“Period-Ending Dates” and Ritual Practice of Time of the Future

Future events in the lifetime of a lord and incidents, which would take place after his/her death into the remote future, were recorded in the inscriptions. “Period-ending dates” of the future or irrealis could be marked by tzutzjo’m and the Future Date Indicator (FDI) of DNIG uto’m, “it will happen”(Stuart 2001: 13-14, fig. 3; Stuart, Houston and Robertson 1999: II-16; Hruby and Robertson 2001: 32-33, fig. 4a; Grube and Martin 2004: II-87). Also other future time “period-ending dates” were recorded in the inscriptions (Schele 1995; Guenter 2005). Time could in addition be “half-dimin?ished” on “period-ending dates” of the future, DATE uto’m tanlam, “On DATE the half-diminishing will happen” (Dos Pilas Stair; Altar H’, Copan) (Wichmann 2004: 635-636).

Even an observance of ritual practice at future “period-endings” could be outlined in the inscriptions. For instance, a dedication by a burning ritual was stated to happen in the future according to the inscription on the “Reviewing Stand” mounted on the south side of Temple 11, Copan (Schele, Stuart and Grube 1989: 4-5): uto’m uxlajun ajawwaxaklajun ohl, “It will happen on 13 Ajaw 18 Ohl ([1] Furthermore, a scattering ritual was announced on Monument 157, Copan to take place 3 haab into the future, on where the scattering verb carrying the irrealis suffix. The irrealis suffix operated as a rhetorical instrument in the narrative outlining—from the perspective of the scribe and the commissioner of the inscription—dates, events and rituals expected to take place in the near future. It is not future time but the anticipated not realised event, which is essential. This kind of rhetoric does not harmonise well with the idea of a necessary ritual renewal of time at “period-ending stations” or with an eschatological philosophy. The ritual practice was not needed to renew time or to avert an apocalyptical catastrophe when not realised time is already conceived as being realised.

  • [1] Cf. also the inscriptons on The Tablet of the Slaves (Palenque) and Stela 23 (Naranjo)where future ritual practices of time are stated to be celebrated (Martin and Grube 2000:171; Schele and Freidel 1990: 192-193; 461, note 51).
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