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Muwaan Mat

?-[MUWA:N]MAT. Drawing and transcription after Martin and Grube (20008).


Maya ruler of Palenque; also known as Lady Sak K'uk' and Lady Beastie. Reigned AD 612-615.

Acceded: 9.8.19.7.18 9 Etz'nab 6 Keh (October 19, 612).

The glyphic panels of the Temple of the Inscriptions record the following sequence of events. On April 4, 611, Palenque suffers a disastrous military defeat at the hands of Scroll Serpent of Kaan (and we know from another text that Palenque's king Ajen Yohl Mat dies sixteen months later, on August 8, 612) (Martin and Grube 2008:161). On October 19, 612, a new Palenque ruler named Muwaan Mat is enthroned (ibid.:161). On May 9, 613 occurs the major period ending of 9.9.0.0.0; and instead of the ceremonies which are said to have been performed on all such calendrical occasions in the rest of the inscription, the failure to honor the gods in ritual is explicitly recorded: at this juncture the text states, satay k'uhul ixik, satay ajaw, "lost is the divine lady, lost is the lord" (ibid.:161). The exact meaning may be obscure, but the sense is clearly mournful (ibid.:161). Just who was this acceding ruler Muwaan Mat?

The name is that of a mythological figure at Palenque, the mother of Palenque's trio of patron gods (ibid.:161). The supernatural Muwaan Mat was born in 3121 BC, seven years before the "zero date" of the Maya Long Count calendar and the beginning of the "current creation" (ibid.:159). Some three quarters of a millenium later this mythological figure brings forth the deities known as the Palenque Triad (ibid.:159). In 2305 BC, Muwaan Mat accedes with the title "Divine Lord of Matwiil"; this accession is said to have been unaah tal, "the first" (Martin and Grube 2000:159, 161). This suggests the possibility that the ancestral deity assumed the throne a second time in AD 612 as a metaphorical regent because Palenque's royal patriline was broken and the most legitimate human claimant to the throne, the future K'inich Janaab Pakal, was but nine years old (ibid.:161). Alternatively, the name Muwaan Mat cloaks the identity of a ruler that Palenque would have preferred to forget, such as a puppet installed by Kaan (Martin and Grube 2008:161).

It was formerly believed that the Muwaan Mat name in the inscription is a pseudonym for Pakal's mother, Lady Sak K'uk', who could quite conceivably have served as regent while her son came of age (the Palace Tablet shows her handing him the royal crown at his accession in 615) (ibid.:161). But this argument is invalidated by David Stuart's demonstration that the mythological Muwaan Mat is male (ibid.:161).

The foregoing is based on Chronicle of the Maya Kings and Queens by Simon Martin and Nikolai Grube (2000:159, 161, 2008:159, 161). Their sources include Linda Schele and David Freidel (1990) and Karen Bassie-Sweet (1991) for Muwaan Mat as a pseudonym for Lady Sak K'uk', and David Stuart (2005) for the gender of Muwaan Mat.


For a further discussion at Mesoweb see the chapter on Muwaan Mat in The Rulers of Palenque.