K’atun Lord” (who can only be K’ak’ Tiliw) will be there to commemorate the 10th Bak’tun period rite on 7 Ajaw 18 Sip with a k’al “binding” event (blocks M’2-N’3). So here is an explicit statement that a dead king will commemorate a rite beyond the grave 45 years into the future! It seems that death, nor the confines of the present moment restrict a king from navigating time and performing sacred acts that no doubt were thought to preserve the order and life of the community.

    The strategy employed by K’ak’ Tiliw is similar to what is recorded on Palenque’s West Tablet of the Inscriptions where scribes forecast into the far distant future and connect the anniversary of Pakal’s accession to the future Piktun ending on October 23, 4772 AD (Guenter 2007:44). In each of these cases predictions are being made about events that will occur in the near and very distant future. I think what we are partly meant to understand here is that these calendar rites and kingly deeds embody a mythic set of truths, that are not of “a logical nor historical order: [they are] above all a religious and more specially a magical order” (Raffael Pettazzoni in Van der Leeuw 1958:331) and one that allows a king to navigate time beyond his own death.

    In view of these future time reckonings it does not seem out of practice that the Balam Ajaw of Tortuguero might want to link a building dedication to the end of the 13th Bak’tun and comment on godly activities that will happen on that date. Previously in the very same Monument 6 text (L3-L12), the king detailed the activity of the custodial gods of time and the rites of renewal concerning a massive count of days of the Kalabtun cycle that spans about 157 thousand years (Grönemeyer and MacLeod 2010:55-56). He does this in connection with a parentage statement. It seems to me that the Kalabtun cycle is being evoked in anticipation of the future 13 Bak’tun period recorded in the final passage on Monument 6. The Kalabtun description gives a glimpse of how primordial, present, and future time are fantastically linked within the minds of the ancients. By evoking the Kalabtun cycle and later the future 13th Bak’tun cycle, the king is collapsing deep, cosmic time and godly deeds with historical time and kingly deeds to claim a connection with the farthest reaches of time and ancestry (Farriss 1987:579).

    I really appreciate the thoughtful commentaries so far. I hope that this continuing discussion about the Tortuguero Monument 6 will lead to a greater understanding of this fascinating text.

    All the best,


    Works Cited

    Farriss, N.
    1987 Remembering the Future, Anticipating the Past: History, Time and Cosmology among the Maya of Yucatan. In, Comparative Studies in Society and History 29, pp. 566-593. Cambridge University Press.

    Grönemeyer, Sven and Barbara MacLeod
    2010 What could happen in 2012: A Re-Analysis of the 13th Bak’tun Prophecy On Tortuguero Monument 6. WAYEB Note 34. On the web at:

    Guenter, Stanley
    2007 The Tomb of K’inich Janaab Pakal: The Temple of the Inscriptions at Palenque. Mesoweb:

    Looper, Matthew
    2007 Quiriguá A Guide to an Ancient Maya City. Guatemala: Editorial Antigua, S.A.

    Van Der Leeuw G.
    1958 Primordial Time and Final Time. In Man and Time papers from the Eranos Yearbooks. Joseph Campbell (ed.). London, England: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

  7. David Stuart October 18, 2011 / 3:00 AM

    I have a very different reading of the Quirigua text passage. Zoomorph G is ostensibly a dedicatory marker for the period ending (October 31, 785), but it seems equally concerned with the recent death of the long-lived ruler, which had occurred only a few months beforehand, on July 25, 785. We see many different juxtapositions of the closely placed death and the PE, and how these relate to past historical events and calendrical happenings in the present and future. There is certainly a mention of the 7 Ahaw 18 Zip, but this serves, like so many such future projections, as a rhetorical anchor for something in the rhetorical “present,” in this case the contemporaneous period ending The deceased king doesn’t play a role in that distant future time-frame, in my understanding, but instead is rhetorically connected to

    Loosely translated, my take of the columns M’ and N’ would be:

    “It is a total reckoning of eighteen and four-score days before 5 Ahaw 3 Muwaan, the final hotun, will happen; then his spirit diminished on 11 Ik’ 5 Yax.”

    “No days, no score days, five years and two-score years before 7 Ahaw 18 Zip, the completion of(?) 10 Bak’tuns; then he stone-binds, the Five-score year Lord, the Holy Quirigua Lord, the Captor of the Copan Lord.”

    In this scenario the glyph immediately preceding “5 K’atun Ajaw” reads i-K’AL-TUUN-ni (maybe an anti-passive form?) and is associated with to the contemporaneous PE on — *not” the more distant Bak’tun ending. So I don’t see any prophetic aspect to the text, and the Quirigua ruler isn’t said to be performing a PE ritual over forty years after his death.

    That said, it’s interesting that the PE is here being associated with the deceased K’ahk’ Tiliw Chan Yopaat, who seems to be ritually involved even though he was dead for a few months. Again, this is not a prophecy, even though it’s describing posthumous ritual action in some manner. Later in the text we find a clear mention of his successor performing a scattering rite on the same day. I suspect that such a long-lived and important Quirigua king was at that point still somehow capable of stone-binding, and ruling in some sense over a hotun period that he was just a few months short of completing.

    More to come…

  8. James Kowalick January 12, 2012 / 11:36 PM

    The human mind’s ‘wanting to be right’ (for whatever reason: i.e., not wanting to admit that a previous thought might be wrong; concern about one’s ‘reputation’; the desire for quick and lasting fame; in general, ego) is a signature of ‘new-age thinking’.

    From some commentators (not necessarily those commenting in this weblog), this sort of thinking may be intentionally misleading; for others it can be a psychological subtlety about which the commenter himself or herself may be unaware.

    Thinkers possessing such (new-age) thinking do not necessarily belong to the new-age community; they also stem from branches of the Tree of Science.

    The history of science reveals no shortage of new-age-type thinkers among its scientist members – a few of them well known.

    My hat is off to Dr. David Stuart for his quest for the truth, as demonstrated here by his willingness to thoughtfully listen to the arguments of others, and by the caution with which he delivers his own arguments.

    Thoughtful, scientific thinking supports the future; glitzy new-age thinking is far more contemporary, tending to support personal fame and fortune. Science promotes thoughtful argumentation.

  9. James Kowalick January 24, 2012 / 7:38 PM

    Dear David, I have a question for you.

    I’m in the midst of your wonderful book (The Order of Days) and enjoying it. Thank you!

    In your book you mention how the Mesoamerican geographical influence extends north, possibly into Arizona, etc.

    Are you aware of the site at the Seminole Canyon State Park (and Historic Site), Texas and the so-called “Panther Cave” there? If so, do you have any observations about this site (who were the people behind it? where did they stem from? etc.).

    Below, I describe just one image from that site. If you have the time, perhaps you could comment on it:

    One of the more ‘famous’ images from the Panther Cave is that of a stick-figure-like person (as on a cross); the person is dressed in black and wears a square, red head-covering; the person’s arms are horizontally extended, each arm ending with four red, horizontal fingers; resting atop the right arm is a rising (setting?) red sun, with seven rays emanating from the sun (below the extended right arm) – David, for your examination, I could attach the image of this figure to an email if that would help – my email address is Please let me know.

    Best wishes to you,

    James Kowalick

  10. Nolene Davidson August 21, 2012 / 9:25 AM

    I really would like to know what the Mayans said. Is it that a god (ye-ma) with nine attendants would descend from the heavens within on December 21st 2012? Please let me know.

    • David Stuart August 22, 2012 / 7:11 PM

      Dear Nolene, My own opinion is that the Maya said nothing about the upcoming date. As you can tell from this thread, there are different opinions among Mayanists about what the specific glyphs at the end of the Tortuguero monument actually say, and while we differ on our views, I don’t think any of us still claim the descent of a god or group of gods is part of the story.

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