Temporal Titles of the Lord

Religious authority and ideological prestige can be proclaimed in epithets and titles. This is witnessed in the elaborate divine/sacred epithets and titles of the classic Maya sovereign and other members of the aristocracy (Chak, K’awiil, K’ihnich, K’uhul etc. ). But did titles of the classic Maya dynasties have temporal connoations and/or connected with the execution of ritual practices of time?

In contrast with other Mesoamerican cultures it seems not a common classic Maya tradition taking personal names from the 260-day calendar. Only few examples, customary in the names of scribes, have been found in the corpus of the inscriptions (Houston, Stuart and Taube 2006: 88).

Nevertheless, a variety of time units of the initial series of the Long Count calendar could be a title.

The Winikhaab Title

The important winikhaab-period was according to quite a few inscriptions one of the prestigious titles of the classic Maya aristocracy, the ajaw and the powerful kalomte’. For instance in the inscription on Stela 1 from Dos Caobas the ajaw repeat the temporal indicator with four different titles: 5 winikhaab ajaw, 5 winikhaab b’ate’, 5 winikhaab pitz[il] and 5 winikhaab ch’ahom (Hull 2003: 392). But what did the winikhaab-title signify?

Tatiana Proskouriakoff first detected the numbered-winikhaab titles in the inscriptions.[1] [2] She suggested that this title referred to the age of the lord in question. Schele later argued that there are two exceptions to this rule. The scribe could have chosen to set the winikhaab-status of the lord to the time of the carving and not to the depicted or described event. Moreover, the number of winikhaab’s could allude to the length of the reign of the ruler in office and not to the life span of the lord as Proskouriakoff suggested. The last hypothesis has been preferred by Schele to explain the winikhaab-titles (Schele 1989).^ Schele might be right in her assumption. For instance, the text on Lintel 3, Piedras Negras records two winikhaab- anniversaries, and, of a lord after his accession on (Schele 1991: 128). Waxaklajun Ubaah K’awiil of Copan constructed Temple 22 (Structure 10L-22) to celebrate the 1st winikhaab of his time in power in 715 AD. The interior step of Structure 10L-22 contain the quite rare recorded first-person quotation, ti ho’ lamat tzutzaji ni winikhaab, “On 5 Lamat I completed my winikhaab”, which alludes to the “non-period ending date” of 5 Lamat 1 Chakat (Stuart 1992: 175; Martin and Grube 2000: 204-205). But it is not an invariable rule that all instances of the X-winikhaab title refer to the time span in office. For instance, Taube maintains that the winikhaab-title counts a record of “period-endings” that the ajaw celebrated in his/her lifetime (Taube 1988: 205).

The theories proposed by Schele and Taube respectively constitutes, however, problematic aspects. Some of these time titles comprise a rather extensive duration of time as is the case of 5 winikhaab x 7, 200 days = c. 100 years (i.e. c. 98, 6 years).[3] For example, Itzamnah B’alam [II] was accounted on Stela 12, Yaxchilan to be a 5 winikhaab ch’ahom at his death date of 6 Ix 12 Yaxk’in (June 17, 742 ad). He acceded as ajaw on 5 Imix 4 Mak (October 21, 681 ad) (Martin and Grube 2000: 123). Itzamnah B’alam [II] had ruled within a 4 winikhaab-period and could have as a sovereign ceremonially terminated the 13, 14 and 15 winikhaab of the time period of 9 pik. We do, however, not know his birth date so it is possible that Itzamnah B’alam [II] had lived for 5 winikhaabs and that he before his inauguration as ajaw participated in the 11 and 12 winikhaab- endings. The birth date of 5 winikhaab ch’ahom Kak’ Tiliw from Quirigua has not either been identified. He acceded on 12 Kaban 5 K’anasiiy (December 31, 725 ad) and died on the date 11 Ik’ 5 Yaxsihom (July 29, 785 ad) (Martin and Grube 2000: 218). His reign lasted more than 3 winikhaab. K’ak’ Tiliw was on Stela C, Quirigua (D11-D14) outlined to be 5 winikhaab ch’ahom at the ritual celebration of, the last before his death. The biography of both Itzamnah B’alam [II] and K’ak’ Tiliw therefore refute “the time in reign theory” by Schele and suggests instead “the life-span hypothesis” by Proskouriakoff as more valid. But, the Proskouriakoff hypothesis cannot be definitely confirmed since we do not know the birth dates of Itzamnah B’alam [II] and K’ak’ Tiliw.

A 5 winikhaab ajaw title (ho’ winikhaab ajaw) of K’ihnich Janaab’ Pakal [I] was posthumously registered by his successor K’uk’ B’alam [II] on The Tablet of the 96 Hieroglyphs, Palenque (C1-D1; L6). We have the advantage, which we did not have in the cases of Itzamnah B’alam [II] and K’ak’ Tiliw, of determining the entire life span of Janaab’ Pakal [I] because the dates of his birth, accession as ajaw and death can be firmly established. Janaab’ Pakal [I] was born on 8 Ajaw 13 K’anjala’w (March 24, 603 ad), he acceded to power on 5 Lamat 1 Mol (July 27, 615 ad), and died on 6 Etz’nab 11 Yaxsihom (August 29, 683 ad) (Martin and Grube 2000: 162). Since Janaab’ Pakal [I] lived c. 83 years he did not live within the time span of 5 winikhaab (c. 98, 6 years) but only of 4 winikhaab.

No lord of the classic Maya civilisation is recognised to have stayed in office or lived for 5 winikhaab (c. 98, 6 years). The winikhaab-title therefore must have had a different significance than denoting the life span or time in office. It can of course be said that Janaab’ Pakal [I]—as one of the few lords who carried a X-winikhaab title and where the dates of birth, acces?sion and deaths are ascertained—had lived within the 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 winikhaab in this manner making him a 5 winikhaab ajaw.106 The winikhaab-title may be a prestigious proclamation of the control the ajaw or the sacerdotal leader held over a symbolic long and prestigious time span. Because, it was the ajaw who ceremonially completed the old winikhaab period and thereby inaugurated the new winikhaab through his/her temporal practice. The newly recovered inscription on Hieroglyphic stairway of Structure 13R-10, La Corona, Guatemala may, alternatively, offer an explanation for the winikhaab title and other time titles: they simply refer to the time period ritually celebrated by the lord. Yuknoom Yich’aak K’ak’ of Calakmul had recently observed an important ending of 13 winkhaab calendar cycle on, and is called “13 Winikhaab lord”. According to Stuart this title can be compared with one on an Early Classic celt, where the lord celebrate the pik ending and is therefore given the title “9 pik lord” (Stuart 2012b).

  • [1] Cf. Prosoriakoff, Tatiana. ‘Historical Data in the Inscriptions of Yaxchilan, Part I’.Estudios de Cultura Maya III. 149-167. 1963; ‘Historical Data in the Inscriptions of Yaxchilan,Part II’. Estudios de Cultura Maya IV. 177-201. 1964.
  • [2] Cf. Riese (1984).
  • [3] The 4 winikhaab title or c. 78.90 years, which is not uncommon, also reflect a quitelong time span for a human being.
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