The Nomenclature of La Corona Sculpture

Right section of La Corona Panel 2. Photograph by Justin Kerr (K4677)
Right section of La Corona Panel 2. Photograph by Justin Kerr (K4677)

Just posted on Mesoweb is the latest in the series of La Corona Notes produced by the La Corona Archaeological Project (PRALC). This note, the second in the series, addresses the challenges in developing a logical designation system for site’s sculptures, many of which were looted from the site in the 1960s. Before La Corona’s identification in the 1990s, Peter Mathews had grouped these scattered blocks and panels and labeled their unknown source as “Site Q”.

The Nomenclature of La Corona Sculpture, by David Stuart, Marcello A. Canuto and Tomás Barrientos Q.

NEWS: La Corona Notes on Mesoweb

Our friends over at Mesoweb have launched a new series of short reports called La Corona Notes, featuring interpretations and data from the Proyecto Arqueológico Regional La Corona. The series editors are Marcello Canuto of Tulane University, Tomás Barrientos of the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, and David Stuart of The University of Texas at Austin.

A number of upcoming contributions to the series will feature epigraphic studies of La Corona’s many inscriptions, including the new texts from Hieroglyphic Stairway 2, discovered last year. Maya Decipherment will regularly announce and provide links to these future works as they come up.

The first note in the series is “The Importance of La Corona” by project directors Marcello Canuto and Tomás Barrientos.

(Photo: Detail of La Corona Panel 1, by D. Stuart)

New Drawing of a La Corona Panel

La Corona, Panel 6. Drawing by David Stuart.
La Corona, Panel 6. Drawing by David Stuart.

Presented here is a new drawing of Panel 6 from La Corona, Guatemala. Its elaborate scene and lengthy hieroglyphic text commemorate the fascinating history of intermarriage between the rulers of La Corona (Saknikte’) and princesses of the Kan (or Kanal) court, centered at Dzibanche and Calakmul (Freidel and Guenter 2003; Martin 2008). On the left side we see the contemporaneous La Corona queen (and daughter of the then-king of Calakmul) under the roof of a small “water temple” as she celebrates a Period Ending in 731 A.D. Opposite her, under the protective arm of a large Teotihuacan-style feline, is the local queen who had arrived at La Corona from the Kan court over two centuries earlier, in 520.

Four dates are given in the text, listed here in chronological order:

  • 12 Kib 9 Pax – Arrival of first Kan noblewoman
  • 11 Kaban 10  Sotz’ – Arrival of second Kan noblewoman
  • 8 Ix 17 Sotz’ – Arrival of third Kan noblewoman
  • 4 Ahaw 13 Yax – Period Ending

Panel 6 is currently in the Ancient American Art gallery of The Dallas Museum of Art (Object number 1988.15.McD).


Freidel, David, and Stanley Guenter. 2003. Bearers and War of Creation.

Martin, Simon. 2008  Wives and Daughters on the Dallas Altar. Article available on Mesoweb.

Portraits of Yuknoom Ch’een

by David Stuart

Many interesting historical and artistic details are emerging from Hieroglyphic Stairway 2 from La Corona, Guatemala, just discovered this past April by the Proyecto Arqueologico Regional La Corona. The texts and images are now in the process of study, just as the various blocks are being drawn and documented for eventual publication.

One small but important detail comes from Block VIII of the new stairway, depicting a seated ruler facing to his right, toward another lord on an adjacent block. According to the incomplete text on these stones, the scene appears to show a certain type of ballgame or ritual contest (pitz) between the local La Corona lord Sak Maas and his overlord, the famous Yuknoom Ch’een of the Kan dynasty — one of the greatest of all Maya kings. The figures are both seated on the floor and hold stone hammers, presumably used in the game as well as in their apparent capacity here as Chahk impersonators (note the headdress). Ritual gaming and associated symbols of rain-making involving similar hammer-like stones have been investigated recently by Taube and Zender (2009). This pitz event took place on, or 11 Feburary, 635 AD. The figure here illustrated (below, right) is almost certainly Yuknoom Ch’een himself — the first well preserved image of him from a Maya monumental sculpture. Upon realizing the likelihood of the La Corona figure as Yuknoom Ch’een’s portrait, I was interested in comparing it to his only other known image, from a carved vessel now in Schaffhausen, Switzerland (Martin and Grube 2000:108; Prager 2004) (see below, left).

Two portraits of Yuknoom Ch'een, king of the Kan dynasty. Left: the king as the day sign Ahaw, from the Schaffhausen vessel; RIght: from Block VIII or HS2 at La Corona (D Stuart photo).
Two portraits of Yuknoom Ch’een, king of the Kan dynasty. Left: the king as the day sign Ahaw, from the Schaffhausen vessel; Right: from Block VIII or HS2 at La Corona (D. Stuart photo).

The two profiles are remarkably similar, each showing a man with a small mouth and distinctively weak chin. Clearly the different artists who produced the stairway block and the vessel each made attempts to convey true portraits of this important royal person.

In addition to simply giving us a pretty good idea of what the great Yuknoom Ch’een looked like, the two images reveal that some Maya artists outside of Palenque were sensitive to the idea of portraiture, even on small ceramic media — something that isn’t always very often seen or acknowledged.

References Cited:

Martin, Simon, and Nikolai Grube. 2008. Chronicle of Maya Kings and Queens: Deciphering the Dynasties of the Ancient Maya (Second Edition). Thames & Hudson, London.

Prager, Christian M.. 2004. A Classic Maya Ceramic Vessel from the Calakmul Region in the Museum zu Allerheiligen, Schaffhausen, Switzerland. The Human Mosaic 35(1): 31-40.

Taube, Karl, and Marc Zender. 2009. American Gladiators: Ritual Boxing in Ancient Mesoamerica. In Blood and Beauty: Organized Violence in the Art and Archaeology of Mesoamerica and Central America, edited by H. Orr and R. Koontz, pp. 161-220. Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Press, Los Angeles.

A Podcast on 2012, from The Academic Minute

CRNHS2VfinalpassageA brief take on the 2012 business, recorded for The Academic Minute, a podcast from WAMC radio distributed on a number of college and NPR stations here in the US.

Of course the idea that no actual 2012 prophecy exists gets very little widespread distribution in the media. It hasn’t a chance against the shameless doom-and-gloom, junk-science narratives of The History Channel or, even worse now, The National Geographic Channel.