The Erection and Binding or Wrapping of Three Stones (Tun) (Quirigua)

The most complete information of the cosmogony derives from the inscription on the east side of Stela C, Quirigua, Guatemala. It is commonly assumed among epigraphers that the first verb phrase on Stela C, Quirigua reads: ja(h)l-j-iiy k’o(j) b’a’ “revealed or manifested were (long ago) (the) hearth-stones” orja(h)l-aj k’o(j) b’a’ “revealed or manifested were (long ago) (the) hearth-stones” (fig. 2.)d7 Many sites share this “not deciphered creation formula” associated with the creation date of 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl (Kumk’u). This ostensible creation formula has therefore been central in the interpretation and understanding of classic Maya creation stories (Schele 1992: 120-152; Freidel, Schele and Parker 1993: 59-122; Looper 2003: 158-185; Stuart 2011: 216-222).i8 Because of lack of decipherment of the various signs, I find that this “creation event phrase” cannot be properly understood. An essential part of classic Maya creation accounts is accordingly obscure (Cf. Pharo 2006). But this supposed “creation formula” is also connected to other (historical) dates than 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl (Kumk’u)[1], thus not exclusively associated with creation. The inscription on the east side of Stela C, Quirigua may be paraphrased as follows:

On 13 pik 0 winikhaab 0 haab 0 winal 0 k’in 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl (August 11, 3114 bc), three named stones were erected, bound or wrapped. The first stone, the Jaguar Throne Stone, was planted by the two supernatural beings (whom operate in pair)—The Jaguar Paddler and The Stingray Paddler. This happened at a location called Nah Ho’ Chan. Then the god Ik’ Nah Chak erected a stone, the Snake Throne Stone. This took place at ?. Finally, the third stone, the Waterlily Throne Stone, was bound or wrapped by a fourth supernatural being called Itzamnah. This happened at ?. 13 pik was completed. It was done under the auspices or authority of the deity Ajaw Huk Chan.

The erection of stones (tz’ap tun) is said in the inscription to be conducted by the two Paddler Gods—The Jaguar Paddler and The Stingray Paddler—and Ik’ Nah Chak, but not by Itzamnah. It is the latter deity who exclusively undertakes the k’altun or “stone-binding”. But it may well be that it is implied that both the erecting and the binding or wrapping of the three stones were conducted by the Paddler Gods, Ik’ Nah Chak and Itzamnah. The three symbolic stones (tun)—The Jaguar (Throne) Stone, The Snake (Throne) Stone and The Waterlily (Throne) Stone—were first planted and then wrapped or tied by these four deities on the day of creation. But it was a fifth deity, Ajaw Huk Chan, whom supervised these events.

  • [1] Cf. Schele (1990) and Pharo (2006: 36).
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