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K'inich Janaab Pakal I

K'INICH-JANA:B-PAKAL-la, "Radiant ? Shield". Drawing, transcription and translation after Martin and Grube (2000).


Maya ruler of Palenque; also known as Pacal, Pacal the Great, 8 Ahau and Sun Shield. Reigned AD 615-683.

Born: 9.8.9.13.0 8 Ahaw 13 Pop (March 23, 603).

Acceded: 9.9.2.4.8 5 Lamat 1 Mol (July 26, 615).

Died 9.12.11.5.18 6 Etz'nab 11 Yax (August 28, 683).

Wife: Lady Tz'akbu Ajaw.

Father: K'an Mo' Hix.

Mother: Lady Sak K'uk'.

Sons: Kan Bahlam II, K'an Joy Chitam II, Tiwol Chan Mat?

Monuments: Oval Palace Tablet, Hieroglyphic Stairway, House C texts, Subterranean Thrones and Tableritos, Olvidado piers and Sarcophagus texts.

Burial: Temple of the Inscriptions.

Although his reign began in a time of adversity for the Palenque kingdom and he ascended the throne as a child, Pakal went on to rule for for sixty-eight years and has come down to posterity as the best-known of Maya kings, albeit his fame derives mostly from his magnificent burial (Martin and Grube 2008:162). When he was eight years old, Palenque was invaded by Scroll Serpent of Kaan (ibid.:161). A dynastic crisis was precipitated with the death of Ajen Yohl Mat sixteen months later, and it seems that the young child of Lady Sak K'uk' and K'an Mo' Hix was settled upon as the ultimate heir to the throne (ibid.:161). His parents might well have wielded political power on his behalf as he came of age and probably for years after his accession as a twelve-year-old in AD 615 (ibid.:161).

It was apparently in 626 that Pakal married Lady Tz'akbu Ajaw, a woman with ties both to the original Palenque royal seat of Toktahn and to the site of Uxte'k'uh; she bore him sons (and successors) in 635 and 644 (ibid.:162).

The only other event known from Pakal's early years is from around 628 (he would have been twenty-five at the time), when the capture one of his high officials, an aj k'uhuun, by Piedras Negras provides a glimpse of conflict in the west (ibid.:162-163).

Pakal's first construction project was the Olvidado in 647; this "Forgotten" Temple far to the west of the Lakamha' site core bore the first surviving inscription from Palenque since the inscribed bowl of Casper over a century and a half earlier (ibid.:163). There must have other contemporaneous records in the interim, and they are perhaps buried in construction fill after having been destroyed by invaders (ibid.:163). Glyphs from Pakal's own reign were re-used in the walls of the North Group (ibid.:162).

The Palace was Pakal's most ambitious construction project; he began in 654 by adding monuments to rooms of the original Early Classic level and then building House E on a new higher platform (ibid.:163). Possibly because it was the only Palace building not painted red, House E was called the sak nuk naah, "White Skin? House"; it housed a throne room featuring the Oval Palace Tablet (ibid.:163).

The East Court of the Palace, an impressive ceremonial space marked by military triumphalism, was demarcated on the west by House C (dedicated in 661), on the south by House B (also from around 661), and on the east by House A (from after 668) (ibid.:164). (Pakal's second son, K'inich K'an Joy Chitam II, would later add House A-D on the north [ibid.:164].)

The base of House A, on the east side of the court, was arrayed with megalithic sculptures of prisoners, the central ones bearing capture dates in 662 (ibid.:164). Facing this on the west is the hieroglyphic stairway leading up to House C.

The House C Hieroglyphic Stairway records an attack on Palenque by the "snake-head" polity of Kaan in 599, in the time of Lady Yohl Ik'nal (ibid.:159-160, 164). This is followed by an obscure passage involving a ruler of Santa Elena named Nuun Ujol Chaak (previously mistaken for the king of Tikal with the same name) and (apparently) Itzamnaaj Bahlam II of Yaxchilan (ibid.:121, 164). The inscription's narrative culmination records the taking of six prisoners by Pakal in 659 (ibid.:164). All six are depicted in sculpture along the base of House C, three on either side of the stairway (ibid.:164). One of them, Ahiin Chan Ahk, can be identified as coming from Pipa', a place name associated with Pomona in Tabasco (ibid.:164-165). The death of another lord from this site in 663 is referred to in an inscription from the West Court, on the opposite site of House C; here six captives from the site of Santa Elena are named in glyphic panels (ibid.:165).

Six days after the captures detailed on the Hieroglyphic Stairway, the Temple of the Inscriptions tablets record that the Santa Elena king Nuun Ujol Chaak "arrived" at Palenque, evidently as a prisoner (ibid.:165). Thus Santa Elena appears to have been restored to Palenque's control, as it had been under Ajen Yohl Mat (ibid.:161, 165). To the extent that the Hieroglyphic Stairway asserts a restoration of Palenque's power in the region, it is undermined by subsequent events; within two years, Piedras Negras appears to have conquered Santa Elena, and Calakmul engineered the re-accession of the Moral-Reforma king under the auspices of Yuknoom Ch'een (ibid.:109, 165).

Pakal must certainly have started the Temple of the Inscriptions, intending it as a monument to himself. The completion of its texts and the final architectural touches were left to his son and successor, K'inich Kan Bahlam (ibid.:165).

The foregoing is based on Chronicle of the Maya Kings and Queens by Simon Martin and Nikolai Grube (2008:161-168). Their sources include Linda Schele (1994a) for the House C captives and David Stuart (personal communication 2000, cited in Martin 2003a:28) for Nuun Ujol Chaak of Santa Elena.


In an email to epigraphers on July 22, 2002, Simon Martin offered this summary of dates bearing on conflicts in Tabasco during the reign of K'inich Janaab Pakal (Julian dates in brackets added):

9.11.6.2.1 [October 21, 658] Ruler 2 of Piedras Negras takes a ko'haw [headdress]

9.11.6.16.11 [August 7, 659] Capture of Pipa' lord and 5 others (Tabascans?) by Palenque

9.11.6.16.17 [August 13, 659] Arrival of Nuun Ujol Chaak of Santa Elena at Palenque

9.11.8.12.10 [May 7, 661] First accession of Moral king (aged 5)

9.11.9.8.6 [February 7, 662] Probable joint ceremony between Piedras Negras and Calakmul

9.11.9.8.11 [February 12, 662] Star War? against ? by Piedras Negras

9.11.9.8.12 [February 13, 662] Star War against Santa Elena by Piedras Negras

9.11.9.10.12 [March 25, 662] Nawaj of captive at Palenque

9.11.9.10.13 [March 26, 662] Nawaj of captive at Palenque

9.11.9.11.3 [April 5, 662] Second accession of Moral king (aged 6) yichnal Yuknoom Ch'een

9.11.10.16.7 [July 13, 663] Death of a Pipa' lord


Drawings of the House C Hieroglyphic Stairway.

At Mesoweb see Advanced Age Confirmed for Pakal at Palenque.

And for a further discussion of this ruler at Mesoweb see The Rulers of Palenque.