Está en la página 1de 85


de abreviaturas
en la escritura maya:
implicaciones para el desciframiento y la traducción

Taller de escritura jeroglífica maya (nivel avanzados)

III Encuentro Internacional de Gramatología
9 al 13 de octubre de 2017
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad Universitaria

Presentado por:
Dr. Marc Zender, Departamento de Antropología, Universidad de Tulane

Tablet of the 96 Glyphs, Tower Court of House E, Palenque, Chiapas (drawing by Simon Martin)
“A considerable number of the most vexing problems of Sumerian grammar . . . can

be solved either by reducing them to graphemic problems or by interpreting

correctly some peculiarity of the writing system. Sumerologists have too often taken
the written version of a text as transliterated by them at its face value, disregarding
scribal conventions, and adopting, in practice, if not in theory, the principle that
‘what is not in the written text is not in the utterance’.”
— Miguel Civil, “The Sumerian Writing System: Some Problems”, Orientalia 42(1973):21

“In syllabaries with canonically CV signs, final consonants of closed syllables such as
CVC and nonfinal consonants of clusters must either not be represented at all or
must be represented by the use of an excess vowel. Such unavoidable under- and
over-representations, built into the systematics of the script, are . . . logically

inescapable deviations from phonemic representation.”

— John S. Justeson, Mayan Scribal Practice in the Classic Period ..., Ph.D. thesis, 1978, p.181

Zender — Convenciones de abreviaturas en la escritura maya — 2

Workshop abstract

We’re all familiar with abbreviations in written English and other European
languages—taking for granted such common conventions as Dr. (for Doctor) and
UNAM (for Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México). These conventions are
inherited from the Romans, who used them in written Latin on monuments, coins,
and manuscripts more than two thousand years ago. Because the Germanic fuþark
(runes) were borrowed from the Roman alphabet in the 2nd century AD, similar
conventions can also be found on Viking rune stones and runic manuscripts.
Furthermore, it seems that the Romans themselves inherited some of these
conventions, for they have been documented in the c. 2000 BC Proto-Sinaïtic abjad:
the ultimate ancestor of most modern alphabets, including our own. What is less
well known is that very similar conventions can actually be found in many unrelated
logophonetic writing systems, including Egyptian hieroglyphics, Mycenaean Linear
B, and Aztec (Nahuatl) hieroglyphic writing.

Maya writing is no exception, and it clearly employed several distinct and complex
abbreviational conventions. But there are significant challenges to the investigation
of abbreviational conventions in a writing system that is still actively being
deciphered. How do we identify abbreviations in Maya writing? That is, how do we
know the difference between what is written and what is intended (to take up
Miguel Civil's point)? And how do we distinguish intentional abbreviations from
mere structural ‘lack of fit’ between a logosyllabic writing system and the language
it records (to consider John Justeson's observation)? And, finally, what are the
implications of these abbreviational strategies for the ongoing work of
decipherment? Each of the workshop leaders has grappled with these questions in
his own work, and we will attempt to answer them in a team-taught seminar-style
workshop, turning from mini-lectures to guided hands-on work with the texts, to
integrated discussions of our findings.

As detailed below, we now know that Maya writing often omits word-final
consonants and the first consonant of a cluster when they belong to a class of weak
consonants—i.e., ʔ, h, j, l, m, n, w, and y. Some of these omissions surely represent
conventional abbreviations, although others seem to be purely structural in nature.
One particularly common abbreviational convention is haplography, in which a sign
is recorded only once when it should be written twice, as in ka-wa for ka[ka]w, k’u
for k’u[k’], and AJAW-le for ajawle[l]. We can recognize haplography in Maya writing
because it alternates with double writing (e.g., ka-ka-wa, k’u-k’u, and AJAW-le-le)
and with a diacritical marker (auxiliary sign) that apparently signals the presence of
duplicate consonants (e.g., ²ka-wa, ²k’u, and AJAW-²le), sometimes appearing with
logograms that are C₁VC₁ in shape (e.g., ²K'AHK', ²K’UK’, and ²TZUTZ). Maya
writing also frequently abbreviates key suffixes in the presence of logograms, such
that BAJ alternates with ba-la-ja (bajlaj), OCH with o-chi (ochi), and IX with IX-ki
(ixik). These complex structural features and abbreviational conventions now cast
doubt on several widely-accepted decipherments, but they also suggest procedures
that should help minimize their confounding influences in the future.

Zender — Convenciones de abreviaturas en la escritura maya — 3

Abbreviation in comparative perspective: a brief historical summary

The comparative analysis of writing systems begins with Ignace J. Gelb’s A Study of
Writing: A discussion of the general principles governing the use and evolution of
writing (1952, revised 1963). Gelb named his new field “grammatology” (p.23)—a
term which, mercifully, has never been generally embraced. Gelb’s was the first
thorough survey of this field by an actual contributor to decipherment, deeply
familiar with several of the writing systems he examined, and while Study has been
justifiably criticized for its focus on the monogenesis of writing and on a
unidirectional principle of script evolution (both thoroughly discredited by later
scholarship) it nonetheless articulated several important terms and concepts that
remain useful today, such as logogram (99), auxiliary sign (248), phonetic sign (250),
and phonetic complement (104, 250).

Unfortunately, Gelb did not have much to say about abbreviation, either as a
conceptual category or as a comparative practice. For instance, his “Terminology of
Writing” (248-253) provides no definition for “abbreviation”, and although the book
touches on abbreviations in several places, most of his examples are straightforward
examples such as English “Mr.” (13) and “Prof.” (226), providing little in the way of
discussion. He did, however, make three observations of importance to a
comparative study of abbreviational conventions. First, abbreviations frequently
make use of an auxiliary mark or auxiliary sign, such as the dot in “cf.” and “Mr.” (13-
14, 248). Second, while abbreviations can lead to visually identical sequences—as
where “PG” can stand for German Parteigenosse or Panzergrenadier or even English
post-graduate (20)—potential ambiguities can almost always be resolved in context.
And third, Gelb did provide a few examples of the abbreviational conventions of
non-alphabetic writing systems. One such is Chinese Ying-kuo-jên ‘Englishman’
(literally English-country-man) abbreviated to just Ying, and Lo-ssu-fu ‘Roosevelt’ (a
phonetic rendering of the foreign name) abbreviated to just Lo (87). Another
interesting observation concerns the American English predilection for abbreviating
the ends of words (e.g., recon), the British English tendency to abbreviate the middle
of words (e.g., recce), and the German preference for combining the first syllables of
compound words (e.g., Flugzeugabwehrkanone abbreviated to Flak) (p.226).
Evidently, different writing systems (and different languages) could have recourse
to different kinds of shortening conventions. As we will see, each of Gelb’s
observations prefigures later studies in important respects.

Nonetheless, it is to later work by Baum (1962), Heller and Macris (1968), and
Cannon (1989) that we must turn for broader comparative studies on abbreviation
and other ‘shortening’ conventions, and for the first indications of an acceptable
terminology for these devices. One key contribution of these studies was to draw an
important distinction between “phonological shortening” and “orthographic (or
graphemic) shortening” (Baum 1962:48; Heller and Macris 1968:201-204). Previous
scholarship had lumped blends and contractions together with purely graphemic
abbreviations, but these scholars observed that so-called blends—also known as
portmanteau words, or telescopes—such as English smog (from smoke + fog) and

Zender — Convenciones de abreviaturas en la escritura maya — 4

German jein (from ja + nein) were in fact phonological reductions reflecting actual
speech. Similarly, contractions, such as English don’t (from do not) and German zum
(from zu dem) were also true reflections of speech. By contrast, the purely
orthographic shortenings of English Mr., German Hr., and English/German Dr. are
conventional abbreviations, and are always meant to be read in their expanded
forms as M[iste]r, H[er]r, and D[octo]r or D[okto]r, depending on the linguistic
context. In this workshop, we will follow Heller and Macris (1968:201-204) in
defining abbreviation as “orthographic/graphemic shortening”, excluding from
consideration all of the many kinds of phonological shortening, such as blends,
contractions, syncopation, and morphophonemic reductions.

In illustration of the preceding point, Heller and Macris (1968:207-208) provide the
following useful ‘classification of shortening devices’:


1. Type of shortening

A. Acronym (initial) Eli

B. Mesonym (medial) Lisa, Liza
C. Ouronym (tail) Beth
D. Acromesonym (initial + medial) T.V. / TV (from television)
E. Acrouronym (initial + tail = blend) brunch (from breakfast + lunch)
F. Mesouronym (medial + tail) Lizabeth, Lizbeth

2. Medium shortened

A. Phonology Eli, Lisa/Liza, Beth

B. Orthography Dr., Mr.

3. Hierarchy affected

A. Monolectic (one word) Eli, Dr., Mr.

B. Polylectic (two or more words) R.S.V.P. / RSVP, etc.

The Hellenic terminology is quite precious, and it may also be noted just how few of
these terms are truly applicable to written abbreviations. Of the three phonological
shortenings of Elisabeth (i.e., Eli, Lisa/Liza, and Beth), only the acronym still
routinely invokes the full name, and it is properly the only term from the first half of
the chart that is broadly applicable to abbreviations in comparative perspective.
Heller and Macris (1968:203) make the case that standard English abbreviations
like Dr. and Mr. might be considered acrouronyms, in that they abbreviate by
including letters from the head and tail of their target forms. Likewise, they point
out that T.V. began as a mere abbreviation of television before the abbreviation itself
entered the language as a word (as did both Eli and R.S.V.P.), suggesting that the
term acromesonym might also occasionally apply to abbreviations proper. Similarly,
the terms monolectic and polylectic both seem to apply to written abbreviations and,
as we will see, also have the benefit of being broadly applicable to the abbreviational
conventions of both alphabetic and non-alphabetic writing systems around the
world. (For definitions of some key terms see the glossary on page 13 below.)

Zender — Convenciones de abreviaturas en la escritura maya — 5

Another important consideration comes from comparative studies of the
abbreviational conventions of syllabic, logosyllabic, and other non-alphabetic scripts
(Justeson 1978:181; Zender 1999:130-135). In many of these scripts, there is a
structural disconnect between the shape of the available phonetic signs and
logograms and the shape of the target lexemes in the represented language, such
that some consonant clusters, diphthongs, vowels (especially in the case of abjads
and logoconsonantal scripts), and even certain kinds of consonant are necessarily
underrepresented. Where such ‘underspellings’ are consistent and scribes did not
develop conventions to ameliorate them, we are clearly dealing with inescapable
structural underrepresentations of language, rather than with abbreviation properly
speaking. For this reason, we exclude the underrepresentation of consonant clusters
and the related phenomenon of infixed-h from consideration as abbreviations in the
Maya script. Only such ‘underspellings’ as could have been written out fully—and
occasionally, in other contexts, were indeed written out fully—do we consider as
part of the abbreviational conventions employed by Classic Maya scribes.

Roman epigraphic and numismatic abbreviations are in many ways the fons et origo
of the abbreviational conventions of modern European languages, and they
therefore repay close attention. “Latin scribal practice employed abbreviations
extensively” (Bischoff 1990:150) and “Latin inscriptions ... are liberally spattered
with abbreviations” (Cooley 2012:357). As we've already seen, these abbreviations
are most common in proper nouns such as personal names and titles. As Cannon
(1989:102) argues, these high-frequency items are frequently abbreviated due to
the “... need for economy and efficiency (scarce paper and time)”. Significant context,
along with the high-frequency and concomitant predictability of the target form,
seem to be sufficient in most cases to work out any potential ambiguities, as in
Gelb's ambiguous example of German PG discussed earlier.1 These observations
amply account for the frequent abbreviations encountered in Roman praenomina
(personal names), for instance, as elaborated by Olli Salomies:

In the Roman onomastic system of the classical period, which was based
on the family name common to all members of the family, each male had
at least a first name, the praenomen (usually abbreviated), and a family
name, the nomen (gentilicium), e.g. “M. (i.e. Marcus) Tullius”. In addition,
some Romans had a third name, the cognomen, e.g. “M. Tullius Cicero”.
Women did not usually have praenomina. (Salomies 2001:83)

As John Bodel (2001:31-32) has noted, it's in fact not uncommon for Roman
epitaphs and other commemorative inscriptions to have no abbreviations apart
from praenomina. Only a few such names were in very common use (e.g., C. or G. for
Gaius, L. for Lucius, M. for Marcus, T. for Tiberius), and most single-letter
abbreviations were consequently restricted to these. Ordinal praenomina such as
Tert. (for Tertius, third), Sex. for (Sextus, sixth) and Sept. (Septimus, seventh)

1 As noted by Cooley (2012:357), there are “just over 150 possible ways of expanding the single letter a” in Latin

inscriptions, and “[e]ven so, this only represents ‘common’ abbreviations”.

Zender — Convenciones de abreviaturas en la escritura maya — 6

illustrate the intolerable ambiguities that would have resulted if these acronyms had
also been restricted to single letters (litterae singulares). Although names were
among the most commonly-abbreviated features in the Roman traditions, frequent
titles and epithets were also abbreviated. Richard Saller notes that:

In many inscribed texts the only other descriptive element is an epithet
to characterize the deceased—for instance benemerens (“well-
deserving”) ... and pientissimus/a (“most devoted”). The most common
epithets were so routine that they were abbreviated; benemerens was
regularly shortened to b.m. (Saller 2001:102)

(It might be noted that the abbreviation of benemerens to b.m. is an acromesonym
per Heller and Macris' classification.) Roman epitaphs also contained a frequently-
recurring set of polylectic acronyms such as H.F.C. for Heres Faciendum Curavit, or
“his heirs were responsible for the making (of this)” (Shore 1997:54). Other
common Latin examples include the well-known S.P.Q.R. for Senātus Populusque
Rōmānus “the Roman Senate & People” (where the medial P.Q. are an acromesonym
of populusque), and, of course, the straightforward polylectic acronym or initialism of
I.N.R.I., for Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum. The Roman practice is of course broadly
familiar from the much later polylectic acronym R.I.P., appearing on Christian
tombstones from the eighth century onward to signal Requiescat in pace or “Rest in
Peace”. Finally, Latin texts often used acute accents, tiny circles or dots to indicate
such abbreviations (Cooley 2012:359), and it is from this convention that we have
inherited the dot in “Mr.”, “Dr.” and similar English abbreviations.

One very common abbreviational convention in the world's writing systems is
haplography, defined by Harry Torcyzner (1945:399) as “writing only once a letter
which should have been written twice”. The convention is frequently seen as a
space-saving mechanism, and somewhat less frequently as scribal error, but it might
perhaps also be understood as an analytical issue whereby a scribe did not see the
necessity of recording the same sign (or signs) more than once in close proximity.
Be that as it may, the principle has a long history in both alphabetic and non-
alphabetic writing systems. As Sir Alan Gardiner (1957:2) has noted for Egyptian
hieroglyphics, “[w]hen, for inflexional or other reasons, two like consonants either
fell together or else came into close contact so as not to be separated by a full vowel,
there was a strong tendency to write them but once”. It was also Gardiner (1916)
who first noted the same principle at work in Proto-Sinaïtic writing, where M’HB’LT
is written for what must be transcribed as m’hb [b]’lt “beloved of the lady”. Meroïtic
likewise had recourse to alphabetic haplography (Rilly and de Voogt 2012:42-44),
as did the runic scripts (see Page 1987:22 and Jansson 1962:80-81). Kent
(1920:294-296) points out several examples of contiguous and non-contiguous
haplography in the Achaemenid Persian syllabary. And, finally, Alfonso Lacadena
(2008:7, fig.5g) has recently noted several haplographic spellings in Aztec
hieroglyphic writing, the best-known perhaps being ko-pi for the Nahuatl name
Co[co]pi[n], which also illustrates the suspension of final -n. As we will see, both
kinds of abbreviation are also quite frequent in Maya writing.

Zender — Convenciones de abreviaturas en la escritura maya — 7

Classic Mayan abbreviational conventions: a synopsis

Although sequences of Mayan syllabic signs such as a-ja-wa, k'a-wi-la, and mu-wa-
ni are occasionally straightforward, phonetically-transparent equivalents for
logograms such as AJAW, K'AWIIL, and MUWAAN, it has now been recognized for
some years that other syllabic spellings elide signs and phonemes according to
certain conventions still actively under investigation. Several of these conventions
are familiar ones, attested in various other scripts around the world.

One such convention is haplography. As we've seen, this is a conventional

abbreviational strategy whereby a given sign, or sequence of signs, is written only
once when it should be written twice. Frequent Mayan examples include ka-wa for
ka[ka]w “chocolate”, AJAW-le for ajawle[l] “lordship”, and u-ne for une[n] “baby”
(Zender 1999:98-130, 2010:4-5).2 Mayan haplography also effects non-sequential
syllables, as in phrases such as u-TOOK’-PAKAL for utook’ [u]pakal “his flint and
shield” (Zender 1999). Finally, repeating logograms could also be omitted, as in
diphrastic expressions such as 3-9-CHAHK-ki for uhx chahk baluun [chahk] “three
rain gods (and) nine rain gods”, and TE’-TOOK’-BAAH-ja for te’ baahaj took’
[baahaj], still of uncertain meaning (Zender 2014). Undoubtedly, more of these non-
contiguous logographic haplographies still remain to be discovered.

Another Maya abbreviational convention is the suspension of word-final and

preconsonantal consonants (i.e., non-final members of consonant clusters), as can
be seen in examples like a-hi for ahii[n], ba-la-ma for ba[h]lam, chu-ka for
chu[h]ka[j], k’a-k’a for k’a[h]k’, na-wa-ja for na[’]waj, and sa-ja for saja[l], among
others. Such ‘underspellings’ are very common in Maya writing, albeit limited to a
class of weak consonants including the glottal stop, voiceless spirants, liquids,
nasals, and glides — i.e., ’, h, j, l, m, n, w, y (see Lacadena and Zender 2001:2-3;
Zender 1999:130-142).3 Importantly, stops and affricates in these same positions—
e.g., p, b, t(’), k(’), ch(’), and tz(’)—are almost always written despite the introduction
of an extraneous vowel, as can be seen in examples like jo-po-la-ja for joplaj, yi-pi-
ya-ja for yipyaj, u-tz’i-bi-na-ja-la for utz’i[h]bnajal, u-pa-ta-bu-ji for upatbuuj, pa-
ka-xi for pakxi, yo-ko-bi-li for yokbil, and u-pa-ka-bu-TUUN-ni-li for upakbutuunil,
among others. Here it is important to note that the suspension of the class of weak
consonants before other consonants is exceptionless (i.e., we never find spellings
like *ba-ha-la-ma), so we must consider this a structural feature of Maya writing
rather than an abbreviational convention proper. However, because we find chu-ka-

2 Although Mora-Marín (2010:138-139, Figure 10) cites Zender (1999) for these same abbreviations, he does

not recognize their haplographic nature, which distinguishes them from consonantal deletion per se.

3 It should be mentioned that Justeson (1978:230-231) and Bricker (1987:429) long ago discerned at least two

clear instances of the suspension of final consonants in Classic-period texts, pointing to spellings of the fifth
month Kaseew as both ka-se-wa and ka-se, and of the derived abstract noun ajawlel ‘lordship, kingdom’ as both
AJAW-le-le and AJAW-le. However, the data available in the 1970s and 1980s were not yet sufficient to allow
them to recognize the entire class of weak consonants subject to these suspensions. Similarly, although Mora-
Marín (2010:133-134) recognizes the underrepresentation of root- and word-final consonants such as /l/, /w/,
and /m/, he does not recognize the other weak consonants discussed above, nor the distinct behavior of stops
and affricates falling in the same positions.

Zender — Convenciones de abreviaturas en la escritura maya — 8

ja alongside chu-ka as alternative representations of chuhkaj “he was captured”, we
are justified in considering the latter an abbreviational convention.

Still more radical abbreviations of two or more syllabic signs are also attested, albeit
limited to common names and very frequent titles, as with the Roman treatment of
common praenomina and epithets. The best-known example of this kind of
abbreviation in Mayan writing is perhaps the sajal title carried by Classic courtiers
and regional governors. Although usually written as sa-ja-la, it sometimes appears
partially abbreviated to sa-ja and, in at least one instance, all the way to sa alone
(Lacadena and Davletshin 2013:13; Zender 2014).

Similarly, a very frequent hereditary title or epithet of the kings of Dzibanche and
Calakmul was yuhknoom “one who shakes”. Although occasionally written out fully
as yu-ku-no-ma, or with consonant-final abbreviation as yu-ku-no, it is most
frequently reduced to the syllables yu-ku (Zender 2010:10-11), and appears on at
least one occasion as yu alone.

While yu represents a fairly drastic abbreviation, and is therefore correspondingly

rare, the much more common yu-ku spelling is also ambiguous, since it typically
infixes ku into yu, which is also an attested spelling for kuy “owl”. This spelling in
fact appears twice on a single monument, discovered earlier this year at La Corona,
Guatemala, each time with a different required interpretation: (1) as ku-yu > kuy
“owl”; and (2) as yu-ku > yu[h]k[noom] “shaker” (Stuart et al. 2015). Of course, we
have known for some time that infixation is a graphic convention that does not
unequivocally establish reading order—hence we find la infixed into ja both in sa-
ja-la for sajal and in CHUM-mu-la-ja for chumlaj—but it is nonetheless striking to
observe two such divergent readings of the same glyphic sequence from the hand of
one and the same scribe. It would appear, however, that the predictable titular
contexts of yuhknoom, always appearing immediately before the regnal name of a
Dzibanche or Calakmul ruler, was sufficient to resolve this apparent ambiguity. The
common English abbreviations Dr., Mr. and Prof. provide instructive parallels.

Zender — Convenciones de abreviaturas en la escritura maya — 9

A final kind of abbreviation frequently met with in Maya writing is the propensity
for logographic spellings to abbreviate grammatical endings while syllabic spellings
encode them more fully (Zender 2010:4-5). Consider the various spellings of the
name of Yax Pasaj Chan Yopaat (Figure 1, next page). Note that, when the verb root
is indicated with the logogram PAS, the -aj grammatical ending can either be
omitted (Figure 1a) or supplied in the form of syllabic -ja (Figure 1b). Conversely,
when this portion of the name is written entirely syllabically, the grammatical
ending is usually fully indicated in the spelling pa-sa-ja (Figure 1c). Occasionally,
however, there are also abbreviations along the lines of those discussed earlier (pa-
sa), where the final -j is not indicated (Figure 1d). Note that at least two different
kinds of abbreviation are at work here in representations of the same royal name.

Figure 1. Full and abbreviated spellings of the name of Yax Pasaj Chan Yopaat, 16th
king of Copan: (a) YAX-PAS CHAN-na YOPAAT-ti, Copan Altar Q, F3-F4; (b) YAX-
PAS sa-ja-CHAN-na-YOPAAT-ti, Copan Temple 21a Bench; (c) YAX-pa sa-ja CHAN-
na YOP-AT-ta, Copan, SW Jamb of Temple 18; (d) YAX-pa sa CHAN-na YOP-AT-ta,
Copan, NE Jamb of Temple 18. (Drawings by Marc Zender.)

An additional example comes from the name of Dos Pilas Ruler 1 (Figure 2, next
page), Bajlaj Chan K’awiil “K’awiil hammers in the sky” (Zender 2010). Note that
while syllabic representations of this name fully provide the -laj affective ending in

Zender — Convenciones de abreviaturas en la escritura maya — 10

the form ba-la-ja (Figure 2a), they neglect to indicate the final -j of the verb root due
to the previously mentioned structural composition of Maya writing. Similarly,
while the logographic spellings fully represent the baj root, courtesy of the BAJ
logogram (Figure 2b), they usually abbreviate the required -laj ending. As with the
name of Yax Pasaj Chan Yopaat, occasional ba-la spellings also abbreviate the final
consonant of the verb (Figure 2c), whereas some mixed logographic-phonetic
spellings, such as BAJ-la (Figure 2d), provide at least a portion of the affective suffix,
but continue to abbreviate the final weak consonant -j. As before, note that several
kinds of ‘underspelling’ can be observed in this one royal name: (1) structural
underrepresentation of preconsonantal j; (2) abbreviation of weak final consonants
such as -j, and; (3) abbreviation of predictable suffixes at the logograph/syllable
boundary. As noted in the brief survey above, predictable context plays a large role
in determining what kinds of abbreviations are possible in other script traditions.
Further, it seems likely that the semantic dimension of logograms provides an
equally important consideration, since this further constrains the context and, not
infrequently, practically determines the identity of the abbreviated suffix.

Figure 2. Full and abbreviated spellings of the name of Bajlaj Chan K’awiil, Dos Pilas
Ruler 1: (a) ba-la-ja CHAN-na K'AWIIL-la, Dos Pilas HS 4, I1- I2; (b) BAJ-CHAN-na
K'AWIIL-la, Dos Pilas Panel 7, A5-B5; (c) ba-la-[CHAN-na]K'AWIIL, Dos Pilas HS 2,
Center, Step 5, E2; (d) BAJ-la-CHAN-na K'AWIIL-la, Dos Pilas HS 2, East, Step 1, E2-
F2. (Drawings by Marc Zender.)

Zender — Convenciones de abreviaturas en la escritura maya — 11

As I've noted elsewhere (Zender 2010:5), additional relevant examples include the
distinction between logographic JAN (as indicated by occasional -na complements
to this sign, as on Yaxchilan Lintel 10, B1) and ja-na-bi in the name of K'inich Janaab
Pakal of Palenque. Intransitive verbs written logographically (HUL, OCH, CHAM)
compared with those written syllabically (hu-li, o-chi) and logosyllabically (CHAM-
mi) provide additional examples, particularly once it is recognized that all of these
spellings must be targeting the linguistic forms hul-i, och-i, and cham-i, respectively.
Finally, the common Female Portrait glyph (Figure 3) must function as logographic
IX when it records the ix- feminine prefix, and this means that it must systematically
abbreviate the -ik ending when it instead records the noun ix[ik] “woman”.

Figure 3. The T1000b/T1002 Female Portrait glyph, in carved and painted forms.
The canonical value of this sign must be IX, for it serves as the feminine prefix ix-.
However, it also appears as the noun ixik. While occasionally complemented by -ki
in such contexts, thereby providing ix[i]k, it more often appears alone, thereby
abbreviating the needed ending in the form ix[ik]. (Drawings by Marc Zender.)

Undoubtedly there remain still other patterns and conventions of abbreviation to be

discovered beneath the superficially bewildering complexity of Mayan hieroglyphic
writing. In this workshop, we shall examine two main sets of inscriptions, from
Yaxchilan and Copan, as well as a few additional inscriptions from other sites
exemplifying previously-identified conventions. Your challenge will be to identify
and to categorize the various structural ‘underspellings’ and conventional
abbreviations, to attempt to identify new patterns if possible, and to seek beyond
the conventions to the rationale(s) behind their use. Abbreviation was but one of
several tactics in the scribal toolkit, and was apparently motivated by both aesthetic
and practical concerns, and may well have been governed by yet other
considerations still remaining to be discerned.

Zender — Convenciones de abreviaturas en la escritura maya — 12


The following definitions and examples are adapted from Zender (2013:196-210).

Abbreviation (from Latin brevis ‘short’): a conventional orthographically (graphemically)
shortened form of a word or phrase, not intended to be read as such, but to be expanded to
the full target word or phrase. Usually, but not always, it consists of a sign or group of signs
taken from the full target word or phrase. Abbreviations can seem like errors, but they’re
usually quite systematic and codified. Traditional examples include English Rd. (R[oa]d) and
Dr. (D[octo]r).

acronym (a.k.a., initialism, alphabetism): an abbreviation formed from the initial
components of a word or a phrase. Usually these components are individual signs (e.g.,
NATO, SPQR) or parts of words/names (e.g., sonar). Whereas most sources treat these terms
as synonyms, a few distinguish between: (1) acronyms proper, defined as abbreviations
intended to be pronounced as actual words (e.g., NATO, scuba, radar), and; (2) initialisms or
alphabetisms, defined as abbreviations still regarded as groups of distinct letters (e.g., FBI,

auxiliary sign: a broad category of non-phonetic signs that assist in the correct
interpretation of associated phonetic signs, including punctuation marks, diacritics (also
diacritical markers) and semantic signs (q.v.). Also, in many script traditions, signs used
to signal the presence of conventional abbreviations (e.g., the dot in English Rd. and Dr.)

contraction: a type of phonological reduction/shortening in which medial letters or
syllables are omitted, bringing together the first and last letters or elements. Examples
include English I’m (from I am), French c’est la vie (from ce est la vie), Spanish al (from a el),
and German zum (from zu dem). Note that contractions are not considered abbreviations for
our purposes in this workshop.

diacritic (aka diacritical marker): a (usually) relatively small non-phonetic sign that
signals a change in the value of signs with which it is associated. In French, when the letter c
appears with a cedilla (ç) it is no longer pronounced [k] but rather [s], as in the word façade.
In English, when a vowel takes a diaeresis (¨), it signals that it should be pronounced as its
own syllable, rather than forming a diphthong with a preceding vowel (e.g., coöperation,
naïve) or remaining unpronounced as a ‘silent-e’ (e.g., Brontë, Zoë).

haplography: from Gk. άπλό-ας (haplo-) “single” + -γραφία (-graphy) “writing,” this refers
to a common abbreviational convention whereby repeating signs are omitted in writing, as
in Mayan ka-wa for ka[ka]w “chocolate” and u-ne for une[n] “baby”.

punctuation mark: a (usually) relatively small non-phonetic sign that assists the reader by:
(1) indicating the correct division of a text into significant units (e.g., morphemes, words,
clauses, and sentences), and/or; (2) indicating the rhetorical status of a sentence, such as
whether it is a statement, a command, or a question.

semantic sign (aka determinative, taxon, radical): a sign without phonetic value which
signals the semantic class to which an associated logogram or group of logophonetic signs
belongs. What Linear B scholars call an ideogram is, by this definition, a semantic sign.

Zender — Convenciones de abreviaturas en la escritura maya — 13

References Cited

Baum, S. V.
1962 The Acronym: Pure and Impure. American Speech 37:48-50.

Bischoff, Bernhard
1990 Latin Palaeography: Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Translated by Dáibhí Ó Cróinín
and David Ganz. Cambridge University Press.

Bodel, John
2001 Epigraphy and the ancient historian. In John Bodel, ed., Epigraphic Evidence:
Ancient history from inscriptions, pp. 1-56. London and New York: Routledge.

Bricker, Victoria R.
1987 Abbreviation Conventions in the Maya Inscriptions and the Books of Chilam
Balam. Anthropological Linguistics 29(4):425-438.

Cannon, Garland
1989 Abbreviations and Acronyms in English Word-Formation. American Speech

Civil, Miguel
1973 The Sumerian Writing System: Some Problems. Orientalia 42:21-34.

Cooley, Alison E.
2012 The Cambridge Manual of Latin Epigraphy. Cambridge University Press.

Gardiner, Sir Alan H.
1916 Egyptian Origin of the Semitic Alphabet. Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 3:1-16.
1957 Egyptian Grammar: Being an Introduction to the Study of Hieroglyphs. 3rd edition.
Oxford: Ashmolean Museum.

Gelb, Ignace J.
1963 A Study of Writing: A discussion of the general principles governing the use and
evolution of writing. 2nd rev. ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Heller, L. G., and James Macris
1968 A Typology of Shortening Devices. American Speech 43(3):201-208.

Jansson, Sven B. F.
1987 Runes in Sweden. Translated by Peter Foote. Sweden: Gidlunds.

Justeson, John S.
1978 Mayan Scribal Practice in the Classic Period: A Test-Case of an Explanatory
Approach to the Study of Writing Systems. PhD thesis, Stanford University.

Kent, Roland G.
1920 The Textual Criticism of Inscriptions. Journal of the Oriental Society 40:289-99.

Lacadena, Alfonso
2008 Regional Scribal Traditions: Methodological Implications for the Decipherment of
Nahuatl Writing. The PARI Journal 8(4):1-22.

Lacadena, Alfonso, and Albert Davletshin
2013 Grammar of Hieroglyphic Maya. 18th European Maya Conference, Brussels,
October 29-31, 2013.

Zender — Convenciones de abreviaturas en la escritura maya — 14

Lacadena, Alfonso, and Marc Zender
2001 Classic Maya Grammar. 6th European Maya Conference, Universität Hamburg,
Germany, December 5-9, 2001.

Mora-Marín, David
2010 Consonant deletion, obligatory synharmony, typical suffixing: An explanation of
spelling practices in Mayan writing. Written Language & Literacy 13(1):118-179.

Page, Raymond I.
1987 Runes. Reading the Pas series. London: British Museum Press.

Rilly, Claude, and Alex de Voogt
2012 The Meroitic Language and Writing System. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Saller, Richard
2001 The family and society. In John Bodel, ed., Epigraphic Evidence: Ancient history
from inscriptions, pp. 95-117. London and New York: Routledge.

Salomies, Olli
2001 Names and identities: Onomastics and prosopography. In John Bodel, ed.,
Epigraphic Evidence: Ancient history from inscriptions, pp. 73-94. London and New
York: Routledge.

Shore, Paul
1997 Rest Lightly: An Anthology of Latin and Greek Tomb Inscriptions. Wauconda, Illinois:
Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, Inc.

Stuart, David, Marcello Canuto, Tomás Barrientos, and Maxime Lamoureux St-Hillaire
2015 Preliminary Notes on Two Recently Discovered Inscriptions from La Corona,
Guatemala. Maya Decipherment, July 17, 2015. https://decipherment.wordpress.

Torcyzner, Harry
1945 Abbreviation or Haplography? Journal of Biblical Literature 64(3):399.

Zender, Marc
1999 Diacritical Marks and Underspelling in the Classic Maya Script: Implications for
Decipherment. MA thesis, University of Calgary. Ann Arbor: University Microfilms
2010 Baj ‘Hammer’ and Related Affective Verbs in Classic Mayan. The PARI Journal
2013 Writing and Civilization: From Ancient Worlds to Modernity. Chantilly, VA: The Great
2014 Notes towards a study of abbreviational conventions in Classic Maya Writing.
Paper presented in the symposium ‘Words in Context: Perspectives and Strategies
for the Lexicography of Classic Mayan,’ Nordrhein-Westfälische Akademie der
Wissenschaften und der Künste, October 14-15, 2014, Düsseldorf, Germany.
2015 Abbreviational Conventions of Classic Maya Writing. Advanced Workshop, 20th
European Maya Conference, Universität Bonn, Germany, December 9-11, 2015.

Zender — Convenciones de abreviaturas en la escritura maya — 15

CHANCALA: Panel 1. (Stuart and Stuart 2008: 235)
COLLECTIONS: New York City. Lintel (La Pasadita region). (Drawing by Ian Graham)
COLLECTIONS: Unknown Location. Lintel (Lashtunich region). (Drawing by Peter Mathews)
COLLECTIONS: Location Unknown. Stela. (Miller and Martin 2004: 167)
EL CAYO: Altar 4, Top. (Drawing by Peter Mathews)
EL CAYO: Altar 4. Periphery. (Drawing by Mario Aliphat)
EL CAYO: Altar 4. Supports. (Drawings by Peter Mathews)
EL KINEL: Stela 1 (detail of carving) . (Drawing by Paulino Morales)
PIEDRAS NEGRAS: Panel 2. (Drawing by David Stuart)
PIEDRAS NEGRAS: Panel 3. (Drawing by John Montgomery)
PIEDRAS NEGRAS: Panel 3. Secondary Texts. (Drawings by Linda Schele)
RETALTECO: Lintel 1. (Drawing by Stephen Houston)
'SITE R': Lintel 1. (Drawing by Peter Mathews)
'SITE R': Lintel 4. (Drawing by Nikolai Grube)
YAXCHILAN: Lintel 8. (CMHI 3-27; drawing by Ian Graham)

ti?-[7 imix]-K'IN? u-ba-ki

14 ka-se-wa

ti tal vez,?
k'in tal vez?
Tomb A-V chu[h]kaj k'uh[ul] pa'chan ajaw
Kdder et al fig.
tb Ehb Xook

u-???-hi??? k'an tok way[i/aa]b


no nu... sajal???

sa' 'hablar en voz baja' (vs.

ajaw (Albert))
ajaw (ver
Cayo Altar

w/y] ajaw
YAXCHILAN: Lintel 10. (CMHI 3: 31; drawing by Ian Graham)
YAXCHILAN: Lintel 11. (Drawing by David Stuart)
YAXCHILAN: Lintel 13. (CMHI 3: 35; drawing by Eric von Euw)
YAXCHILAN: Lintel 14. (CMHI 3: 37; drawing by Ian Graham)
YAXCHILAN: Lintel 16. (CMHI 3:41; drawing by Ian Graham)
YAXCHILAN: Lintel 17. (CMHI 3: 43; drawing by Ian Graham)
YAXCHILAN: Lintel 21. (CMHI 3: 49; drawing by Eric von Euw)
YAXCHILAN: Lintel 23, Underside. (CMHI 3: 136; drawing by Ian Graham)
YAXCHILAN: Lintel 23, Front. (CMHI 3: 135; drawing by Ian Graham)
YAXCHILAN: Lintel 24, Underside. (CMHI 3-53; drawing by Ian Graham)
YAXCHILAN: Lintel 25, Underside. (CMHI 3-55; drawing by Ian Graham)
YAXCHILAN: Lintel 25, Text on Underside, and Front. (CMHI 3: 56; drawing by Ian Graham)
YAXCHILAN: Lintel 26, Underside. (CMHI 3-57; drawing by Ian Graham)
YAXCHILAN: Lintel 26, Underside and Front. (CMHI 3: 57, 58; drawings by Ian Graham)
YAXCHILAN: Lintels 27, 59, and 28. (CMHI 3: 59, 131, 61; drawings by Ian Graham)
Lintel 27
Lintel 59
Lintel 28
YAXCHILAN: Lintel 35. (CMHI 3-79; drawing by Ian Graham)
YAXCHILAN: Lintel 37. (CMHI 3-83; drawing by Ian Graham)
YAXCHILAN: Lintel 38. (CMHI 3: 85; drawing by Ian Graham)
YAXCHILAN: Lintel 39. (CMHI 3: 87; drawing by Ian Graham)
YAXCHILAN: Lintel 40. (CMHI 3: 89; drawing by Ian Graham)
YAXCHILAN: Lintel 45. (CMHI 3: 99; drawing by Ian Graham)
YAXCHILAN: Lintel 46. (CMHI 3: 101; drawing by Ian Graham)
YAXCHILAN: Lintel 47. (CMHI 3: 103; drawing by Ian Graham)
YAXCHILAN: Lintel 48. (CMHI 3: 105; drawing by Ian Graham)
YAXCHILAN: Lintel 49. (CMHI 3-107; drawing by Ian Graham)
YAXCHILAN: Lintel 58. (CMHI 3: 125; drawing by Ian Graham)
YAXCHILAN: Stela 7, Front. (Drawing by Ian Graham)
YAXCHILAN: Stela 11, Front. Base Panel text. (Drawing by Linda Schele)
YAXCHILAN: Stela 12, Front. Text. (Drawing by Peter Mathews)
YAXCHILAN: Stela 18. (Drawing by Peter Mathews)
YAXCHILAN: Hieroglyphic Stairway 3, Step I, Tread. (CMHI 3-166; drawing by Ian Graham)

Etz'nab ?-we-la
Etz'nab cho??? we (Altar St Louis (sitio web))
(Note: the following pages come from David Stuart's workbook for the 2008 Texas Maya meetings,
and have been lightly edited for clarity and consistency with other materials in this workshop.)

Ruler 1

K'inich Yax K'uk' Mo'

(a.k.a. Yax Macaw, Quetzal Macaw. Yax Kuk Mo)

Ruled ca. 426 - 435 A.D.(?)

The founder of the Copan dynasty was in many ways the culture hero of Classic Copan. He is
continuously cited and celebrated in the written histories of the kingdom up until the very end of the
Classic period, and one can make a reasonable case that the acropolis, built over a 400 year span,
basically represents an expanded ancestral shrine with his temple at its center and apex.

His probable tomb, discovered by the University of Pennsylvania project within the Hunal structure, was
the structural and conceptual heart of the acropolis, modified and expanded over the centuries into a
series of ever-larger temple-shrines. These included the later architectural phases known as Margarita,
Purpura, as well as the final phase of Temple 16, with its remarkable Teotihuacan-style symbolism. Over
the course of nearly four centuries, the founder's resting place served as the ritual center of the dynastic
cult, complemented by the slightly different foci of the other large temples of the main group.

The archaeological and historical records suggest that K'YKM had important ties outside of Copan.
According to Altar Q — his principal memorial from the Late Classic — he "arrives" in Copan in the year
426, some months after "taking the K'awiil" (an emblem of rulership) in a distant locale called Wilte'naah,
"the Origin House." His ties to central Mexico and its symbolism are strongly emphasized in his later
portraits, but there is little doubt he was ethnically Maya. Strontium analysis of his bones in the Hunal
tomb point to his early life being spent in the central lowlands. Recent re-analysis of Copan's Stela 63
strongly indicates that K'YKM came from a place called Uxwitza' (Three Hill Water), an ancient name of
Caracol. At present I'm inclined to believe he was a Caracol lord who, for some reason, came to Copan
to establish a new political order in the valley. His arrival and foundation at Copan was in all likelihood
timed to take place shortly before the turn of the Bak'tun ending at, by which time his son,
Ruler 2, was established as the reigning king or co-ruler.

Dates: 10 Ajaw 13 K'ayab K'atun ending 5 Kaban 15 Yaxk'in "takes k'awiil," accession 8 Ajaw 18 Yaxk'in comes from Wite'naah 5 Ben 11 Muwaan arrives at Uxwitik (Copan) 8 Ajaw 13 Keh Bak'tun ending

Ruler 2


(a.k.a.: Mat Head, Popol Hol, K'inich Popol Ho\)

Ruled ca. 435 A.D.

A key early figure, and son of K'inich Yax K'uk' Mo'. His only known portrait comes from the so-called
Motmot marker. Historical texts there and on Stelae 28, 50 and 63 indicate he was in office, or perhaps
co-ruler with his father, at the key Baktun ending on 8 Ajaw 13 Keh. He is also featured on the
so-called Xukpi stone, a re-used hieroglyphic step of slightly later date, discovered in the Margarita
structure, above the Hunal tomb.

His name glyph is not easy to decipher. An earlier proposal of "Popol Hol" or "K'inich Popol Hol" is
incorrect (a Mayan translation of an English nickname, "Mat Head"). The K'INICH head is visible in the
well-preserved examples, topped by an unusual S-shaped scroll exhibiting inner dots and woven strands.
This is probably part of a different head sign, conflated in most examples with K'INICH. The full original
form of this other head may be visible in the ruler's headdress depicted on the Motmot marker, where it
resembles the storm deity Chahk. 8 Ajaw 13 Keh PE 13 Ajaw 3 Keh(?) PE?
Ruler 3

Yajaw? Chan


Ruler 3 remains poorly known. Aside from his portrait and name glyph on Altar Q, we only know of him
from a mention on the hieroglyphic step beneath Structure 10L-11, where it appears in a string of early
king names (Rulers 1-5). The name glyph consists of at least two parts, one of which is surely CHAN,
"sky." No dates are associated with him.

Dates: None known.

Ruler 4

Tuun K'ab Hix

(a.k.a. Cu-Ix, K'altuunhiix)


Tuun K'ab Hix built the Early Classic "Papagayo" structure beneath what would become Structure 26.
This ambitious temple-shrine commemorated the great baktun ending of 8 Ahau 13 Ceh and its
celebration by K'inich Yax K'uk' Mo' and Ruler 2, two generations or so earlier. Papagayo's construction
sealed the earlier Motmot building and its marker stone, greatly expanding the architectural program of
this place within the growing acropolis. No firm dates can be associated with Tuun K'ab Hix, but he
presumably reigned ca. - His name survives on a few fragments, as well as on the
early step within Structure 10L-11.

Stela 2, a much later monument, shows Ruler 12 wearing an elaborate headdress in the form of Tuun
K'ab Hix's emblematic name. Evidently Ruler 12 saw fit to assume his ancestor's identity on the stela,
overlooking the Ballcourt and facing in the general direction of the Papagayo shrine. This may be indirect
evidence of Ruler 4's importance in an early refurbishment of the main Ballcourt. In any case, he seems
to have been an important early king who did much to build upon the works of the founder.

The same Tuun K'ab Hix name also was given to an important early ruler of the Kaan kingdom (then in
the Dzibanche region, later Calakmul). That king wielded considerable political power in the central
lowlands, and while it might be tempting to connect the two names historically, Copan's Ruler 4 looks to
have reigned a few decades earlier.

Dates: None known

Ruler 5

Yuh (Chan) Ahk?


Another obscure king, Ruler 5 is known from only a mention on the Structure 10L-11 early step, from his
Altar Q portrait, and from a fragmentary accession record on a reconstructed portion of the Hieroglyphic
Stairway. Unfortunately the date with his inauguration is lost.

His name glyph on Altar Q features a yu- prefix before the UH skull conflated with a "cauac" sign (ku or
TUUN), which is then followed by an -a sign. Without more examples for comparison, this combination
remains difficult to decipher, although Marc Zender suggests Yuh (Chan) Ahk.

Dates: None known

Ruler 6


Ruled in late fifth I early sixth century

Ruler 6 is mentioned in only three places at Copan: on Altar Q, on the early step of Structure 10L-11, and
on Stela 49, an undated monument of a style probably contemporary with his reign. No dates are known
for Ruler 6, but he presumably ruled before, the first fairly well-established date for his
successor, Bahlam Nehn.

Dates: None known



Ruler 7

Bahlam Nehn

(a.k.a. Waterlily Jaguar)

Ruled < 524 - 532 A.D

With Ruler 7 we begin to discern some detail about Copan's early history, perhaps because Bahlam Nehn
was remembered by later rulers as an important king. He was the father of Ruler 9, and perhaps also of
Ruler 8. The Period Ending, recorded on Stela 16, is his one secure date, although a curious
reference to him on Stela E, in connection with, seems far too late given Ruler B's earlier

Bahlam Nehn probably was responsible for a good deal of the early expansion and development of
Copan's acropolis, corresponding to the so-called "Time Span 3" in the architectural sequence outlined by
Robert Sharer and his colleagues. Although hard to confirm, it's possible that the striding jaguar
sculptures flanking the central steps of the East Court may well be emblematic of Bahlam Nehn's name,
meaning "Jaguar Mirror." The recessed spots of the jaguars were no doubt once inlaid with reflective
obsidian discs. I 12 Ajaw 8 Mol PE


O 0 .

Ruler 8

Wi' Yohl K'inich

Ruled 532-551 A.O.

Reigning for nearly twenty years in the early sixth century, Wi' Yohl K'inich is the first ruler for which we
have fairly good inscribed dates, from the Hieroglyphic Stairway as well as the so-called Ante Step from
underneath the East Court. His accession is recorded in both texts, and just possibly also in the very
weathered inscription inscribed on a step on the west side of the Rosalila temple, beneath Temple 16.
The accession date of his successor, Ruler 9, provides a good ending date for his rule, ca. 551.

Wi' Yohl K'inich evidently oversaw a good deal of the amplification of the acropolis, including a massive
program of building around below what is today the East Court. In addition to building the Ante platform,
he can probably be identified as the occupant of the so-called Sub-Jaguar tomb, located just opposite
Ante. 8 Eb end of Yax accession 4 lk' 5 Pax (?) ded. of Ante platform

Ruler 9


Ruled 551-553A.D.

Ruler 9 is an obscure king given his relatively late placement in Copan's history, no doubt because his
reign was very short, lasting less than two years. He may have been the elder son of Bahlam Nehn, his
predecessor in office, and the older brother of the king who followed him, Ruler 10. Ruler 9's accession
record comes from the Hieroglyphic Stairway. He did not oversee any Period Endings in his short time on
the throne, which goes far to explain why we lack any records of him apart from the portrait and name
glyph shown on the side ofAltar Q. 2 Manik seating of Muwaan accession


Ruler 10

? Bahlam

(a.k.a. MoonJaguar)

Ruled 553 - 578 A.D.

Ruler 10 ruled for 25 years in the late sixth century, after the extremely short reign of his predecessor.
According to the inscription on Stela 9—the only monument we can firmly attribute to him—Ruler 1 0 was
the son of Bahlam Nehn (Auler 7) who had probably died sometime just before 532. Ruler 1 0 is named
on the Hieroglyphic Stairway, in the steps near the beginning of the lower in situ portion excavated by
Gordon. There we have clear written dates for his accession and death. 8Ajaw 3 Mak accession 9 Ajaw 3 Wayeb PE 8Ajaw13Pax PE 10 Kan 2 Keh death

Ruler 11

K'ahk' Uti' Chan

(a.k.a. Smoke Serpent, Butz' Chan)

Ruled 578 - 628 A.D.

Ruler 11 's major monuments include Stela P in the acropolis and Stela 7 from modern Copan pueblo.
Little is known of him, but he held office for nearly fifty years, and presumably had an important role in the
formation of Copan's architecture and monuments just at the beginning of the Late Classic period. His
two extant monuments record his celebration of two key Period Endings at the time. 8 Lamat 6 Mak accession 3 Ajaw 3 Zotz' PE 2 Ajaw 13 Pop PE 2 Muluk 2 K'ayab death


Ruler 12

K’ahk’ Uti’ Witz’ K’awiil

(a.k.a. Smoke-Jaguar, Smoke-lmix, Smoke-lmix-God K)

Ruled 628 - 695A.D.

The first great king of Copan's Late Classic period, Ruler 12 left a profound mark on the design and
layout of the city. His life and his reign were long, so remarkable in fact that on Altar Q he is depicted
sitting on a glyph for "Five K'atuns" (>80 years) instead of his personal name. Only the founder, K'inich
Yax K'uk' Mo', was singled out in a similar way with his "king" glyph.

The first two decades of Ruler 12's reign remain a mystery, but the months leading up to the Period
Ending, in 652A.D., saw an ambitious new program of monument carving, with at least five
stelae erected at key points of access in and just beyond the Copan Valley. This "landscaping" of the
kingdom also involved the erection of several monuments in the Great Plaza, the general plan of which
may have been established around this same time. Further afield, his name appears on an altar at
Quirigua, suggesting his territory extended as far as the Motagua Valley. The historical pattern of his
reign—several quiet years after this enthronement, followed by an explosion of activity around
and a long reign thereafter— is remarkably similar to his contemporary peer, K'inich Janahb Pakal of

Ruler 12 died in 695 and was buried in the large tomb beneath Structure 10L-26—the so-called "Scribe's
Tomb." A large temple-pyramid known as "Esmeralda" was built above the crypt by his accomplished son,
Ruler 13. The stunning Hieroglyphic Stairway on its west face was then dedicated in Ruler 12's honor in
710, a remarkable testament to his important legacy in Copan's Late Classic history. 6 Chikchan 18 K'ayab accession 8 Lama! 1Yaxk'in dedication of St. 23 9 Ok 3 Kumk'u dedication of St. 3
9. 3Ajaw 8Yaxk'in dedication of St. 10 4Ajaw 8 Ch'en dedication of St. 19 12Ajaw 8 Keh PE 4Ajaw 13 Mol PE 10Ajaw 8Yaxk'in PE 9 Chuwen 19 Pop dedication of altar of St. I 5Ajaw 8 Woh dedication of St. I 3 Ajaw 3 Xul PE 9 Ok 18 Mol dedication of Alt. H' 9Ajaw 18 Satz' PE 2Ajaw 13 Zip PE 3 Lama! 16Yax dedication of Alt. K 8Ajaw 8 Woh PE 12 Manik seating ofYaxk'in death


Ruler 13

Waxaklajuun Ubaah K'awiil

(a.k.a. 18 Rabbit, 18 Rabbit-God K)

Ruled 695 - 738 A.D.

Ruler 13's father had been the longest reigning king in Copan's history, and it seems to have taken a
number of years for the son to feel secure in building upon his predecessor's legacy and leaving a mark
of his own. He assumed the throne in 695, fourteen days after his father's death. Stela J was his first
monument, and in overall style it was little different from the all-glyphic monuments his father had erected
around the Copan Valley. By 710 or so, however, Ruler 13 begins a run of artistic innovations like no
other Copan ruler. His court artists broke the mold on the design of stelae and architectural facades,
perfecting ways to sculpt in the round. The monuments of the Great Plaza show the progression of the
artistic change that took place in his reign, when conventions of monumental sculpture moved away from
the flat and "boxy" look of the Early Classic, into the style Copan is so famous for.

Within the Main Group, Ruler 13 was responsible for a remarkable amount of architectural elaboration.
Much of Temple 26 was built during his reign—the construction phase we know as "Esmeralda"—over the
tomb of his father, Ruler 12, including the Hieroglyphic Stairway's initial phase. He oversaw two major
building episodes on the main ballcourt (Ballcourt Ill a and b), and also commissioned the famous and
richly decorated Str. 10L-22, a model of a sacred maize mountain with an interior cave-shrine. This last
temple, like no other Copan had ever seen, was part of his ambitious refurbishment of the East Court,
and it probably also involved the construction of "jaguar steps" on its west side, as well as the
construction of the "Purpura" phase under Temple 16, covering over the long-standing Rosalila temple.
There's some evidence he also had a hand in the constructions under Temple 11, still awaiting
excavation. Adding most of the stelae of the main plaza into the mix, we can justly say that Copan's main
center assumed much of its final form late in the reign of Waxaklajuun Ubaah K'awiil, by about 720-730.

According to Stela F at Quirigua, Ruler 13 was captured and ritually sacrificed in 738. The ceremonial
death occurred at the beginning of the rainy season (when "Yaxha'al Chahk was born," according to the
Hieroglyphic Stairway), and possibly reenacted a key sacrificial event from Maya creation mythology. 7 Lamat 1 Mol accession 7Ajaw 3 Kumk'u PE (St. J) 5 lmix 4 Zotz' Structure 10L-26-2nd? (Esmeralda) 7 Lamat 16 Zotz' 13 tuun anniversary 12 Muluk 7 Muwaan Hieroglyphic Stairway, initial phase 6 Ajaw 13 Muwaan PE (St. C) 5 Lamat 1 Zip anniversary; dedication of Sir. 1 OL-22 5 Ajaw 3 Mak PE (St. F) 11 Ajaw 8 Zak PE (St. 4); dedication of early phase of Sir. 10L-11 (?)) 4 Ajaw 18Muwaan dedication of St. H 12 Ajaw 18 Kumku dedication of St. A 4 Ajaw 13 Yax PE (St. B; Alt. S) 10 Ajaw 8 Ch'en PE (St. D) 10 Ben 16 K'ayab Ballcourt Il l dedication (final phase) 6 Kimi 14 Tzek Quirigua war; sacrifice 8 Lamat 16 Tzek dedication of Str. 8L-74

···., .

. ••,


Ruler 14

K'ahk' Joplaj Chan K'awiil

(Smoke Monkey)

Ruled 738 - 749 A.D.

With the death of Waaxaklajuun Ubaah K'awiil, Copan entered into a troubled period of its history. Ruler
14 took the throne 41 days after his predecessor's demise and ruled for eleven or so years, but in this
time he did not apparently erect any stelae to mark the important Period Endings or In fact, the only historical records mentioning him come from after his reign, in the
inscriptions of Ruler 15's time. K'ahk' Joplaj Chan K'awiil appears in the text of Stela N as well as in the
post-Quirigua narrative of the Hieroglyphic Stairway. One possible monument we can attribute to him is
Structure 22-A, the so-called "Mat House" built adjacent to Temple22. Large glyphs from its façade might
be read as "9 Ajaw House," referencing not only the nine underworld lords depicted on the temple's
exterior, but also the Period Ending falling on 9 Ahau 18 Xul, or The absence of stela
dedications in Ruler 14's reign probably points to the kingdom's subsidiary position to Quirigua, lasting a
decade or more after the defeat. Chikchan 3 Yaxk'in accession 9 Ajaw 18 Xul dedication of Str. 1 0L-22A(??) Kib 4 Wayeb death

Ruler 15

K'ahk' Yipyaj Chan K'awiil

(a.k.a. Smoke Shell, Smoke Squirrel)

Ruled 749 - 763 A.O .

The difficult years following Copan's defeat by Quirigua seem to have subsided by the mid 700s, when
K'ahk' Yipyaj Chan K'awiil took the throne and eventually began a resurgence in Copan's political and
religious prominence. He reigned for fourteen years or so, but in this time he was very active in
overseeing a major refurbishment of Ruler 12's funerary monument, Temple 26, which included a re-
setting and expansion of its remarkable Hieroglyphic Stairway. In doing so he updated the royal history to
include mention of the Quirigua defeat and the death of Waxaklajuun Ubaah K'awiil. In addition, Ruler 15
went on to dedicate two monuments in the plaza in front of Temples 26 and 11 (Stelae M and N), and
possibly also some architectural modification on Temple 11 itself. His name is recorded prominently in the
long inscription of Temple 11's jambs, and some circumstantial evidence suggests he was buried within
that great temple, below the superstructure built soon after his death in 763. 11 Ok 13 Pop accession 2 Ajaw 13 Zip PE 6 Ajaw 13 Tzek dedication of Str. 10L-26 HS 8 Ajaw 8 Sotz' PE (St. M; ded. rite in Sir. 10L-26 final phase) 1 Ajaw 3 Zip PE (St. N)

Ruler 16

Yax Pasaj Chan Yopaat

(a.k.a. New-Sun-at-Horizon, Madrugada, Yax Pac, Yax Pas, etc.)

Ruled 763 - ca. 810 A.D.

Yax Pasaj Chan Yopaat is the last great king of Copan. By the end of his reign in the early ninth century,
for reasons still debated, the Copan throne and its royal court collapsed, or at least were quickly on their
way to a complete end.

Ruler 16 appeared on the scene in 763, and in many ways his early reign reflected some important
breaks from Copan's traditional art and architecture. In the 40+ years of rule, Ruler 16 never dedicated a
major Period Ending stela, preferring instead to mark the calendar stations with small altars or other
sculptures. He did, however, oversee the construction of new temples atop Structures 11 and 16—both
within a few short years of each other—as well as the beautiful Temple 18, much later in his reign.

Many aspects of Copan's internal political structure under Ruler 16 are still poorly understood. Major elite
compounds—what were in effect "satellite courts"—continued to be dedicated in the valley by
subordinates lords bearing the title ajk'uhuun, the best known being the large complex of buildings near the
"House of the Bacabs" at Las Sepulturas. Other historical and mythological names appear in inscriptions
of his reign, but their exact roles in the religious and political life of the city are uncertain. Finally, Yax Pasaj
Chan Yopaat's very last mention comes not from Copan, but from Quirigua, where he seems to jointly
celebrate the K'atun ending with the Quirigua king. This could point to close family ties with
Copan's rival in the Motagua Valley, and even to Ruler 16's original appearance as an outsider.
Even his name glyph, with the Chan Yopaat element, seems more closely associated with Quirigua than

Research on the name glyph of Ruler 16 has a complicated history, reflecting in many ways the complex
and varied nature of his name glyphs. Several different nicknames were used for him in the scholarly
literature, even before any attempt was made at a phonetic decipherment. Today we can confidently
reconstruct the name as Yax Pasaj Chan Yopaat. 6 Kaban 10 Mol accession 13 Ajaw 18 Kumk'u PE 1 Kib 19 Keh Ded. of Temple 11 upper temple 6 Ajaw 13 K'ayab PE 12 Ajaw 8 Pax PE 4 Kaban 10 Zip k'atun anniversary 11 Ajaw 18 Mak PE 4 Ajaw 13 Keh PE 10 Ajaw 8 Zak PE 4 Etz'nab 1 Zak Ded. of Temple 18 3 Ajaw 3 Yax PE 9 Ajaw 18 Mol PE (at Quirigua)

,,,, .,,,- -

· . .



. 1





Altar Q, sides
Drawing by Linda Schele


Altar Q, top inscription

Drawing by David Stuart



. 1


1 I

' !




:r: !



- I



LL ,



También podría gustarte