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Nuun Ujol Chaak

NU:N-(u)-JOL CHA:K-ki, "?-headed Chaak". Drawing and translation after Martin and Grube (2000). Transcription by Simon Martin (personal communication 2002).


Maya ruler of Tikal; also known as Shield Skull and Nun Bak Chak. Reigned >657-679>.

Wife: Lady Jaguar Seat. Son: Jasaw Chan K'awiil.

Monument: stela in the National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City.

Nuun Ujol Chaak of Tikal and his brother B'alaj Chan K'awiil of Dos Pilas are protagonists — and bitter antagonists — in a vivid historical narrative recorded by the Maya in the hieroglyphic inscriptions of Dos Pilas. This site bore the same emblem glyph as Tikal and has been viewed as the product of a "disaffected or ousted" faction of Tikal's elite who established it under the aegis of Tikal's archenemy Calkamul (Martin and Grube 2000:42). New inscriptions from Dos Pilas have complicated this picture, as it is now known that Calakmul attacked Dos Pilas in the early years of its existence. But whatever the initial relationship between Tikal and Dos Pilas, the protracted enmity between them is clear.

That it featured two warring brothers has now been established, since Dos Pilas Panel 6 names the father of B'alaj Chan K'awiil as K'inich Muwaahn Jol, while the same name (minus the K'inich) is seen in Nuun Ujol Chaak's parentage statement on Tikal miscellaneous sherd MT.25 (Guenter 2002).

The earliest known date for Nuun Ujol Chaak is AD 657, when Yuknoom the Great of Calakmul attacked Tikal in a "star war" and forced him into temporary exile. It was long believed that this exile took him to the Palenque court of Pakal the Great (Linda Schele 1994a), but David Stuart has demonstrated that the Nuun Ujol Chaak of the Palenque inscriptions was a namesake from the "Wa-Bird" polity of Santa Elena Balancan (Simon Martin 2003, citing David Stuart, personal communication 2000).

Thirteen years later, in 672, Nuun Ujol Chaak attacked Dos Pilas and forced B'alaj Chan K'awiil to flee. In 677 Nuun Ujol Chaak was again vanquished by Calakmul. And two years later he is last heard from as the defeated victim of B'alaj Chan K'awiil (whose inscriptional record of the event may understate the role of Calakmul in the victory). It is not known if Nuun Ujol Chaak was captured and killed on this occasion, the only clearly identified victim being one of his lieutenants named Nuun B'alam (Martin and Grube 2000:57). Nuun Ujol Chaak may be buried under the final version of Tikal's Temple 33 (in Burial 23) or the as-yet-unexplored Temple 35 (ibid.:43).