«Prager, Christian M. A Study of the Classic Maya Hieroglyphic Inscriptions of Pusilha, Toledo District, Belize Indiana, núm. 30, 2013, pp. 247-282 ...»
Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut Preußischer
Prager, Christian M.
A Study of the Classic Maya Hieroglyphic Inscriptions of Pusilha, Toledo District, Belize
Indiana, núm. 30, 2013, pp. 247-282
Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut Preußischer Kulturbesitz
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More information about this article Network of Scientific Journals from Latin America, the Caribbean, Spain and Portugal Journal's homepage in redalyc.org Non-profit academic project, developed under the open access initiative A Study of the Classic Maya Hieroglyphic Inscriptions of Pusilha, Toledo District, Belize Christian M. Prager Universität Bonn, Germany Abstract: This paper is concerned with an epigraphic analysis of 48 Maya hieroglyphic monuments of the archaeological site of Pusilha (Belize). The study explores the dynastic history of that ancient Maya kingdom, whose rulers were named un ajaw or “lord of avocado”. The epigraphic study yielded a total of 40 named individuals, including ten male rulers and a queen linked to the Pusilha emblem glyph. 21 of them could be placed within the local dynastic and chronological matrix spanning a historical period between 126.96.36.199.0 and 188.8.131.52.3. The analysis reveals a 220-year span of history dating from a.d. 571 to 798.
Earlier historical dates prove that some Pusilha kings traced their origin back to Preclassic times and referred to legendary individuals that were most likely ancestors or even dynastic founders from foreign locations. In the Classic Period there is an uninterrupted sequence of six kings and one queen, from Ruler A to G, spanning a secured dynastic period from a.d. 571 to 731.
Keywords: Maya epigraphy, hieroglyphic monuments, Pusilha, southeastern Maya lowlands, Belize, Classic period.
Resumen: Este texto presenta un análisis epigráfico de 48 monumentos jeroglíficos mayas del sitio arqueológico de Pusilhá (Belice). El estudio explora la historia dinástica de este antiguo reino maya cuyos gobernantes llevaban el título un ajaw o “señor de aguacate”. El estudio epigráfico dio como resultado un total de 40 personas mencionadas, incluyendo diez gobernantes masculinos y una reina vinculada al glifo emblema de Pusilhá. De estas personas, 21 podrían ser colocadas dentro de las matrices dinástica y cronológica locales que abarcan un período histórico entre 184.108.40.206.0 y 220.127.116.11.3. El análisis revela un período de 220 años de dataciones históricas de 571 a 798 d. C. Las fechas históricas más antiguas demuestran que algunos reyes de Pusilhá remontaron sus orígenes a la época del Preclásico refiriéndose a individuos legendarios que probablemente fueron ancestros o fundadores dinásticos de otros lugares. En el Clásico hay una secuencia ininterrumpida de seis reyes y una reina, del Gobernante A a G, que abarca un período dinástico asegurado de 571 hasta 731 d. C.
Palabras clave: Epigrafía maya, monumentos jeroglíficos, Pusilhá, tierras bajas mayas sudorientales, Belice, período Clásico.
Introducción The subject of this paper is the little known hieroglyphic inscriptions from the Classic Maya site of Pusilha, located in the Toledo District of southern Belize. The site was discovered in 1926 and was partially excavated by the British Museum between 1928 and 1930 (Joyce et al. 1928; Joyce 1929; Gruning 1930). This paper is concerned with the dynastic history as recorded on some forty-four carved limestone monuments thus far discovered. While some of the monuments are still in situ, though severely eroded, the best-preserved stelae and monument fragments were removed by the British Museum Expeditions, where they still reside today. Since the 1930’s, there has been little archaeological work at Pusilha. Sporadic excavations have been conducted at the site by Norman Hammond in 1970 (1975), Richard Leventhal in 1979 and 1980 (1990; 1992), Gary Rex Walters and Lorington Weller in 1992 (1994) and by the Pusilha Archaeo
Indiana 30 (2013): 247-282 A Study of the Classic Maya Hieroglyphic Inscriptions of Pusilha, Toledo District, Belize 249 logical Project (pusap), directed by Geoffrey Braswell (2002). Photographs and several incomplete sketches of some of the stelae were first published by Joyce in 1928 (Joyce et al. 1928), and later by Morley (1937-1938) and Riese (1980). Except for a few brief studies concerning the chronological and astronomical contents of the hieroglyphic inscriptions, the majority of the monuments have never been adequately recorded. Nor have these hieroglyphic texts been thoroughly analyzed according to proper epigraphic standards set forth by the Corpus of Maya Hieroglyphic Inscriptions Project (Graham 1975). To better understand these texts, the author conducted field work at the British Museum in London in 1996 and 2000 and at the modern Q’eqchi’ village of San Benito Poité in 2001 and in 2005.1 As part of this research, all of the monuments located in both the British Museum and at the site of Pusilha were surveyed, photographed, and professionally drawn by the author.
Figure 2. Map of Pusilha (courtesy of Geoffrey Braswell).
1 The epigraphic investigation at Pusilha formed part of a research program (pusap) initiated and directed by Geoffrey Braswell of the University of California at San Diego. The first field season was carried out in 2001 and included Geoffrey Braswell, Susan Maguire, Lorington Weller and myself.
pusap was funded during the 2001 season by the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc. (famsi) and the School of American Research (Braswell et al. 2004).
Indiana 30 (2013): 247-282250 Christian M. Prager
Pusilha, nestled in the foothills of the southwestern Maya Mountains, lies within a well-defined cultural region, as first proposed by Leventhal (1992). This area can be defined by specific geographic and archaeological features unique to the area roughly defined as the Toledo District of southern Belize and the adjacent Río Pasión Region of southeastern Guatemala (Dunham, Jamison & Leventhal 1989: 263). It encompasses more than 4000 square kilometers and is bounded to the northwest by the southeastern foothills of the Maya Mountains, to the east by the Caribbean Sea, to the south by the marshy terrain of the Temash and Sarstoon Rivers (Dunham, Jamison & Leventhal 1989: 269; Leventhal 1992: 145), and to the southwest, the area extends well up into the upper reaches of the Río Cancuen (Corzo et al. 1999). Southern Belize differs from adjacent cultural zones by its distinctive architectural remains that include terraced platform constructions, ballcourts within walled enclosures, the use of natural terrain for terraces and pyramid-like structures, collective tombs, a regional style of carving and idiosyncratic hieroglyphic inscriptions (Leventhal 1990: 138-139; Grube, MacLeod & Wanyerka 1999: 36-37). The earliest occupation appears to be concentrated along the western part of the region, which includes the major monument-erecting sites of Uxbenka and Pusilha (Leventhal 1992: 152; Wanyerka 1996: 35). By a.d. 650-700, an eastward expansion of major centers began to rise and form throughout the southcentral portion of the Maya Mountains region. This eastward expansion would eventually lead to the foundation of other monument erecting sites like Nim Li Punit, Xnaheb, Lubaantun, and Tzimin Che.
Pusilha (16°06’45’’ N, 89°11’43 W)2 is located between the Poité and Pusilha Rivers along the Guatemalan/Belizean border some 42 km northwest of Punta Gorda, the capital of the Toledo District (Figure 1). Rising to the north and south of Pusilha are an extensive series of karst limestone ridges that extend to some 200 meters above sea level. Architectural remains and ancient settlements are dispersed over an area comprising some 6.4 square kilometers. Numerous settlements have been found along the sloping karst foothills north of the Pusilha River and along the limestone massif to the south of the site. Cutting through the middle of the site is the Pusilha River, whose triple-span bridge abutments are still visible even today.
The central site core is comprised primarily of several major residential and ceremonial structures (Main or Stela Plaza, Big Tree Group), each grouped around a series of plazas or ballcourts (Figure 2). In the 1990’s, two additional residential groups (the Moho Plaza and Machaca Plaza) were discovered just southwest of the main plaza (Walters & Weller 1994). In between these major residential zones are dozens of smaller outlying house-mounds that cover the area north of the Pusilha River. Located south 2 The geographical coordinates are obtained with a hand-held gps navigator at the southern end of the Stela Plaza.
Indiana 30 (2013): 247-282 A Study of the Classic Maya Hieroglyphic Inscriptions of Pusilha, Toledo District, Belize 251
to the Main Plaza, on the opposite bank of the Pusilha River, is a stepped residential complex known as the Gateway Hill Acropolis. This portion of the site includes the famous bridge abutments at the banks the Pusilha River and the hilltop complex known as Gateway Hill, located some 75 meters above the river (Braswell 2002; Braswell et al.
2004; Leventhal 1990).
Of particular interest to this study are the hieroglyphic inscriptions found in the main Stelae Plaza and those found in the Moho Plaza. Most of the carved monuments and artifacts were found in the main Stela Plaza, a large area defined by six platforms (labelled Structure I - VI see Figure 3). Arguably, Structure I was the most important structure of this group, due to the fact that its massive superstructure construction is
much larger than any of the other structures, and that nearly all of the known monuments were concentrated in a line across the north end of the structure. All of the carved monuments discovered by the British Museum were found broken lying on the ground north of Structure I. Each monument was labeled with an alphabetic designation (Stela A-N) by Gann (see Figure 2 in Joyce et al. 1928). This system has been generally accepted, except for a few modifications by Morley (1937-1938), Riese (1980), and the author of the present study (Prager 2002). Following a suggestion by Riese (1980), all of the monument fragments found during the 2001 field season were numbered consecutively (Figure 3). None of the newly discovered carved monument fragments belong to any of the known monuments documented so far.
Indiana 30 (2013): 247-282 A Study of the Classic Maya Hieroglyphic Inscriptions of Pusilha, Toledo District, Belize 253 As first reported by Gann (1928) and Joyce (1929), most of the stelae were found broken and lying on the ground near their respective monument bases, except for Stela F, which was found intact. In total, twelve stelae were located in a line along the north face of Structure I. Because of the way in which the monuments fell, most of the best-preserved hieroglyphic texts at the site survived because they were buried text-side down. Therefore, the front figural-sides of most of the stelae are heavily eroded. Shortly after their initial discovery, many of the best-preserved monuments (Stela C, D, E, H, M, O, P, Q, R, Z, Monument Fragment 1 and 2) were removed from the country of Belize and shipped directly to the British Museum.
In 1992, several new hieroglyphic inscriptions were discovered by Gary Rex Walters and Lorington Weller in an area outside the central core of Pusilha, known today as the Moho Plaza (Walters & Weller 1994). Located approximately two kilometers southwest of the Stela, Plaza Walters and his team discovered a large residential complex and ceremonial group that included a previously unknown ballcourt (Figure 4). In addition, Walters and Weller discovered three small ballcourt markers in the alley-way of the ballcourt, and located nine hieroglyphic and iconographic cartouches engraved into the risers of a stair leading up to the top of Structure VI. During the 2001 season, the PUSAP team recovered fifteen new sculpted monument fragments in the Stela Plaza and one well-preserved fragment of an unknown stela. Today, the corpus of carved monuments from Pusilha totals some forty-five objects: twenty stelae (Stelae A, A1, B-H, K-S, U, Z), three altars (Altar V-X), three ballcourt markers (Ballcourt Markers 1-3), one hieroglyphic stairway (Hieroglyphic Stairway 1), seventeen sculptured monument fragments (Fragments 1-17), and one miscellaneous text (Miscellaneous Text 1).
Previous epigraphic studies To date, the hieroglyphic texts of Pusilha have received only moderate attention by epigraphers. One of the few researchers to use data from the Pusilha inscriptions was Heinrich Berlin (1958) in his study of Classic Maya emblem glyphs. Others examined the dates and portions of the Supplementary Series as found on the texts shortly after their discovery (Thompson 1928; Gann 1928; Morley 1937-1938; Andrews 1951;