Preliminary Notes on Two Recently Discovered Inscriptions from La Corona, Guatemala

by David Stuart (The University of Texas at Austin), Marcello Canuto (Tulane University), Tomás Barrientos Quezada (Universidad del Valle de Guatemala), and Maxime Lamoureax St-Hillaire (Tulane University)

During the 2015 excavation season at La Corona, Guatemala, two new sculpted blocks were recovered in excavations of the site’s main palace overseen by one of the authors, Maxime Lamoueax St-Hilaire. Both blocks are parts of larger compositions that were removed from their original settings and re-set in a masonry wall near the northeast corner of the palace complex. The precise archaeological context of the discovery will be presented separately, and described in detailed at the upcoming SImposio de Investigaciones Arqueológicas en Guatemala.

Each stone has been assigned an “Element” designation in accordance with the nomenclature system developed for La Corona’s corpus of sculpture (Stuart et. al. 2015). Each stone seems to be part of a larger panel or sculpted step, so it is important to note that their designations may be modified in the future to reflect new understandings of their original form and presentation.

Also, we should stress that the following commentary is itself preliminary. More formal and complete presentations will appear as part of the series La Corona Notes, and in subsequent publications sponsored by the Proyecto Arqueológico Regional La Corona, directed by Marcello Canuto and Tomás Barrientos Quezada.

Element 55

Element 55 shows a small intricately carved scene of a costumed ruler engaged in a dance performance. The date is the period ending 7 Ahau 3 Cumku, or January 20, 702 A.D. The accompanying hieroglyphs name the ruler as ? Ti’ K’awiil, a prominent king of Calakmul sometimes known in the literature as “Took K’awiil'” (a designation based on his variant name glyphs; see Martin and Grube 2000:112). This appears to be the left-half of a larger scene that would have presented another figure facing the dancer, in all likelihood a local La Corona ruler.

The main portion of the text (from B1 to D6) reads:

u baah ti ahk’ot ? ti’ k’awiil k’uhul kaanul ajaw elk’in(?) kaloomte’ ux te’ tuun

“(it is) his person in (the act of) dancing, ? Ti’ K’awiil, the Holy Kaanul Lord, the east Kaloomte’, (at) ux te’tuun.”

La Corona, Element 55. Preliminary drawing by Mary Kate Kelly. (Please do not re-publish without permission of the Proyecto Arqueológico Regional La Corona).
La Corona, Element 55. Preliminary drawing by Mary Kate Kelly. (Please do not publish without permission of the Proyecto Arqueológico Regional La Corona).


The inscription on the left side of the block gives the Calendar Round date 7 Ahau (A1) 3 Cumku (A4), along with Glyphs G9 (A2) and F (A3). This corresponds with the half-k’atun period ending falling on The verb phrase (B1) and the name and titles of the king (C1-D5) make up most of the rest of the text, ending in a place name uxte’tuun (Calakmul), indicating where the dance performance took place. The glyphs are very finely carved in a style reminiscent of Block V from Hieroglyphic Stairway 2 (the somewhat infamous “2012 block”). A certain scribal flair is evident in these hieroglyphs which display unusual head variant signs and ornate forms, such as the unusual “east” glyph (D4) displaying the head of the sun god K’inich Ajaw emerging from the open maw of an alligator.

The name of ? Ti' K'awiil from Dos Pilas Stela 8. Drawing by Ian Graham.
The name of ? Ti’ K’awiil from Dos Pilas Stela 8. Drawing by Ian Graham.

The Calakmul ruler depicted, ? Ti’ K’awiil (“Took’ K’awiil”) assumed the throne in 698, as revealed in two historical texts unearthed in 2012 (one at La Corona, another at El Peru) (Stuart et. al., 2014). He is named on several other monuments at Calakmul, and a particularly beautiful version of his name, similar to the one given here, occurs Stela 8 of Dos Pilas. The ruler’s dance on marked a special occasion in his life history, being the first major period ending of his reign.  He would live at least three more decades and be responsible for some of Calakmul’s most beautiful monuments, including those erected around Structure 1 on

Element 56

Element 56 is a all-glyphic block, probably the second part of a longer text with its first portion still missing. In format this partial inscription is very much like the “2012 block” discovered a few years ago in Hieroglyphic Stairway 2. It displays precisely the same grid dimensions as that block, in fact, and dates to just a few years before. Its style bears a strong resemblance to other texts known from La Corona dating to the end of the seventh century.

La Corona, Element 56. Preliminary drawing by David Stuart. (Please do not publish without permission of Proyecto Arqueológico Regional La Corona).
La Corona, Element 56. Preliminary drawing by David Stuart. (Please do not publish without permission of Proyecto Arqueológico Regional La Corona).

Summary of inscription:

The partial text recounts several important events involving the La Corona ruler named Chak Ak’ Paat Yuk, leading up to his accession in 689 and culminating in the dedication of an ancestral shrine for the new king’s deceased parents in 690.

The text emphasizes aspects of Chak Ak’ Paat Yuk’s political career, and especially close interactions with the king who reigned at Calakmul in those years, Yuknoom Yich’aak K’ahk’. Some of the history mentioned on Element 56 describes ceremonial dressing and adornment, no doubt reflecting the complex process of royal investiture before Chak Ak’ Paat Kuy’s inauguration on September 9, 689. He returned to Saknikte’ two weeks later on September 23, to establish his new political presence, and shortly thereafter focused his attention on the construction of a shrine (wayib, “sleeping place”) for his father and mother, who died within a few months of each other over twenty years earlier, back in 667.

It is difficult to know what the missing first half of this inscription had to say, but we suspect it may have opened with a Long Count date 3 Ben 11 Zip and an accompanying record of the shrine dedication. It may also have had something to say about the end of the reign of Chak Ak’ Paat Yuk’s older brother, K’inch ? Yook, who is last heard from in 683.

We should mention that the name Chak Ak’ Paat Kuy refers to the same individual we have previously called Chak Ak’ach or Chak Ak’ach Yuk (“Red Turkey”). The new name reflects a revision based on clearer spellings in this new inscription (Houston, Stuart and Zender, in preparation).

Discussion, Dates and Episodes 9 Chicchan 13 Muan (December 7, 688) (missing)

The inscription opens in mid-passage, clearly indicating it was once part of a larger text. First glyph (pA1) is the place name SAK-NIK-TE’, for the local toponym of La Corona, Saknikte’, meaning “white blossom.” The date iassociated with this episode is missing but it can be reconstructed based on the time interval indicated afterward. The event is missing, but given what comes next it seems reasonable to suppose that this passage once recorded Chak Ak’ Paat Kuy’s departure from Saknikte’ as he heads off to Calakmul. 13 Muluc 17 Muan (December 11, 688) (pB3-pA4)

Four days later a new event takes place, written with the phrase pehkaj yichnal yuknoom yich’aak k’ahk’ kaloomte’ “he was summoned(??) before Yuknoom Yich’aak K’ahk’, the kaloomte’” (pB4-pA6). That is to say, the La Corona ruler has an important meeting and conference with Calakmul’s king. It is possible that his older brother K’inich ? Yook had recently passed away or otherwise been de-installed as ruler at La Corona, leading to the need for a face-to-face discussion.  6 Muluc 12 Ch’en (August 8, 689) (pA7-pB7)

Many months later we find Chak Ak Paat Kuy beginning an investiture rite, probably while he is still in Calakmul. The first of these events is recorded here, possibly taking place at dawn or sunset (a temporal adverb appears at pC1). The verb statement is unique, never seen before in any Maya text: po-tza-ja U-pa-ti, for pohtzaj u paat, possibly “his back is wrapped” (pD1-pC2). This happened under the watchful direction of the Calakmul king. We suspect that the La Corona nobleman was being given a ceremonial snake back-rack, much like the one we see depicted on Element 55. A similar costume is shown worn by his older brother K’inich ? Yook on La Corona’s Panel 1.  3 Cauac 2 Yax (August 15, 689) (pD3b-pC4a)

One week later Chak Ak’ Paat Kuy’s “say huun is tied (kahchaj).” We are not quite sure what a say huun is, but it probably is some paper-cloth adornment or accessory, possibly a type of headband or wristlet. Whatever it is, the same event is recorded as a pre-accession rite on Aguateca’s Stela 1 and also at Naranjo’s Stela 32. Here the spelling of the object is sa-HUUN, whereas elsewhere it is more fully sa-ya-HUUN.  6 Ik 5 Yax (August 18, 689) (pC5)

Three days later “he sets-up(?) at Ahktuun.” The phrase is somewhat enigmatic, but it may indicate the La Corona lord’s movement in or around Calakmul as he prepared for his upcoming accession ceremony, recorded in the next passage. The verb is the same one we often find associated with formal “foundation” events for royal courts at new locations. Ahktuun (literally “turtle-stone”) is the basis for a word for “cave” (often spelled actun in modern Yukatek), although here it may refer to an architectural or urban feature. The passage also cites the verb huli, “he arrived” in connection with an enigmatic place name (tz’i?-ni). 12 Imix 4 Zac (September 9, 689) (pD6b-pC7a)

Here we have the record of Chak Ak Paat Kuy’s accession as king. The episode mirrors an accession reference we have on La Corona, Stela 1, falling just one day earlier. The king’s name and title phrase is especially long, and includes elements not seen elsewhere (although his name on HS2, Block 5 shows a few parallel elements).  3 Etz’nab 1 Ceh (Septmeber 26, 689) (pF4-pE5)

Seventeen days later Chak Ak’ Paat Kuy finally seems to be back at La Corona. As the inscription here puts it very directly, ? t-u-hulil ti tax ajaw, “he ‘sets-up’ upon his arrival as the new king.”  8 Ahau 8 Uo (March 16, 692) (pG2-pH2)

In the last two columns we read how the “arrival” just cited took place 2.9.2 before 8 Ahau 8 Uo, “when will occur 13 k’atuns.” This is an anticpatorty record that establishes the events in relation to cosmic time, noting their proximity to the upcoming k’atun ending.

Closing passage of Element 56, noting the fire-entering ceremony at the parents' mortuary shrine (
Closing passage of Element 56, noting the fire-entering ceremony at the parents’ mortuary shrine (“sleeping place”). Photograph by David Stuart. 3 Ben 11 Zip (April 9, 690) (pH4-pG5)

The text closes with a stand-alone record of a major ceremony that occurred after the arrival and before the k’atun ending. This is och-k’ahk’ “fire-entering” – a dedication or activation rite at an architectural feature called “the three platform houses.” This almost certainly refers to a collection of structures atop the palace at La Corona. This is the designation of the “the wayib (shrine)” for Chak Nahb Chan and Lady Chak Tok Chahk, the mother and father of Chak Ak’ Paat Kuy and his elder brother and predecessor K’inich ? Yook.


Both stones are partial commemorations of important ceremonies. One is a visual record of a calendar dance ritual at far-off Calakmul, perhaps involving a local ruler as well. The other is a detailed textual record of a local nobleman’s transformation into a ruler under the close supervision of Calakmul’s powerful king, culminating in a ceremony honoring his beloved parents.

This note represents a preliminary analysis of two newly excavated sculptures from La Corona. More detailed analyses will appear in future issues of the La Corona Notes. More to come.

UPDATE: I would like to thank Jens Rohark for pointing out glaring inconsistencies in my initial conversions of the dates on Element 56. These have now  been corrected to reflect the Martin and Skidmore 584286 correlation.


Several colleagues have offered valuable thoughts and comments on these new finds, including Stephen Houston, Marc Zender and Simon Martin. Many thanks to them. The authors would also like to thank the Instituto de Antropología e Historia de Guatemala (IDAEH) and the Ministerio de Cultura y Deportes for their continued support in the excavation, conservation and analysis of the two sculptures presented here. We would also like to extend our appreciation to PACUNAM and to the National Geographic Society for their financial and logistical support of the Proyecto Arqueologico Regional La Corona (PARLC) in the 2015 season. The individual authors also acknowledge the help and assistance of their respective academic institutions, Tulane University, the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, and The University of Texas at Austin.


Houston, Stephen, David Stuart and Marc Zender. In preparation. The Reanalysis of a La Corona King’s Name. To appear in La Corona Notes.

Martin, Simon, and Nikolai Grube. 2000. Chronicles of the Maya Kings and Queens: Deciphering the Dynasties of the Ancient Maya. Thames and Hudson, London.

Stuart, David, Marcello Canuto and Tomas Barrientos Quezada. 2015. The Nomenclature of La Corona Sculpture. La Corona Notes, Number 2. Mesoweb.

Stuart, David, Marcello Canuto, Tomás Barrientos, Jocelyne Ponce and Joanne Baron. 2015. Death of the Defeated. Historical Data on Block 4 of La Corona’s Hieroglyphic Stairway 2. La Corona Notes, Number 3.

10 thoughts on “Preliminary Notes on Two Recently Discovered Inscriptions from La Corona, Guatemala

  1. Dmitri Beliaev July 18, 2015 / 1:05 AM

    David, such a beautiful text! And the preservation is excellent! I just wondered about the name in pF1. It spells -jo-po-la-ja or joplaj, and this verb usually goes with yax (“for the first time”). Could the sign which precedes it be YAX and not CHAK?

    • Alexandre Tokovinine July 19, 2015 / 1:01 AM

      I wonder if it could be rather one of those cases of chak “red” vs. k’ahk’ “fire” variation in personal names that I discussed in my RES article. We have names with k’ahk’ joplaj X so it is perfectly reasonable to expect chak joplaj X.

  2. Christian Prager (@CHPrager) July 19, 2015 / 8:56 PM

    Great discovery and intriguing text, congrats! The po-tza-ja > po[h]tzaj ‘is wrapped’ expression is of great interest because this inscription contains the second known example of this potz ‘to wrap’. The other known example comes from the Madrid Codex (page 84b) and reads either u-po-tzi K’UH > u potz k’uh ‘his wrapping of the statue’ or alternatively po-tzi-ja K’UH ‘the statue is wrapped’ as I explained it on pages 344 and 345 of my dissertation on the Classic Maya K’UH god concept (see volume 1, and for volume 2). Sorry, it’s German … In the Madrid Codex K’UH is evidently referring to the physical or material manifestation of gods, namely their representation as wooden idols as I have worked out. The scene on page 84b in the Madrid Codex exhibits the three supernatural agents ITZAM TZ’IKIN?-na (God D), UH? CHAM? ‘venerable death god?’ (God A) and CHAHK (God B) each holding woven garments. There are some indications that at least in the Postclassic Codices the sign T121 is UH ‘sacred, venerable’ as it is attested three times with an prefixe ‘u’ in the Dresden Codex (pages 2 and 17). The almanach under discussion displays the investiture of gods as part of the ‘live cycle’ of the wooden idols. This includes the statement of their birth on page 83b [SIH-ya-ja K’UH] ”born is the idol’, followed by their enwrapping [potz] on page 84b. Interestingly, in Tzotzil of San Lorenz Zinacantán the verb ‘potz’ means ‘to enwrap with clothing’ and furthermore Domingo de Ara’s colonial Tzeltal dictionary contains the verb potz, explicitly “to enwrap a child’.

  3. Werner Nahm July 20, 2015 / 9:59 AM

    Another interesting feature of Element 56 is the apparent temporal adverb nu-X-li at pC1. So far
    I only have seen it on the vases K 1370, 1815 and 2208 in the context of the ‘baby jaguar sacrifice’.
    In view of the birth glyph at K 3201 and Christian’s discussion, the coupling with pohtzaj seems significant: the installation as ruler is like a rebirth. It light be interesting to check, if the dates on
    the new textx and on the vases have common features.

  4. karenbassie July 20, 2015 / 4:17 PM

    As discussed by Davletshin and Bíró (2014), the split ak’bal god is a temporal adverb referring to sunset as was first proposed by Lacadena and Zender. The head variant for the sunset glyph found on the La Corona piece is very interesting and has implications for interpreting the ak’bal god illustrated on the Copan Structure 8N-11 bench as well as the Comalcalco examples. If we set aside Thompson’s notion that all square-eyed, Roman-nosed gods are aspects of the sun, and review the contexts of the ak’bal god it seems apparent that he is not the “night sun”, but rather the personification of the night. This is apparent on the skyband illustrated on the Copan Structure 8N-11 bench as discussed in our forthcoming volume Maya Narrative Art (Bassie-Sweet and Hopkins). The full figure glyphs on this skyband form an A-B-B-A chiasmus structure that contrasts complementary opposites. From left to right, the glyphs are portraits of One Ixim as a lunar patron (A), the ak’bal god representing night (B), the sun god representing day (B) and a scorpion deity as a patron of Venus (A) (fig. ). These pairing follow the complementary opposite pairing of night-day and Venus-Moon found in the tz’ak glyph.
    The poses of these Copan deities are symmetrical with the moon and Venus patrons (A) facing away from each other and the day and night gods (B) facing each other. However, the sun god is pictured in the act of emerging from his centipede cartouche, which refers to the dawn when the sun is rising. Similarly, the ak’bal god is seen in the reclining pose that is specifically identified with birth. So these two gods contrast, not day and night per se, but the birth of the day and the birth of the night, that is, dawn and sunset.
    The Comalcalco examples of the sunset glyph tell us something very important about the event performed by Aj Pakal Tahn. The burial urn (Urn 26) of the Comalcalco secondary lord Aj Pakal Tahn contained inscribed stingray spines (bloodletters) and pendants of bone and shell that record a succession of vernal equinox events from A.D. 765-777 that were performed by him (Armijo, Gallegos and Zender 2000; Armijo, Zender and Gallegos 2000; Zender, Armijo and Gallegos 2001; Martin, Zender and Grube 2002; Zender 2004). As Zender has pointed, these inscriptions of Aj Pakal Tahn were not public monuments, but the private documentation of the events of a secondary lord with priestly functions. On each one of these equinox events, Aj Pakal Tahn made a blood offering before a different deity or series of deities. Many of these deities are named as Chahks. On Pendant 11, the text specifically indicates that Aj Pakal Tahn’s equinox offering occurred at sunrise. The equinox event of 5 Kaban 10 Sip (March 22, 771) was preceded by three other events. The first was on 4 Ajaw 18 K’ayab (January 4) and was recorded twice, once on a stingray spine and again on a pendant (Spine 2 and Pendant 7). These two texts state that on this occasion Aj Pakal Tahn stood before Chahk deities, one of which was the deity GII. This date is, of course, just 20 days before the Period Ending. Another stingray spine (Spine 3) records the Period Ending date, but the inscription does not refer to actions performed by Aj Pakal Tahn, rather it describes a famine and drought that occurred in the 13th tun of the previous k’atun period - (March 7, 763 – March 1, 764).
    As noted by Zender, the logical conclusion to infer is that the subsequent annual equinox rituals of Aj Pakal Tahn, which were conducted in the middle of the dry season, were intended to prevent a repeat of this catastrophic state. The final event by Aj Pakal Tahn before his equinox bloodletting in A.D. 771 occurred seven days after the Period Ending on 7 Manik seating of Pop, the last day of the haab year. Both a stingray spine and pendant record this event (Spine 4 and Pendant 8). On the stingray spine, the text states that Aj Pakal Tahn stood before a goddess named Ix Pakal Tun while the pendant again names the deity GII. The stingray spine inscription is the only date from the burial urn that is recorded with an Initial Series Long Count notation, which places great emphasis on this seating of Pop event. What is most interesting about the Spine 4 and Pendant 8 texts is that they specifically state that the seating of Pop action was performed at sunset. The tzolk’in changes at sunset. As all of the ethnographic data indicates, the new Yearbearer came into power at sunset on the seating of Pop. In other words, at the precise moment that the next Yearbearer (Lamat) was coming into power, Aj Pakal Tahn is said to have performed his action before GII and Ix Pakal Tun. This surely cannot be a coincidence. According to Thompson’s correction of the Dresden New Year pages, the patron deity that came into power during the Lamat years was GII. These texts document not only rare equinox-based rituals, but those of the Wayeb. Like the Wayeb ceremonies of the Postclassic Period, the rituals of Aj Pakal Tahn’s were performed to avert agriculture disaster.

  5. Nicholas Hopkins July 20, 2015 / 5:12 PM

    Prager’s Dr 83b “born is the idol” supports our (Bassie and Hopkins) contention that the headdress in the Palace Tablet caption text is being born as well.

  6. Jens Rohark July 21, 2015 / 5:29 PM

    I would like to comment on the dates of Element 56. David´s reconstruction of the Long Count dates is correct for all 9 dates, however, the conversion to the European dates is not consistent with each other. As I see, he used the 283 correlation. The first 5 dates are given in Julian calendar. The next 3 dates are given in Gregorian calendar, and the last date is again given in Julian calendar. If you prefer 283 correlation (which I don´t), then the Julian dates are: 9 Chikchan 13 Muwan (4 December 688) + 4 days = 13 Muluk 17 Muan (scribal error giving 18 Muwan) (8 December 688) + 12.0. = 6 Muluk 12 Ch´en (5 August 689) + 10 days (scribal error giving 12 days) = 3 Kawak 2 Yax (15 August 689) + 3 days (scribal error giving 5 days) = 6 Ik´ 5 Yax (18 August 689) + 19 days = 12 Imix 4 Sak (6 September 689) + 17 days = 3 Ets´nab 1 Kej (23 September 689) + 2.9.2. = 8 Ajaw 8 Who (13 March 692). Then there is 3 Ben 11 Sip (6 April 690) without any connecting DN.
    As Christian has indicated, there is the temporal adverb in pC1, which reads nut´il, probably meaning “sunset”, possibly “dawn”, as David writes. So, we should have a look at the sky for that date. This is the third date: 6 Muluk 12 Ch´en. If you use 283 correlation (starting 11 August 3114 BC greg.), then the date corresponds to 5 August 689 Julian. There is nothing interesting going on at sunrise. At sunset however (as suspected), there is Venus disappearing as Evening Star. The problem is, if you use 283 correlation, you could have seen Venus from about 7:50 to 7:52 p.m., maximum, and only if you really have a clear view at the flat horizon, which makes it highly unlikely to have seen Venus at all. If you use 285 correlation (starting 13 August 3114 BC), then you would have had a good chance to observe Venus, from about 7:40 to 7:50 p.m.
    Let´s have a look at the other dates. There was nothing special going on for the fist date: both on 4 and 6 December 688 you would have seen the Pleyades around 9 p.m. in cenit.
    The second date is more interesting: the date corresponds to the night from 8 to 9 December 688 for 283 correlation, and 10 to 11 December 688 for 285 correlation. On 8 December, around 8 p.m., you would have seen the moon quite near the Pleyades. and a few hours later, you would have seen Venus very near Saturn, from 3:20 a.m. (9 December) to sunrise. If you use 285 correlation, the matter gets much more interesting, because then you woud have seen the Moon having past the Pleyades, but more importantly, Venus would just have passed Saturn! Again, this was visible from 3:20 a.m. (11 December) to sunrise. There are many many events in the maya inscription which take place just when the Moon passes a planet, but occasionally you can see a planet passing another planet. Usually this is difficult to pinpoint to one specific night, since the planets are not too fast.
    The forth date gives significant events for both correlations: On the evening of 15 and 17 August 689 it was possible to observe Venus as Evening Star. However, there was one more event for 285 correlation: On the morning of 18 August 689 you could observe the moon just having passed Mars, from 4:40 to 5:50 a.m. This, again, clearly favors 285 correlation.
    The fifth date gives events for both correlations: on the morning of 19 August you might have observed the moon having passed Mercury, however that was just possible for a few minutes before sunrise. This would favor 283 correlation. Two days later, there was new moon, which would favor 285 correlation.
    The sixth date would allow a nice event for both correlations: both on 6 and 8 September 689 yould could observe the planets Venus, Saturn and Jupiter in a straight line and quite near to each other, visible after sunset, from 7:20 to 7.40 p.m. However, only for 285 correlation you get another nice event: the moon and the Pleyades exactly near each other and exactly in cenit at 4 a.m. the next morning, on 9 September 689! This seems to be a very good date for the coronation of Chak Ak Paat Kuy.
    The seventh date works for both correlations: you could observe Jupiter, Venus and Saturn near each other both on 23 and 25 September 689 in the evening hours.
    The eight date is a K´atun date, so I will not consider this one.
    The ninth date gives no significant event for both correlations. Venus was evening star until about the 5 April 690, after that it was already too near to the sun to be observed.
    As always, I invite everyone, to indicate the correlation used and if the dates are Julian or Gregorian when writing articles, to make life easier.

    • David Stuart July 21, 2015 / 6:15 PM

      Thanks. I believe I used two different conversion programs in the course of my first wave of analysis, which helps account for my inconsistency. And as I have stated before, I have no strong preference in opting for the 283, 285 and 286, being skeptical of many astronomical arguments. When I have a moment I will update the blog to make the dates internally consistent.