Tz’ak: An Increasing or Ordering of Time

Time was not only (ceremonially) terminated or half-diminished. There is an exciting but puzzling passage on The Temple of the Cross, Palenque (G17- J2) where an early lord (435 AD - 487 ad) of the Palenque dynasty is said to” enhance” or “order” time (tz’ak) on 9.0.0.0.0 (December 9, 435 ad) at Toktan—the site of the founder of the dynasty; K’uk’ B’alam [I] (431 AD - 435 ad).

We recall the formulation tz’akaj, an “ordering” or “increasing” of

13.0.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 8 Oh’l (Kumk’u), of the seven and the eleven deities according to the story on the vessels K2796 and K7750 from the Naranjo region. I have not come across other examples of an “increasing” or “ordering” of time (provided that my interpretation of the sign as the verb tz’ak is correct) at “period-ending dates” in the inscriptions. It may be because the dates 13.0.0.0.0 and 9.0.0.0.0 were especially important as they were pik- endings and not the more frequently repeated winikhaab- or haab-ending dates. It is plausible that an “increasing” or “ordering” of time could only be executed by supernatural beings as is the case being done by deities on vessels K2796 and K7750. But what about the later tz’ak-ceremony observed by the obscure lord at Palenque? We know from the portrait and inscription on a travertine bowl, which provenance is not established, that he was a lord, and not a deity, of the early period (Stuart 1989: 149-150; Martin and Grube 2000: 157). It is intriguing that this ceremonial deed was conducted at Toktan, a city of the early-classic period, associated with the founder, and probably the first capital of Palenque (Houston and Stuart 1994: 31; Martin and Grube 2000: 157). The obscure lord may have been a “hombre- dios” with particular ritual-magical powers known from various cultures in Mesoamerica (Cf. Lopez Austin 1973). He might then have been capable of increasing or ordering “new time” like the creator deities. Since the tz’ak (“increase”; “enhance”) verb do not appear very often in the “period-ending” formulas (and presumably only by deified or other powerful beings), the religious specialists of the classic period were more occupied with ritually terminating than renewing computed time implicitly refuting a classic Maya eschatological philosophy. Time did not have to be ritually enhanced or ordered to continue the Long Count computation. Conversely, as noted it is quite evident that when an old time period is completed a new time unit is implicitly inaugurated. But this was apparently not a concern for the Maya ritual specialists at the time intervals of the Long Count calendar during the classic period.

 
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