The Reconstructed Account(s) of classic Maya Creation Stories

As is clearly the case with many other Indigenous cultures of the Americas, I advocate that there was not only one but several Maya creation stories— with various local narrative, places and protagonists according to the tradition of the individual city—in the classic period.[1] [2] To find out whether classic Maya creation stories exerted an influence over the philosophy or philosophies of the ritual practice of time of the Long Count calendar the following issues has to be addressed of what happened at the introduction of the present Long Count, on the date 13.0.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl (Kumk’u):

  • 1. Who were the divine protagonists, what kind of practices were performed and where did the creation come to pass?
  • 2. Were there various time cycles (e.g. previous Long Counts) of Great Time or World Ages in classic Maya chronovision? And if that was the case, have human beings existed in these former time cycles or world eras?
  • 3. Was there a creation of space and/or of time?

In the forthcoming, based upon previous epigraphic work by various epig- raphersi5, I intend to map out a new comparative method and terrain on the heterogeneity of classic Maya and other cosmogonies. As will be further elaborated, the various practices, places and deities appearing in these fragmented creation stories are indicative of separate creation stories and not of episodes of one common shared classic Maya creation account. This is further corroborated by the variety of patron deities and the genealogical relation of the dynasties narrated in the inscriptions of the individual city.

From the legible existent inscriptions[3] [4] [5], I have categorised the various creation accounts after the related actions of the supernatural beings where the city/region of origin is noted in parenthesis.

  • 1. The erection and binding or wrapping of three stones (tun) (Quirigua).
  • 2. The bathing (yataj) of the Paddler Gods at Naj Ho’ Chan Ajaw.
  • 3. The action of the seven and eleven gods (Naranjo region).
  • 4. The creation of 13.0.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl and 0.0.1.9.2 13 Ik’ end of Ik’sihom (Palenque).

The third designated creation story (Naranjo region) differs radically from the other versions when it comes to the protagonists, actions and locations. Moreover the narrative of this creation account is the only one to derive from ceramic vessels (K2796 & K7750). In contrast to the versions from monuments, these vessels represents iconographic portraits of the divine performers of the cosmogony.

  • [1] Quite a few extant inscriptions—Stela 1, Stela 3, and Stela 5 Coba (Macanxoc); StelaC, East Side, Altar P’, and Zoomorph G, Quirigua; Monument 34, Tonina, Stela 23, Copan(Santa Rita); The Tablet of the Temple of the Cross and The Tablet of the Temple of theSun, Palenque; Fragments of Altar 1, Piedras Negras; Plate 96; Stela A, Tila; Panel 18, DosPilas; “Early Classic greenstone mask”; The “Caracol Stela”, Chichen Itza and various pages(24, 61, 69, 70 etc. ) in Codex Dresden—record the date of creation. These obscure scripturesmay well refer to creation. Transcriptions, transliterations and translations of the knowninscriptions of the classic Maya, that contain the creation date 13.0.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl(Kumk’u), are provided in Pharo (2006).
  • [2] A previous synthesis but out-dated interpretation of classic Maya creation inscriptions is to be found in Schele (1992: 120-152) and Freidel, Schele and Parker (1993: 59-122).
  • [3] It is important to note that the inscriptions from Tila and the Naranjo region onlycontain the Calendar Round date 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl and not the complete Long Count notation13.0.0.0.0. There is accordingly a possibility that these dates from the 260-day calendar andthe 365-day calendar respectively did not refer to the creation date, 13.0.0.0.0. For instance,Stuart and Houston has demonstrated this to be the most probable case concerning thepresumably creation text from Chancala, Mexico (cf. Stuart 2011a).
  • [4] Stuart read the collocation asjehlajk’oh baah, “the face-image changed” (Stuart 2011:219).
  • [5] A recent published book about the classic Maya calendar indicates that this interpretation of classic Maya creation story is still very much in existence among epigraphers(Rice 2007: 143-144).
 
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