Recordings of “Period-Endings” by Members of the Dynastic Genealogy

The incidents and exploits, associated with “period-ending dates” and ritual practice of time, of various lords of a dynastic lineage can be recorded in longer inscriptions. Like for instance in the dynastic narrative on the three panels from The Temple of the Cross, The Temple of the Foliated Cross and The Temple of the Sun in Palenque.

It has been claimed that “period-ending dates” function as base dates for actions performed or incidents that happened on a former and a later date. There were for example proclaimed several rituals of time of the past, present and future of the central panel of The Tablet of the Temple of the Inscriptions, Palenque. Schele and Mathews call this phenomenon for a “k’atun history” and compares it with the k’atun prophecies of the colonial Yucatec Books of Chilam Balam (Schele and Mathews 1998: 104-105). I do not dispute the fact that “period-ending dates” could operate as time anchors in the long inscriptions. There is, however, an essential distinction between a recording of “period-ending dates” and observing ritual practice of time. “Period endings” did not only function as time markers or anchors as Schele and Mathews has suggested since there were announced celebrated rituals. The so-called divine Palenque Triad is said on the panels of The Temple of the Inscriptions to play a significant role in the “ritual practices of time”. An offering or giving, a ritual stone seating (chumtun) and a ritual stone binding (k’altun) at “period-ending dates” were combined with announcements of accession into lordship. There was not only a concentration upon the chronology of the narrative but upon the prestigious religious ritual practice of time associated with the patron deities of Palenque.

Lounsbury (1974), Schele and Mathews anchor the “period-ending dates”

  • 9.7.0. 0.0 and in the story of the Sarcophagus Lid of the Temple of the Inscriptions, Palenque in three sections (Schele and Mathews 1998: 117-118). These “period-ending dates” had, however, not only a narrative function. It was declared that stone seating rituals were conducted on
  • 9.7.0. 0.0 and, and that Janaab’ Pakal [I] had performed four stone seatings. A stone seating (chumtun) is, as noted, frequently, a ritual practice connected to time. If the “period-ending date” functioned simply as a time- anchor, there would be no mention of any ritual performed at the benefit of the deities or as an observance of the time interval. The “period-ending date” thus did not only function as time marker or time anchor of a long narrative. Not only recordings of “period-endings”, but also ritual practices of time were executed on “period-ending dates” integrated with crucial events of the dynastic lineages. This suggests the importance the “period- endings”, as a time station in the Long Count calendar, must have held to the classic Maya dynasties.

The prominence of the ritual practice of time is further emphasised by the fact that particular temporal ceremonies were said in inscriptions not to have been performed amid information about the civil affairs of the ruler and the dynasty. A ritual practice of time was announced as not being conducted by an already deceased lord according to the inscription on the lid of the Tortuguero Box.[1] Furthermore, certain ritual practices of time were not outlined to be conducted at the end of the “period-ending” of according to passages in the inscription on The East Tablet of The Temple of the Inscriptions, Palenque (Grube 1996: 5-6; Martin, Zender and Grube 2002: II-16; 18).

Lords commissioned inscriptions documenting central episodes of not only their own biography but also of fellow members of the dynasty frequently associated with past temporal ritual practices. Stuart has suggested that the Long Count rituals were anniversaries that occur on “a linear time frame as simple commemorations” (Stuart 1995: 168). But can the ritual practice of time be considered to be simply memorial celebrations? I argue that the narrative of incorporating the ritual practice of time within the historiography of the dynasty suggest a political motivation. By attaching and integrating the ritual practice of time with the history of the dynastic lineage there were given a certain aura and in addition a sacred sanction to the power of the reigning regime. The various regents demonstrated that they controlled the passage of time (as we shall see below), through the ceremonial practice, while being occupied with more mundane matters. Thus, there was a politics of the ritual practice of time.

  • [1] The inscription has been analysed by Marc Zender and Karen Bassie in The Tortuguero Box. The Wooden Offering Container of Aj K’ax B’ahlam of Tortuguero (N.D.). Publishedon the website of the Jay I. Kislak Foundation: The dates have been worked out by Michael E. Coe (1974) and Looper (1991).
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