The Tomb of K’inich Janaab Pakal: The Temple of the Inscriptions at Palenque
Southern Methodist University
The Temple of the Inscriptions of Palenque is one of the most famous structures of the ancient Maya world. It has received the attention of countless scholars for more than two centuries. The long hieroglyphic text that covers three large tablets placedinside between the temple’s outer and inner rooms provided the name for this building, and this text remains the longest legible Maya text yet found. Leading to even greater fame, however, were the excavations by Alberto Ruz Lhuillier, who between 1949 and 1952 excavated an incredible tomb, deep below the temple in the heart of the pyramid. The sarcophagus lid that nearly filled the tomb itselfhas become an icon of Maya art and is famous the world over. Shortly after this discovery, the revolution in Maya epigraphy generated by Tatiana Proskouriakoff and Yuri Knorosov unlocked the key to these inscriptions, and in the early 1970s Peter Mathews and Linda Schele revealed that the focus of all the Temple of the Inscriptions texts was a lord named Pakal. Although he is still affectionatelyknown as simply Pakal to the thousands of visitors who flock to his tomb and city every year, more recent decipherments have amended this name to K’inich Janaab Pakal.1 The tourism generated by his tomb and the city he helped create, in fact, support to a great degree the economy of the modern city of Palenque, and a nearby community has even been named Pakalna, “House of Pakal,” in his honor. Bornin 603, and dying eighty years later after a reign of 68 years, K’inich Janaab Pakal I was the greatest king of Palenque, a conclusion of both modern scholars and the ancient Maya of Palenque themselves. All of Pakal’s successors made copious reference to him in their own texts, two of them even taking his illustrious name as their own. Presented here is an analysis of the texts of his funerarystructure, the Temple of the Inscriptions, including both the three tablets of the upper temple as well as the text carved around the edge of his sarcophagus lid. The readings and discussion that follow, while the author’s own, owe much to prior and current work by many different scholars. The author would like to thank the following: Alfonso Escobedo, Nikolai Grube, Stephen Houston, AlfonsoLacadena, Simon Martin, Peter Mathews, Alberto Ruz
1 The meaning of this name has long proven difficult to interpret. K’inich clearly is a reference to the Sun God, whose full name reads K’inich Ajaw, while Pakal undoubtedly means “shield.” Janaab, however, has proven a very stubborn term to epigraphers. The logogram for this word resembles a four-spoke propeller surrounded by a dotted circle. Itappears as a floral motif in Maya iconography, and so in the past janaab was often simply translated as “flower.” Unfortunately, no such word for flower is known in any modern Maya language. David Stuart (2005) has suggested that janaab may be the name of a raptorial bird, as the head variant for the logogram JANAAB is avian in nature, the “floral” elements actually being color markings around the eyeof the bird. Unfortunately, no word resembling janaab has been found in any Maya language referring to any kind of bird either. Marc Zender (personal communication 2004) has suggested another possibility, that underspelling may be involved in the word being cued by the phonetic spelling ja-na-bi. Underspelling (see Zender 1999 for a full treatment of this subject), which occurs when Maya scribeshabitually leave out of the phonetic spellings of words certain syllables featuring weak consonants, is not uncommon in Classic Maya hieroglyphic texts. Unfortunately, if underspelling is involved it is not clear what sounds are missing from the full pronunciation of “janaab.” There are no words similar to janaab that have yet been found that denote either a type of flower or bird. Only if we...
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