A Symbolic Synchronisation between “Period-Ending Dates” and Ritual Practices of the Contemporary Long Count with Previous Long Count Computations

In the seminal article “A Rationale for the Initial Date of the Temple of the Cross at Palenque” (1976), Floyd Lounsbury has found that dates before the creation of 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl (Kumk’u) may be linked to dates in the present Long Count, with a so-called distance number, in the inscriptions.[1] The distance numbers connect the past, the present and the future. The calendar positions of previous Long Count and the current Long Count calendar could accordingly be calculated in such a manner that both fall on the same date making them “like in kind dates”. This constitutes a symmetrical relation between the date of a previous Long Count computation and a date of the present Long Count calendar (Lounsbury 1981: 804-808). Inscriptions from Palenque contain for instance dates where the birth and accession of deities and the lords are related (Schele and Miller 1986: 321). According to this temporal symmetry the ajaw or members of the aristocracy symbolically repeated the actions of the gods. This phenomenon of recurrence has Nicholson denoted as “pattern history”, based upon “cosmological and cosmogonical preconceptions”, in the cultures of Meso- america (Nicholson 1971a: 64). The use of corresponding dates creates a model for contemporary human (and ruler) behaviour by imitating exploits of the deities in “Great Time” or “Deep Time”.

We have seen that the date of creation could be, although not exclusively, linked to later ritual practices of time. We have also established that “period-ending dates” could in a few cases be connected to the identical 260-day calendar station. It would seem that the 260-day calendar had an extraordinary prominence among the Maya of the classic period since many “period-endings” of the same inscription shared an identical 260-day date. We shall now see that an equivalent symbolic connotation of the 260-day calendar constituting a synchronisation between dates of former Long Counts (“Deep Time” or “Great Time”) and the contemporary Long Count calendar. The fact that several inscriptions—from Quirigua, Copan and Piedras Negras—associate ritual practice of time of the present Long Count calendar with like in kind dates and events that occurred in distant

(e.g. previous) Long Counts indicates that the creation date of 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl (Kumk’u) was not significant in the execution of later temporal ceremonies (i.e. ritual practice of time).[2] [3]

Let us first begin with the inscription on the east side of Stela F, Quirigua, which relates that a scattering ritual 1 Ajaw 3 Mol is commemorating back to “1 Ajaw 13 Yaxk’in, end of 13 “Kihnchiltuns” perhaps c.

90,000,000 years ago” (Stuart 1995: 170). The anniversary of the station, 1 Ajaw, of the 260-day calendar accordingly constitutes the focal point of the inscription on Stela F.

Moreover, on the “period-ending date” 13 Ajaw 18 Ohl (January 22, 771 ad) planted or erected the lord of Quirigua, K’ak’ Tiliw Chan, a monument called Uxlajun Ajaw Tun or “13 Ajaw stone” according to the inscription on Stela E (East Side), Quirigua.63 The calendar position of 13 Ajaw and the dedicated 13 Ajaw stone are both connected to two dates of former Long Counts, which is the identical day-station of the 260-day calendar: 13 Ajaw. On the Calendar Round dates 13 Ajaw 18 Saksihom and 13 Ajaw 13 Ik’at were not very well understood undertakings conducted by supernatural beings at various locations. It was proclaimed that on 13 Ajaw

  • 18 Saksihom and 13 Ajaw 13 Ik’at was a time unit of an unknown temporal value completed. It is reason to believe that K’ak’ Tiliw Chan performed a ritual practice of time on emulating two preternatural “periodending” incidents of previous Long Counts at the equivalent 260-day calendar position: 13 Ajaw. In connection with events of “Great Time” at 19 ? (e.g. not known Long Count) 13 Ajaw 18 Saksihom, it is intriguing that the suffix -iiy of the verb -ut- “to happen” makes the verb function as a predicative anaphora. The suffix -iiy operates as a linguistic element alluding to a previous event that has already taken place. Wichmann has noticed that, because of the verb utiiy, the inscription on the east side of Stela, E, Quirigua refers to related events of a remote past event when the incidents has not been expressed earlier (Wichmann 2000: 78). It is thus possible that
  • 19 ? (e.g. not known Long Count) 13 Ajaw 18 Saksihom is synchronised with earlier although not mentioned dates. Furthermore, the account on Stela A (East & West), Quirigua relates that the same lord K’ak’ Tiliw Chan erected the “6 Ajaw Stone” on the “period-ending date” 6 Ajaw 13 K’anasiiy (December 27, 775 ad) (Schele and Looper 1996: 145-146). The calendar position of 6 Ajaw is associated with the completion of a time period of a former Long Count: 19 ? (e.g. not known Long Count) 6 Ajaw 13 Saksihom by the supernatural being Ek’ Nal-? (the same god who appear in the cosmogony at Stela C, Quirigua). The symbolic synchronisation of the station of the 260-day calendar, 6 Ajaw is accordingly emphasised in this inscription.

Also the inscription on Stela C (south side), Copan narrates that the anniversary of 6 Ajaw of the 260-day calendar, of a previous Long Count computation, was celebrated on the same date (e.g. 6 Ajaw) of the present Long Count calendar. There is a count of from 6 Ajaw 13 K’anasiiy of the unknown former Long Count to 6 Ajaw 13 Muwaan of the current Long Count. A wrapping or binding of a stone (k’altun) was conducted on the date ? 13 “Kalabtun” 6 Ajaw 13 K’anasiiy. This undertaking on the date 6 Ajaw of the 260-day calendar was commemorated by the Copan lord Waxaklajun UBaah K’awil on 6 Ajaw 13 Muwaan (December 3, 711 ad), when he erected or set up a banner stone. Moreover, on 0.0 1 Ajaw 8 Saksihom, a date of a former Long Count, there was a stone binding or wrapping (k’a/tun-ritual) conducted by a obscure deity according to Stela N, Copan (East & West side). K’ak’ Yipyaj Chan K’awil performed, on the same date of the 260-day calendar ( 1 Ajaw 3 Chakat), a not recognised action.[4] Hence, there is another example where a “period-ending date” of the contemporary Long Count calendar is associated with a mythical k’a/tun-ritual conducted by a supernatural being within a previous Long Count. We see (again) that there is a correspondence of the position of the day Ajaw (e.g. 1 Ajaw) of the 260-day calendar in a previous Long Count with the present Long Count.

There are, nevertheless, exceptions to this pattern of a symbolic recurrence of equivalent Ajaw stations of the 260-day calendar. No correspondence exists between the 260-day position of the distant Long Count cycle (13 “Kihnichiltun”, 6 Ajaw 3 K’anjalaw) and the ritual observance on 0 7 Ajaw 13 K’anjalaw of the contemporary Long Count according to the inscription on Stela D (East), Quirigua[5] On 7 Ajaw 13 K’anjalaw or February 17, 766 AD the stone was erected, the 7 Ajaw stone, whereas the ending of 13 “Kihnichiltun” found place on the Calendar Round date of 6 Ajaw 3 K’anjalaw. This also applies to the inscriptions on Stela D,

Copan; partly the inscription on Stela J, Copan where some Ajaw positions of the 260-day calendar seem to correspond (cf. Newsome 2001: 77-90; Schele and Looper 1996: 104; Schele and Mathews 1998: 136-138); and the inscription on Altar 1, Piedras Negras (Grube and Martin 2001: 56; Teufel

2004: 74-76; 528-536).

This indicates that there was not an intimately symbolic association between the creation of the present Long Count, i.e. the cosmogony, on 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl (Kumk’u) and the later ritual practice of time. This casts further doubt upon the hypothesis of a symbolic recreation or renewal of time and/or space through ritual practices of time. Instead, the gathered data display a commemoration, through pattern dates, of the station of the day Ajaw of the 260-day calendar. Stuart has shown that several commemorations of 260-day anniversaries, a few examples of 365- day anniversaries or even Calendar Round anniversaries of the contemporary Long Count are recorded in the inscriptions (Stuart 1995: 168-170; 1998: 397). “Like-in-kind connections” between past, contemporary and future “period-ending dates” with corresponding Ajaw stations can be detected on monuments from Quirigua; Stela J, Copan and Monument 6, Tortu- guero (Stuart 2011c). It is significant to emphasise that this principle of “pattern history” did not apply to the linear Long Count calendar, but rather to the cyclical 260-day calendar and the cyclical 365-day calendars[6] Winikhaab and haab period-endings of the Long Count calendar were recorded but there is no evidence of a cycle or a repetition associated with theirs passing (Stuart 1995: 167-168)[7] It is therefore a synchronisation of interlinking cyclical 260-day calendar and/or 365-day calendar stations and not the linear Long Count that constitutes the principal temporal philosophy and practices of these inscriptions.

  • [1] Other calendar notations linking previous time eras to the present Long Count bylarge distance numbers were ring numbers or long rounds, serpent numbers and the “pik-tun” count known from Codex Dresden (Berlin 1943; Thompson 1972; Lounsbury 1981; Brickerand Miram 2002: 43-45).
  • [2] The dissertation provides a full transcription, transliteration and translation of thecited inscriptions in this chapter (Pharo 2006).
  • [3] The inscription on the west side of this stela does not contain a related account.
  • [4] The computation of the distance numbers on Stela N, Copan (East & West Side) hasbeen made by Morley, Beyer and Thompson (Morley 1920: 281-288; Beyer 1932: 115-116;Thompson 1944: 58-59).
  • [5] The inscription on the west side of this stela does not contain relevant informationto this narrative.
  • [6] There were not necessarily a synchronic pattern between “period-ending dates” (i.e.Ajaw of the 260-day calendar) of a previous Long Count and the contempoary Long Count.For instance, according to the Hieroglyphic Stairway 2, Step VII, Structure 33, a Yaxchilanlord impersonates in a ritual ball game a deity on October 19, 744 ad ( 3 Muluk 17Mak) which refers to an identical calendar round date 8 world ages (Long Counts) back intime before the present Long Count: 3 Muluk 17 Mak (Scheleand Miller 1986: 249).
  • [7] La Corona Panel 1 sharing the same pattern date of 4 K’an of the 260-day calendardisplay that other time stations, than Ajaw of the 260-day calendar, were emphasised bythe classic Maya.
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