Tzutz: A Termination of Time

A variety words for the termination of various calendar “period-endings” are documented in the Yucatec colonial Books of the Chilam Balam. These are: tz’oc, “completion”; hitz’, “expiration”; tzol, “to set in order”; uutz’, “crumple, fold, turn over, double”; xul “end” (Thompson 1978: 186-189). In the classic Maya inscriptions the transitive verb tzutz serve the same purpose in describing a completion of time intervals of the Long Count calendar. The same idea of a temporal conclusion is manifested on Stela 5, Pixoy, which records the “period-ending date” The last three time periods are prefixed with the sign T683a, which signify k’al, “enclose; complete” (A4-A5) (Grube, Lacadena and Martin 2003: П-4-П-5). Thus, old time units were said, but in a different fashion, to be completed.

Time periods of the Long Count calendar were not only outlined as completed in the inscriptions. A special sign in the inscriptions marked a halfperiod of time units within the Long Count calendar. A half-period was normally a designation of 10 winikhaab or 10 haab. 10 haab is the same as a half-winikhaab and 10 winikhaab is identical with a half-pik. The occasion of a “round” date of 10 haab 0 winal 0 k’in or 10 winikhaab 0 haab 0 winal 0 k’in are identified by what has been called the “half-period hieroglyph”, by epigraphers. This sign is read as tan-lam—composed by the adverb tan, “middle” and the verb lam “to diminish”—which can be translated as “it was the half-diminishing” (Stuart, Houston and Robertson II-43; Wich- mann 2004: 627-631; 635).[1] [2]

We have seen that a ceremonial termination of time at different “periodending dates” could be stated by the verb tzutz. A time unit is in this case clearly confirmed as completed. But what was the meaning of the notion of a diminishing of time? For instance, the inscription on Stela 6, Copan proclaims, by VERB t-u-tan-lam-il 8 Ajaw (, that it is the half- diminishing of winikhaab 13, i.e. the date This gives an insight into how the classic Maya conceived time, because every period was probably thought of as a substance that was gradually diminished like the contents of an hourglass (Wichmann personal communication, 2004). But it does not signify that time itself was diminished, since tan-lam defined only a (half) period of time (interval) within the greater time span of the Long Count calendar. This is corroborated by the rather strange phrase u k’al tan-lam, “it is the binding of the half-diminishing of” ( 1 Ajaw 3 Chakk’at), on Monument 7, Tonina (H-R). The k’al tan-lam formula appears to refer to the binding as a formula for the completion of a half-period thus supporting the idea that a old time period within the Long Count calendar was conceived to be terminated but not that time was diminishing, i.e. nearing its final end. The half-period sign constitutes not an eschatological notion reflecting the approaching completion of the Long Count (the end of time), but rather an idiosyncratic term for the ending of a half-period of a particular time unit within the Long Count calendar.83

  • [1] A half-diminishing (tan-lam) of an object following is stated in the inscription on Stela P, Copan (A6-B6). Tan-lam refers to a half-period stela (Wichmann 2004: 638),which symbolically represents time.
  • [2] Tan-lam can also refer to “non-period-ending dates” (Stuart 2000: 2; 14).
< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >