A Vessel from La Corona?

by David Stuart

On the Kerr database of Maya vessels appears a colorful polychrome, K4020, depicting two repeating scenes of K’awiil seated upon a throne or bench (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Rollout of K4020, a cylindrical vessel possibly from La Corona, Guatemala. (Photograph by Justin Kerr)

A short dedicatory formula text appears in the two glyph panels separating the figures. This begins with the right-most column of glyphs in the photograph, reading down:

a-ALAY??-ya / T’AB-yi / yu-k’i-b’i / ti-tzi-hi


Alay(??) t’ab’ay y-uk’ib’ ti tzih

yajawte’ k’inich k’uhul sak wahyis

“Here goes up (is dedicated) the cup for tzih of

Yajawte’ K’inich, the Holy Sak Wahyis

Figure 2. The name Yajawte’ K’inich with the title Sak Wahyis, from the “Dallas Panel” from La Corona. (From drawing by D. Stuart).

The name of vessel’s owner, Yajawte’ K’inich, appears with some regularity at several sites in the central lowlands, including Naranjo, El Pajaral, Zapote Bobal, and La Corona. However, the presence of the regional title K’uhul Sakwahyis on the vessel strongly suggests that La Corona is the relevant connection — only there do we find the same combination of Yajawte’ K’inich name and title, in reference to a Late Classic ruler who reigned around (Figure 2). This is the opening date of the so-called Dallas Panel from La Corona, commemorating the arrival of the wife of Yajawte’ K’inich to La Corona from Calakmul (Freidel and Guenter 2003; Martin 2008). The addition of the k’uhul “holy” modifier on the title on K4020 is the only difference, but this is probably a minor distinction, as Sak Wahyis can appear both with and without k’uhul elsewhere in La Corona’s inscriptions.

K4020’s other possible connection with La Corona comes from the repeating scenes on the vessel. In each representation K’awiil sits atop a throne decorated with a large symbolic white flower, somewhat schematic but nonetheless clear. It seems likely that these are emblematic versions of the ancient toponym we know for La Corona, Saknikte’ (“white blossom”).


Freidel, David, and Stanley Guenter. 2003. Bearers of War and Creation. Archaeology. http://www.archaeology.org/online/features/siteq2/index.html

Martin, Simon 2008. Wives and Daughters on the Dallas Altar. Mesoweb. http://www.mesoweb.com/articles/martin/Wives&Daughters.pdf

Maya Spooks

K’ahk’ U Ti’ Suutz’, “Fire-Mouthed Bat,” a common wahy demon on Classic Maya vases (Drawing by D. Stuart).

Around this time of year I often give my “Maya Spooks” lecture to students here at UT-Austin, highlighting the grisly and fright-filled demons (wahyoob) of Classic Maya art and religion. The lecture title is “Spooks, Witchcraft and the ‘Dark Side’ of Maya Art and Rulership (a.k.a. The Halloween Lecture).”  This semester I’m teaching on the Aztecs, so in lieu of lecturing I hereby post my brief treatment of the subject written back in 2005. This write-up was part of the larger sourcebook I put together for the Austin Maya Meetings that year, devoted to “Glyphs on Pots: Decoding Classic Maya Ceramics.”

My own thinking on wahy beings keeps being refined somewhat. I still see them as animate dark forces wielded by court sorcerers, perhaps even rulers themselves, in order to inflict harm or disease on others. But wahyoob can be exceedingly complex and multi-layered, and they certainly aren’t really the benign, shamanistic “animal companion spirits” as we often described them a couple of decades ago. I’m hoping to find time write something more in-depth on the fascinating topic of royal sorcery one of these days, perhaps even as a book on Classic Maya witchcraft.

In the meantime… boo!

“The Way Beings” by David Stuart (pdf file)

Excerpt from: David Stuart, 2005. Glyphs on Pots: Decoding Classic Maya Ceramics. Sourcebook for the 2005 Maya Meetings at Texas. Department of Art and Art History, UT-Austin, Austin.