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K'uk' Bahlam I

K'UK'[B'AHLAM], "Quetzal Jaguar". Drawing, transcription and translation after Martin and Grube (2008).

Maya ruler of Palenque; also known as Kuk and Bahlum K'uk'. Reigned AD 431-435.

Born 5 Kimi 14 K'ayab (March 30, 397).

Acceded: 1 K'an 2 K'ayab (March 10, 431).

This ruler, whose name glyph combines the royal symbols of the quetzal (k'uk') and the jaguar (bahlam), is considered the founder of the Palenque dynasty; although other, earlier candidates for this role appear in the inscriptions of Palenque (a legendary figure called "Bloodletter of the Snake" is said to have acceded in Olmec times), K'uk' Bahlam is the first from a reasonably historical era corresponding to the foundation of other Classic Maya royal lines (Martin and Grube 2008:156, 159). His "Tokthan Lord" title associates him with an unknown location that appears to have been the original seat of the dynasty (ibid.:156).

K'uk' Bahlam's four-year reign overlaps with that of Sihyaj Chan K'awiil II at Tikal, at the height of Teotihuacan influence on the Maya (ibid.:156). The name glyph of the Teotihuacan warlord Sihyaj K'ahk' may appear on a stucco pier of the Palace, leading to the inference that Teotihuacan may possibly have been involved in the foundation of the Palenque dynasty just as it was involved in establishing a new line at Tikal (ibid.:156).

The foregoing is based on Chronicle of the Maya Kings and Queens by Simon Martin and Nikolai Grube (2008:156, 159).

Note 1: A recently discovered stone censer stand portrays one of the Palenque kings named K'uk' Bahlam, as the subject can be identified by a quetzal (k'uk') headdress and jaguar (bahlam) ears (Martin and Grube (2008:174). Following a suggestion by David Stuart, Simon Martin (in Miller and Martin 2004:230) notes that, in view of the object's role in ancestor veneration, it probably represents the dynasty founder rather than his Late Classic namesake, K'inich K'uk' Bahlam II. David Stuart (personal communication 2004) points out that the portrait's headdress, in addition to conveying K'UK' and BAHLAM, contains centipede-framed solar symbols representing K'INICH. Hence the Founder, like his Late Classic dynastic descendant, was named in full K'inich K'uk' Bahlam.

Note 2: The Sihyaj K'ahk' name, followed by an ajaw title, can be seen in a drawing accompanying one of Alfred Maudslay's photographs of the Palace (Maudslay (1889-1902:Vol. IV, Plate 34), although the context is unclear since most of the text is missing (Martin (2003:note 17).

For a further discussion at Mesoweb see the chapter on K'uk' Bahlam in The Rulers of Palenque.