The Ceremonial Language of and the Ritual Practice of Time

The performances of ritual practices of time were not reproduced in the ceremonial language, imitating the cosmogonic actions at the inauguration of the contemporary Long Count calendar. The custom of setting (chum- tun) instead of erecting (tz’aptun) stones at ritual practices of time does not only reflect, a lack of stelae, but a different creation account in the western part of the lowlands of the cities Palenque, Chinikiha and Pomona etc. , in the classic period. On the other hand, Palenque embodies many stone-binding (k’altun) ceremonies as a ritual practice of time, which was a common classic Maya ritual technique; however, we do not know whether they were connected to the cosmogony because of lacking sources to the creation account of this site.

Christie has argued that the inscription on Stela 38, Naranjo demonstrates that there was a direct connection between stone-rituals performed at “period-ending dates” and the creation account on the east side of Stela C, Quirigua:

The fact that three K’atun ending rites are reported and three stones were erected may establish a symbolic link with the three stones of creation which were placed at the beginning of time .... (Christie 1995: 219).

But, then, one would expect that the inscription on Stela 38 would outline that the three stones were wrapped or tied on the same “period-ending date”, in one ceremonial-symbolic performance by the lord Aj Wosal, instead of at three different Long Count calendar stations (;; It is not uncommon that one stone monument incorporates various “period-ending” statements (e.g. ritual practices of time) accordingly disproving a symbolic connection between the stone sculpture and the three stones erected and wrapped at the Quirigua cosmogony. It is also uncertain whether this creation story of the erecting and planting of three stones was known in Naranjo.

In fact there are no ritual-symbolic emulations of the events at 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl (Kumk’u) as recorded on the east side of Stela C, Quirigua because tz’aptun and k’altun temporal ceremonies were not necessarily performed on the same (“period-ending”) date. Numerous examples of inscriptions on various stelae delineate the wrapping of a stela some time after the temporal ritual (Le Fort 2000: 190-191). This is for instance testified by the inscription on Stela 15, El Duende, Dos Pilas where a ritual self-blood sacrifice was conducted and a banner stone erected to observe the half- diminshing of one winikhaab on 5 Ajaw 3 Mak. But the binding or wrapping of the stela took place 80 days later on 7 Ajaw 3 K’anasiiy. The ruler of Dos Pilas Itzamnah K’awiil observed these temporal rituals but at two different locations (Stuart 1995: 362). Furthermore, according to the inscription on Stela 89, Calakmul, Yuknoom Took’ K’awiil of Calakmul erected the stela at the end of 15th winikhaab ( But the wrapping of this stela took place some time later (Schele and Grube 1994: 159; Schele and Grube 1995: 89). It seems that the temporal rituals may have lasted a quite long time and that the erection or seating of the stone may not always correspond to the “period-ending date” (Christie 1995: 345-346; Le Fort 2000: 191).

Erected and wrapped stones ritual practice of time are never, to my knowledge, designated as the jaguar, serpent, or waterlily (throne) stones as were the three stones of the cosmogony according to the inscription on the east side of Stela C, Quirigua. Even the two temporal rituals, which follow the creation story on Stela C, Quirigua ( 6 Ajaw 13 Yaxk’in and 6 Ajaw 13 K’anasiiy), have no association with this account but instead represent the anniversary of 6 Ajaw of the 260-day calendar.

Another argument against stone-rituals as a symbolic-ritual emulation of the creation story of Stela C, Quirigua is that k’altun and tz’aptun undertakings by supernatural beings were not exclusive sacred exploits at the day of creation of the contemporary Long Count. It has been exhibited that there was a banner stone (lakamtun) in a former Long Count time age (13 “Kinichiltun” 1 Ajaw 13 Yaxk’in) according to the inscription on Stela F, Quirigua. A k’altun- ritual on ? 13 “Kalabtun” 6 Ajaw 13 K’anasiiy was conducted by supernatural beings at a mystical place on Stela C, (South) Copan. The same was done on the date 13 “Kalabtun” 5 Ajaw 8 Ohl, Stela C (North), Copan and on 1 Ajaw 8 Saksihom, Stela N, Copan. These preternatural enterprises, all conducted before the creation of the contemporary Long Count, represent consequently not a model for a ceremonial recreation of the world or a renewal of time at “period-ending dates” since they, evidently, did not occur as symbolic acts of creation. But instead pre-dates the creation of the contemporaneous Long Count calendar.

The k’altun ritual was also celebrated at accession anniversaries of the inauguration into the office of a lord, which means that this performance was not only conducted with the purpose to celebrate a ritual practice of time. Moreover, evidence from different sites[1] [2] conveys that stelae were also erected at “non-period-ending dates’’^8 Hence, the k’altun verb can announce a binding or wrapping of stones at “period-ending” dates as designing the end and beginning of a time period (e.g. ritual practice of time), but was as well applied to calculate other types of temporal celebrations in addition to various categories of rituals.

  • [1] Stela A, Copan (, Zoomorph P, Quirigua (, Stela 18, Naranjo(3 Ik’ end of K’anjalaw), Stelae M.p17/m.p44, Tonina (, and Stela 8, Dos Pilas(
  • [2] Cf. Pharo (2006) for references to the work by various epigraphers.
< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >