by David Stuart and Meghan Rubenstein, The University of Texas at Austin
A few important hieroglyphic inscriptions are known from the ruins of Kabah, Yucatan, but most of them remain poorly published, much less analyzed. The site’s lengthiest inscription comes from on the so-called Hieroglyphic Platform (2B2), and remains a disordered puzzle that has thus far eluded much in the way of interpretation (Grube 1986). The dedicatory panels from the Manos Rojas structure have been only partially documented, published and studied, and require further investigation (Carrasco and Pérez de Heredia 1996, Pérez de Heredia 1998, Graña-Behrens 2002). Perhaps the best-known inscription of Kabah comes from the well-preserved carved doorjambs on the eastern side of the so-called Codz Pop (Structure 2C6), one of the most ornately decorated buildings in the long history of Maya architecture (Figure 1, 2).
Analyses of the date inscribed on the Codz Pop jamb have been wildly inconsistent and contradictory. Here we would like to clarify the reading of this date once and for all (we hope) as well as announce a new date from the same structure, inscribed on another door jamb recently discovered in excavations conducted by INAH in 2013. We hope that pointing to these two dates will help to refine the chronology of Kabah’s architectural history, and by extension the chronology of the Terminal Classic period in the Puuc as a whole.
The Eastern Door
With the exception of the famous western façade of the Codz Pop (Figure 1), the most reproduced image from Kabah is the set of carved doorjambs located on the eastern side of the same building (Figure 2). The stone jambs from Room 21 were first excavated, photographed, and reburied between 1934 and 1935 by Harry Pollock during his architectural survey for the Carnegie Institution of Washington. Drawings of the jambs by two different illustrators are included in Pollock’s masterwork on the architecture of the Puuc region (1980: 196, 197), and their first formal publication seems to have been in Proskouriakoff’s A Study of Classic Maya Sculpture (1950: 169, Fig 103a,b).
The carved jambs of Room 21 mirror each other: in the upper scene, a dance is performed, and in the lower scene, a prisoner subjugated. A horizontal hieroglyphic band separates the two events. Neither Pollock nor Proskouriakoff attempted to interpret these inscriptions.
Excavations at Kabah in the early 1990s, under the direction of Ramón Carrasco Vargas at the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH), renewed interest in the Codz Pop jambs known at the time. Carrasco and José Ligorred Perramón, the archaeologist who oversaw work at the Codz Pop, relocated them using Pollock’s reports. They also offered the first interpretation of the inscription (Carrasco et.al. 1991: 83; Carrasco and Pérez 1996: 302; Ligorred Perramón 1993: 196-97). The southern jamb, broken at the hieroglyphic band, is illegible. For the north jamb, they proposed a reading of the Calendar Round date as 2 Chuen 3 Xul (this and other dates are written in the Yucatecan system). Ligorred Perramón calculated its placement in the years 987 or 1195, but leaned toward the earlier of these based on associated ceramic and architectural data (1993:196). This would place the Long Count at 10.7.19.5.11 2 Chuen 3 Xul (March 16, 987), making for one of the very latest monument dates in all of the Maya area.
Soon after this Linda Schele and Nikolai Grube proposed a different calculation for the date on the north jamb, placing it a century earlier at 10.2.13.15.11 2 Chuen 3 Xul, in the year 883 (Schele and Grube 1995: 203). Schele’s field drawing, published alongside their analysis, seems to confirm the reading of the Calendar Round as 2 Chuen 3 Xul, but settling on an earlier position in the calendric cycle than Ligorred Perramón.
Grube, in his appendix to his overview of hieroglyphic inscriptions from northwest Yucatan (1994: 344), offered a different analysis of the date, reading the month as Muan and not as Xul. He lists the date for the jambs as 10.1.10.0.11, or October 14, 859. Daniel Graña-Behrens also noted this in his later dissertation on the Northwest Yucatan (2002: 393). Graña-Behrens does not settle on a year, however, but suggests 807, 859, or 911.
To summarize: In the short span between 1991 and 2002 no less than six(!) assessments of this inscribed date on the Codz Pop were proposed or at least considered, ranging over an almost three hundred year span: 807, 859, 883, 911, 987, or 1195. The situation raises a highly confusing and important archaeological question, and above all reveals just how little is known about the chronology of the Puuc area in the Terminal Classic period.
Here we would like to clarify that the reading of the date on the Room 21 jamb is certainly 2 Chuen 3 Muan, just as Grube and Graña-Behrens proposed. Although Schele and others had suggested Xul as the month glyph, the contours and features of the month sign clearly show it to be a bird with a –ni suffix. This can only be read as Muan (MUWAAN-ni). We can narrow this further by proposing that the two most likely placements of 2 Chuen 3 Muan in the Long Count are:
10.1.10.0.11 2 Chuen 3 Muan (October 14, 859)
10.4.2.13.11 2 Chuen 3 Muan (October 1, 911)
A placement one Calendar Round earlier, in 807, seems far too early considering other dates from buildings in this same “florescent” Puuc style. Of these two, we consider 859 to be the most likely, agreeing with the previous proposals by Grube and Graña-Behrens.
The event recorded with this date on the north jamb of Room 21 seems to be “his death” (U-KAM?-mi-ya, u kamiiy) surely in reference to the scene of a warrior being slain in the image below the text band. The text on the southern jamb of the same doorway, given further information no doubt, is unfortunately destroyed.
The Northern Door
In 2013, excavations overseen by Lourdes Toscano Hernández and Gustavo Novelo Rincón of INAH revealed two important doorjambs originally placed within the central doorway of the northern room of the Codz Pop complex. This is Room 1 of Structure 2C6. Similar to the examples from Room 21, each jamb is carved with images divided by rows of hieroglyphs. In this case, we have three scenes on the eastern jamb and three scenes on the western jamb, with a total of four bands of text separating them.
The upper band of the eastern jamb records a date using a variation of the Yucatecan style, where a Calendar Round is described by its position in a numbered tun within a named k’atun.
[9-CIMI] U-K’IN-ni-le tu-8-TE’-e SUUTZ’-tz’i u-ti-ya tu-4-TUUN-ni 1 a-AJAW-wa ?-cha?-ja?
[Bolon Kimi] u k’iniil tu waxak-te’ suutz’ uhtiiy tu kan tuun (ti) juun ajaw ?..aj
Nine Cimi is the day on the eighth of Zotz’, it happened in the fourth stone (year) of 1 Ahau…
1 Ahau marks a specific k’atun ending of the Maya calendar, which can only correspond to 10.3.0.0.0 1 Ahau 3 Yaxk’in. The date falls in the fourth tun of that k’atun, or in the 360 days after 10.2.3.0.0. The month position 8 Zotz’ narrows this further to one possibility (again in the Yucatecan system):
10.2.3.11.6 9 Cimi 8 Zotz (March 9, 873)
The k’atun ending recorded on this northern doorway firmly anchors its date to 873 A.D. In doing so it should affirm the placement of the eastern door’s date (in an earlier phase of the building) to 859, only fourteen years prior.
The new jambs from the Codz Pop show a date falling in the year 873, helping to confirm one of many previous readings of the date from the eastern door as 859. It is important to note that these two dates might conform to the overall construction sequence of the Codz Pop and its modification over time. That is, the later of the two is associated with the northern extension of the structure that appears to have been a later addition to the original building. That being said, it would be a mistake to take the two dates as simple dedication records. As noted, the eastern door records the death of Kabah’s vanquished enemy, whereas the nature of the event on northern jamb remains to be determined. Nevertheless, the anchoring of these two dates should help us be confident in the chronological placement of the Codz Pop, and of its place in the wider context of archaeology in the Puuc region.
We are most grateful to our colleagues Lourdes Toscano Hernández and Gustavo Novelo Rincón for their permission to share our analysis of the date recently discovered at the Codz Pop complex. A more thorough study of the building’s dates and construction sequence will be produced by them at a future date. A formal presentation of the new Codz Pop jambs will take place at the upcoming Maya Meetings at UT-Austin in January. We also thank Sid Hollander for pointing out a couple of typos (now corrected) in our transcription of Maya dates.
Carrasco Vargas, Ramón, et. al. 1991. Proyecto Kabah: Informe de los trabajos realizados en la temporada 1991. Tomo II. Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Centro Regional Yucatán.
Carrasco Vargas, Ramón, and Eduardo Pérez de Heredia. 1996. “Los últimos gobernadores de Kabah.” In Eighth Palenque Round Table, 1993. M. Macri and J. McHargue, eds. pp. 297-307. San Francisco: The Pre-Columbian Art Research Institute.
Graña-Behrens, Daniel. 2002. Die Maya-Inschriften aus Nordwestyukatan, Mexiko. Thesis, Fakultät der Rheinischen-Friedrich-Wilhelms, University of Bonn.
Grube, Nikolai. 1986. Die Hieroglyphenplattform von Kabah, Yucatán, México. Mexicon Vol. VIII (1): 13-17.
_____________. 1994. “Hieroglyphic Sources for the History of Northwest Yucatan.” In Hidden Among the Hills: Maya Archaeology of the Northwest Yucatan Peninsula. H.J. Prem, ed. pp. 316-358. Acta Mesoamericana. Möckmühl: Verlag von Flemming.
Ligorred Perramón, José de Calasanz. 1993. La escultura Puuc: Análsis iconológico del Codz Pop de Kabah. Thesis, Escuela Nacional de Antropología e Historia.
Pérez de Heredia, Eduardo. 1998. El edificio de las Manos Rojas de Kabah, Yucatán: chronologia y funcionalidad. Thesis, Facultad de Ciencias Antropológicas, Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán.
Pollock, Harry Evelyn Dorr. 1980. The Puuc: an Architectural Survey of the Hill Country of Yucatan and Northern Campeche, Mexico. Cambridge: Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University.
Proskouriakoff, Tatiana. 1950. A Study of Classic Maya Sculpture. Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Institution of Washington.
Schele, Linda, and Nikolai Grube. 1995. Notebook for the XIXth Maya Hieroglyphic Workshop at Texas: Late Classic and Terminal Classic Warfare. Austin: Art Department, University of Texas.
Are there publicly available illustrations of the two northern door jambs revealed in 2013?
No illustrations as yet. The jambs will be presented in full at the Austin meetings in January, and hopefully published soon thereafter.
It may be interesting to note, that on the night of 10.1.10.0.11. 2 Chuwen 4 Muwan, at 1:30 local time, the Pleyades were exactly in zenit. That is 17 october julian or 21 october gregorian 859 AD.