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Itzamnaaj Bahlam IV

ITZAMNA:J?-BAHLAM che-le-TE' CHAN-K'INCH. Drawing and transcription after Martin and Grube (2008).


Maya ruler of Yaxchilan; also known as Shield Jaguar's descendant, Shield Jaguar II, Shield Jaguar III. Reigned AD 769-800>.

Born: 9.16.0.14.5 1 Chikchan? 13 Pop (February 14, 752?).

Father: Bird Jaguar IV.

Mother: Lady Great Skull.

Wife: Lady Ch'ab Ajaw.

Son: K'inich Tatbu Skull III.

Monuments: Stelae 5, 7, 20, 21, 22, 24 & 29; Lintels 1?, 2?, 3?, 12, 13, 14, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55?, 57 & 58; Hieroglyphic Stairway 5; Altar 10.

During the course of his reign, this king was referred to variously by his accession name Itzamnaaj Bahlam, by his pre-regnal name Chel Te' Chan K'inich, and by the captor's epithet "Master of Torch Macaw" (Martin and Grube 2008:134).

He was about sixteen when his father died, having apparently anticipated that his young son might require a guardian to act as regent (ibid.:132). For Bird Jaguar IV had himself depicted on Lintel 9 not long before he died, exchanging "flap-staffs" with a sajal called Great Skull (ibid.:132). This was the same legitimizing ritual that he had enacted (or retrospectively claimed to have enacted) with his own father a year before the latter's death (ibid.:129).

Lintel 9 refers to Great Skull as yichaan ajaw, "uncle of the lord", meaning the young prince Chel Te' Chan K'inich (ibid.:132). Bird Jaguar had been compelled to wait ten years after his father's death before he could ascend the throne, a period during which he may have had to struggle with rival claimants (ibid.:127). Perhaps he felt that the guardianship of Great Skull was necessary to forestall any such struggles for his son.

Lady Great Skull, Chel Te' Chan K'inich's mother, is portrayed on one of the lintels of Temple 33 (ibid.:132). She was the only local woman of Bird Jaguar IV's four known wives — the others being in all probability political marriages meant to cement alliances with the kingdoms from which they came (ibid.:131). Temple 33 is generally thought to be a construction of Bird Jaguar IV, who is depicted on all of its lintels, but his son seems to have had a hand in finishing it (ibid.:132). One of its lintels shows him dancing a "bird-staff" ritual with his father in 757 (ibid.:133). This was twelve years or so before his own accession, which occurred at some point before February 769 (when he is known to have supervised a ceremony at a subsidiary site) (ibid.:134). His father died in 768 (ibid.:132).

The inscription on the "bird-staff" monument (Lintel 2) accords Chel Te' Chan K'inich a full emblem glyph as if he were already king (ibid.:132-133). The text accompanying a retrospective portrait of his mother on another lintel calls her "the mother of Itzamnaaj Bahlam", the name that he would only subsequently adopt upon his accession (ibid.:132). Thus the idea that he completed Temple 33 after he acceded.

Although he reigned for twice as long as his father, Itzamnaaj Bahlam IV did not achieve the latter's prodigious output of buildings or monuments. And over the course of time, the quality of his sculptures deteriorated as well (ibid.:134). Architecturally, he mostly focused on the eastern border of the ceremonial precinct, tying it to the center with Temple 20 (ibid.:134-135).

Itzamnaaj Bahlam was a warrior like his father before him. The latter had styled himself "He of Twenty Captives", and his son proudly claimed fifteen (with one more added to the total after he died) (ibid.:130, 135). Hieroglyphic Stairway 5 of Temple 20 records captures from Motul de San José, Lakamtuun, Namaan and Hix Witz (ibid.:135). Temple 20 bears comparison to Temple 44, the "war memorial" of Itzamnaaj Bahlam's grandfather (ibid.:123, 134-135). Its lintels feature not just events surrounding Itzamnaaj Bahlam's birth but the rites enacted in 741 by which his father sought to retrospectively justify his own royal legitimacy (ibid.:135).

Itzamnaaj Bahlam seems to have been aided in his military campaigns by the continuing support of his uncle Great Skull, who is portrayed with him on Lintels 14 and 58 (ibid.:135). The fact that Great Skull carried a captor's epithet of his own — aj wuk baak, "He of Seven Captives" — suggests that he was no mere observer (ibid.:135).

Itzamnaaj Bahlam also had the suport of lords from satellites like La Pasadita, controled by the sajal Tiloom (ibid.:135). Another sajal, from Laxtunich, is depicted with him in 773 on a panel from that site (ibid.:135). A second panel shows another lord of Laxtunich named Aj Chak Maax ("He of Great/Red Monkey") delivering him three captives in 783 (ibid.:135). The archaeological site of Tecolote, which has remains of wall paintings dating to Itzamnaaj Bahlam's reign, is currently thought to be a candidate for Laxtunich (ibid.:135).

Control of Bonampak and Lacanha, which had slipped in and out of the grasp of Yaxchilan in former years, was strengthened by the marriage of Itzamnaaj Bahlam's sister (or some other royal woman of Yaxchilan) to Yajaw Chan Muwaan ("Lord of the Sky Hawk") of Bonampak-Lacanha (ibid.:135). The Bonampak murals, commissioned by Yajaw Chan Muwaan, name Itzamnaaj Bahlam III in a glyphic text (referring to him by his captor's title "Master of Torch Macaw") and state that he supervised a local accession; and the Yaxchilan king is depicted on a doorway lintel of the mural building (ibid.:136).

In addition to the murals, Yajaw Chan Muwaan commissioned a number of fine monuments in stone; at least some of the carving was done by sculptors from Yaxchilan (ibid.:137). His Lintel 2 portrays Itzamnaaj Bahlam seizing a lieutenant of Yete' K'inich, ruler of Sak Tz'i', a kingdom against which Yajaw Chan Muwaan and the Yaxchilan king campaigned jointly in 787 (ibid.:137).

Yaxchilan's hegemony over Bonampak-Lacanha is manifest in Itzamnaaj Bahlam's supervision of the accession of a new ruler in 790 (ibid.:137). Taken together with his military career, this indication of a forceful effort to preserve Yaxchilan's sphere is all the more impressive when viewed in the context of the looming Classic collapse (ibid.:137).

The foregoing is based on Chronicle of the Maya Kings and Queens by Simon Martin and Nikolai Grube (2008:132-137). Their sources include Peter Mathews (1980) and Stephen Houston in Mary Miller (1995) for Itzamnaaj Bahlam's supervision of the Bonampak accession, and Charles Golden, Andrew Scherer and René Muñoz (2005) for Tecolote.