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Bajlaj Chan K'awiil

ba(j)-la-ja CHAN-na-K'AWI:L. Drawing and transcription after Martin and Grube (2008).


Maya ruler of Dos Pilas; also known as Ruler 1, Flint Sky God K, Malah Chan K'awil and K'awil strikes from the Sky. Reigned c. AD 648-692>.

Born: 9.9.12.11.2 8 Ik' 5 Keh (October 15, 625).

Father: K'inich Muwaan Jol II of Tikal? Wives: Lady of Itzan and Lady Bulu'. Son: Itzamnaaj K'awiil. Daughter: Lady Six Sky of Naranjo.

Monuments: Dos Pilas Stela 9; Panels 6 and 7; Hieroglyphic Stairways 2 (Central) and 4.

This king was a central protagonist in a bitter factional dispute between two lords carrying the same emblem glyph — a clash that emerged from the obscurity of Tikal's 130-year Hiatus and coincided with the epic contest for political ascendency between Tikal and Calakmul (Martin and Grube 2008:56). Bajlaj Chan K'awiil's claim to the royal emblem of Mutal was evidently based on his being the son of Tikal's 23rd or 24th ruler, as stated on Dos Pilas Panel 6 (ibid.:56). Nuun Ujol Chaak, the other bearer of the Tikal emblem, was in all probability at least his half-brother (ibid.:56).

A recently exposed section of Hieroglyphic Stairway 2 might have thrown light on the timing and circumstances of a Tikal scion first coming to the region between the Pasión and Salinas Rivers, but erosion obscures most of the details of Bajlaj Chan K'awiil's early life (ibid.:56). The text does reveal that in 648 he scored a military victory while the same day saw the death of a lord — perhaps even a king — bearing the Mutal emblem (ibid.:56). The import is unclear, but these events appear to serve as preamble to what came next; in 650 Yuknoom the Great of Calakmul attacked Dos Pilas and forced Bajlaj Chan K'awiil to take refuge at Aguateca (ibid.:57). Then in 657 the Snake lord attacked Tikal itself and drove Nuun Ujol Chaak from his city, establishing Calakmul as the supreme power in the entire region (ibid.:57). Bajlaj Chan K'awiil accepted Yuknoom Ch'een as his overlord, and Nuun Ujol Chaak was probably compelled to pledge fealty as well, for both lords carrying the Mutal emblem witnessed a ritual performed by Calakmul prince Yuknoom Yich'aak K'ahk' at some point in the years leading up to 662 (ibid.:57).

The ensuing events of what Stephen Houston has referred to as Tikal's "civil war" are detailed on the hieroglyphic stairways of Dos Pilas: In 672, Nuun Ujol Chaak attacks Dos Pilas and forces Bajlaj Chan K'awiil to abandon his city, this time fleeing to a place named Chaak Naah (ibid.:57). The following year Chaak Naah is set aflame by the Tikal king, and Bajlaj Chan K'awiil is compelled to take flight again, to the kingdom of Hix Witz (ibid.:57). It is not until Calakmul vanquishes Nuun Ujol Chaak at Pulil in 677 that Bajlaj Chan K'awiil is able to return to Dos Pilas (ibid.:57). The final showdown came in 679 when Bajlaj Chan K'awiil defeated Nuun Ujol Chaak and captured a Tikal lord named Nuun Bahlam (ibid.:57). No inscription states that Nuun Ujol Chaak was either captured or killed, nor is there explicit mention of Calakmul, although it is hard to see how Bajlaj Chan K'awiil could have achieved this victory without help (ibid.:57). From this time forward, lords of Dos Pilas would continue to bear the emblem of Mutal and enjoy a regional hegemony (ibid.:57).

Bajlaj Chan K'awiil began his program of monumental inscriptions in 682, recording his travails and ultimate victory, as well as his debt of fealty to Calakmul; he states that he celebrated the 9.12.10.0.0 period ending at Calakmul in a ceremony with his overlord Yuknoom the Great, and he returned to Calakmul four years later for the accession of Yuknoom Yich'aak K'ahk' (ibid.:57).

Bajlaj Chan K'awiil's daughter Lady Six Sky re-founded the dynasty of Naranjo, while another daughter (or perhaps a sister) married into the royal lineage of Arroyo de Piedra, which together with Tamarindito had been the principal power in the Petexbatun region before the founding of Dos Pilas (ibid.:57). Bajlaj Chan K'awiil's marriage to the Lady of Itzan (a nearby kingdom) produced at least one son and heir (ibid.:57).

The foregoing is based on Chronicle of the Maya Kings and Queens by Simon Martin and Nikolai Grube (2008:56-57). Their sources include Marc Zender (personal communication 2002) for the "Bajlaj" spelling; Stephen Houston, Stacey Symonds, David Stuart and Arthur Demarest (1992) and Stanley Guenter (personal communication 2000) for Bajlaj Chan K'awiil's parentage; Federico Fahsen (2002) and Guenter (2003) for the new Hieroglyphic Stairway 2 text; Guenter (2003) for the date of the flight from Aguateca; Houston et al. (1992), Houston (1993) and Guenter (2003) for Bajlaj Chan K'awiil's vassalage to Yuknoom Ch'een and his attendence with Nuun Ujol Chaak at the ceremony of Yuknoom Yich'aak K'ahk'; and Houston et al. (1992), Houston (1993), Fahsen (2002) and Guenter (2003) for the events of the "civil war".


Mystery cloaks the circumstances under which Bajlaj Chan K'awiil became the first known ruler of a previously uninhabited site in the Petexbatun. Inscriptions at Dos Pilas make it clear that he eventually swore allegiance to Calakmul, and this during the time of Tikal's Hiatus when Calakmul might well have involved itself directly in the royal succession at Tikal. This led to speculation that Bajlaj Chan K'awiil might have been a ruler of Tikal under the aegis of Calakmul who was driven out by a rival lineage that installed Nuun Ujol Chaak on the throne. This scenario might need revision in view of the evidence that Bajlaj Chan K'awiil and Nuun Ujol Chaak were apparently brothers, as parentage statements on Dos Pilas Panel 6 and Tikal miscellaneous sherd MT.25 of Tikal suggest (Guenter 2002a:139). More significant, perhaps, is the evidence from the recently uncovered section of Dos Pilas Hieroglyphic Stairway 2 that Calakmul attacked the site in AD 650 and forced Bajlaj Chan K'awiil to flee. It would appear that Bajlaj Chan K'awiil had not yet accepted Yuknoom the Great of Calakmul as his overlord.

At Mesoweb see "The Inscriptions of Dos Pilas Associated with B'ajlaj Chan K'awiil" by Stanley Guenter (online).

The Bajlaj spelling of this ruler's name (i.e. Bajlaj Chan K'awiil) was proposed by Marc Zender (personal communication 2001) based on a core meaning of "to hammer".