Important Mayan rulers

K'inich Yax K'uk' Mo
September 7, 2019 – 07:55 am
An ancient Mayan temple

TikalThe `goggles', which some writers have speculated are proof of ancient alien activity in the rise of the Maya civilization (as they resemble pilot's goggles), are not eye protection but, rather, part of the king's ceremonial headdress. The title `sun-eyed' (Kinich) in his name was also used by rulers in Teotihuacán who wore similar headdresses with what appear to be goggles over the eyes. This adornment over the eyes possibly represented the ruler's separation from the common people and association with the penetrating gaze of the gods (as represented by the sun). David Stuart, however, argues against Teotihuacán as point of origin claiming that Yax K'uk Mo's name represents birds native to southern Mesoamerica but not to the region around Teotihuacán. Stuart writes,

All in all, one can simply conclude from the earliest dynastic art and inscriptions that K'inich Yax K'uk' Mo' was a Maya king, but with important foreign contacts and associations" (239). Stuart also points out that the Motmot Marker is a purely Mayan creation, is the earliest depiction of Yax K'uk Mo', and presents him in Maya dress. Stuart then concludes that "he was a Maya lord thoroughly imbued with Teotihuacán traditions. (193)

His contacts with Teotihuacán, his military experience, and probable early political skill, all enabled him to expand the power and prestige of the city of Copan to the point that it can be said he re-founded the city.

Copan, Quirigua, & Tikal

The city of Tikal was at the height of its power at the time of Yax K'uk Mo's appearance in Copan. The historian Maria Longhena writes, "A series of factors, including the strategic position of Tikal in the Maya cultural area and its historical development recorded on its monuments, have recently led epigraphers Nikolai Grube and Simon Martin to formulate a theory that Tikal and Calakmul together held a dominant position over other Maya city states of the Classic Period" (243). It is because of Tikal's prominence that scholars have surmised that Yax K'uk Mo' probably was supported by that city's regime in his ascent at Copan or that his rise to power was the result of a coup initiated by Tikal which was first attempted in 416 CE and accomplished in 426 CE. The neighboring city of Quirigua was founded by the kings of Copan prior to Yax K'uk Mo's arrival and was subordinate to the mother city throughout most of its history.

Ball Court, Copan

An inscription on the top of Altar Q at Copan tells how the founder, then known as K'uk Mo' Ajaw, traveled from far off and, on 5 September 426 CE,

is said to have `taken K'awiil', in the sense of grasping a scepter in the form of the snake-footed deity, thereby marking a transition to regal status. Three days later, now carrying his full royal name, K'inich Yax K'uk' Mo' he comes to the wi te' naah, which may translate as "Root House", a structure linked to the foundation of dynasties, with strong central Mexican associations. On this occasion, at least one other lord from the region, the king of Quirigua, is known to have acceded. The location [of the Root House] is not stipulated but its distance from Copan is implicit in the 152 days that intervene before the founder's `arrival here' at Ox Witik, the principal place name of Copan (Martin and Grube, 192).

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