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Piedras Negras Ruler 2

? CHA:K ITZAM?-[K'AN]AHK, "? Rain God ?-Precious?-Turtle". Drawing, transcription, and translation after Martin and Grube (2008).


Maya ruler of Piedras Negras; also known as Itsamk'anahk the Second. Reigned AD 639-686.

Born: 9.9.13.4.1 6 Imix 19 Sotz' (May 22, 626).

Acceded: 9.10.6.5.9 8 Muluk 2 Sip (April 12, 639).

Died: 9.12.14.10.13 11 Ben 11 K'ank'in (November 15, 686).

Father: K'inich Yo'nal Ahk I.

Mother: Lady Bird Headdress.

Wife: Lady White Bird.

Son: K'inich Yo'nal Ahk II.

Monuments: Stelae 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38 and 39; Panels 2, 4 and 7; Throne 2; Misc. Stone 1?

This king acceded as a twelve-year-old in AD 639 (Martin and Grube 2008:143). Among his military achievements was a victory over Santa Elena in 662, when he was in his thirties (his captive on this occasion may have been a young noblewoman) (ibid.:143-144). He recorded another victory in 669 against a site whose name we can no longer read in the inscription on Stela 37 (ibid.:143).

The text of Panel 2 begins with the commemoration in 658 of the twenty-year anniversary of the death of Ruler 2's father, Yo'nal Ahk I (ibid.:143). Then comes the statement that Ruler 2 received a number of ko'haw helmets, a type of plated headdress associated with Teotihuacan (ibid.:143). This is juxtaposed with an identical event in 510, when the recipient of the helmets was Piedras Negras ruler Turtle Tooth, whose action is said to have been overseen by a foreign lord named Tajoom Uk'ab Tuun, who is designated the ochk'in kaloomte' (ibid.:141, 143). This high title conveys a legitimacy deriving originally from Mexico, and particularly Teotihuacan (ibid.:141).

The figural scene of Panel 2 shows six spear-bearing youths identified by captions as lords of Lacanha, Bonampak and Yaxchilan; they kneel before a Piedras Negras king and his heir (captioned Joy Chitam Ahk), who stands behind him (Martin and Grube 2000:144). The message conveyed by this scene is the depicted ruler's political domination of the upper Usumacinta region (ibid.:144). But which Piedras Negras king is portrayed—Ruler 2 or Turtle Tooth? Maya sculptural conventions would suggest the latter, since the feathers of the figure's headdress touch the glyphs of Turtle Tooth's name in the main text; but it is quite likely that Ruler 2 intended a parallel with Turtle Tooth beyond that by which they both took the ko'haw helmets (ibid.:144). Ruler 2 might well have claimed to be lording it over his region since the absence of inscriptions at Yaxchilan at this time suggests that it might have been suffering the domination of its rival (ibid.:144).

The heavily damaged Panel 7, found in debris on top of Pyramid K-5, may once have recorded the extension of Ruler 2's sway to include the kingdom of Hix Witz, centered on El Pajaral and Zapote Bobal; lords from this kingdom are depicted delivering tribute, and at least one political marriage seems to have been arranged (ibid.:144).

An inscription from a Piedras Negras satellite states that someone was "adorned" with Ruler 2's nuk ("pelt") and ko'how helmet; this action, which took place in 685, was overseen by a lord entitled aj baak ("He of Captives"), who is said to be in the service of Calakmul ruler Yuknoom the Great (ibid.:144). The implication that Ruler 2 might have been impacted by the extensive hegemony of Calakmul causes one to wonder about the full extent of Panel 2's intended parallels to Turtle Tooth; the possibility of a continuing (or recurring) subsidiary status to foreign overlordship is seen in the fact that in 723, Ruler 2's successor K'inich Yo'nal Ahk II enacted some ritual under the auspices of a lord whose identity is unknown due to the damaged condition of the inscription recording the event (ibid.:146).

Just two days before his death in November 686, Ruler 2 took pains to ensure an orderly succession by supervising a pre-nuptial rite for an adolescent princess named Lady K'atun Ajaw, who married his son a week later (ibid.:145). Ruler 2 seems to have attended the wedding ceremony, perhaps in the form of a mummy bundle; he was buried four days later (ibid.:145).

The foregoing is based on Chronicle of the Maya Kings and Queens by Simon Martin and Nikolai Grube (2008:143-146). Their sources include Stephen Houston et al. (1998) for the Hix Witz connection; David Stuart (in Fitzimmons 2006) for Hix Witz being identified with El Pajaral and Zapote Bobal; and David Stuart (1985b) for the death of Ruler 2. For the 685 event under the auspices of Calakmul, see the drawing of a "looted lintel from the El Cayo area" in Schele and Grube (1994c:168).


It can be reasonably inferred from K'inich Yonal Ahk II's Panel 15 that J-4 is the mortuary temple of his father, Ruler 2. The panel was found at the pyramid's base in 2000, where it had fallen or been pushed from a position higher up on the structure, by the Piedras Negras Project of Brigham Young University and the Universidad del Valle under the direction of Stephen Houston and Héctor Escobedo (Houston et al. 2000:103-105, Houston 2004:274). The panel may have originally been mounted high up on the base of the summit temple, where its huge dimensions (144 cm x 128 cm x 30 cm) would have made it visible from below and a veritable "billboard" for public display (Houston et al. 2000:103, 105).

As explained by Houston in the Piedras Negras Project's report on operations in 2000 (Houston et al. 2000:104-105), most of Panel 15's inscription is given over to the military achievements of Ruler 2. The text begins by giving his birthdate and naming him as the son of K'inich Yo'nal Ahk I and his queen. K'inich Yo'nal Ahk is referred to as a two k'atun ajaw. The text then gives the date of Ruler 2's accession.

Nine years later, on 9.10.15.7.6, 9 Kimi 14 Wo (April 1, 648), the twenty-one-year-old Ruler 2 captures a lord from a site the name of which cannot be read owing to erosion. Or, rather, the lord is captured by a lieutenant under the auspices of Ruler 2 (Itsamk'anahk in Houston's terminology):

This event does not seem to have been directly performed by him, since the statement of agency is a general one (YEHT?-te', "his companion"?). The same holds true for other capture or chuhkaj events on the panel. Most show Itsamk'anahk's participation, but of an indirect sort, since they employ the u-KAB-ji-ya expressions that denote broad supervision. (Most likely, a capture event followed by an u-B'A:K, "his captive," statement points to direct involvement in the capture.) (Houston et al. 2000:104)

Other captures occur sixteen years later on 9.11.12.5.13, 12 Ben 1 Muwan (November 30, 664) and again on 9.11.16.11.6, 5 Kimi 9 Pohp (March 2, 669). In between is a "star war" action on 9.11.16.7.14, 11 Ix 2 Pax (December 20, 668) that is highlighted by a rare second Initial Series in the middle of the text. Unfortunately neither the victim of this attack nor the sites from which the captives were taken can be identified due to erosion "in all the wrong places" (Houston et al. 2000:105).

Houston adverts to a pattern seen also with Stela 12, where captives are taken for Ruler 7 by sublords from La Mar. In the case of Panel 15 and Ruler 2:

The indirect nature of his involvement in the captures suggests that we are dealing with proxies, warriors engaged in skirmishes on behalf of the king, perhaps in border zones around the kingdom (Houston et al. 2000:105)

With regard to Panel 15's figural scene, Houston also makes a point that bears on Stela 12:

Coincidentally, the iconography on that monument, thought by many to be unusually innovative, clearly finds its origin in scenes such [as] that on Panel 15. In essence, the disposition of figures differs little from Stela 12: the central personage of the king grasps a feathered spear and is flanked by two standing lieutenants, the one to the right grasping a plain staff. Captives appear below in various attitudes of despair and entreaty. From an art historical perspective the emotive and highly individualized presentation of limbs and faces is intriguing, for it suggests that it is in depictions of captives that the Maya began to experiment with more plastic expressions of the human body (Houston et al. 2000:105)

Houston suggests that Panel 15's text probably culminates with an el naah ritual enacted by Ruler 2's son on the one-k'atun anniversary of his burial (before formally concluding with the next major Period Ending). Erosion makes it impossible to say for sure, but such a fire or incensario ritual in the re-entered tomb of a revered ancestor is recorded on Stela 1 on the twenty-year anniversary of Ruler 2's burial, on 9.13.14.11.1 (Houston et al. 2000:105, citing Fitzsimmons 1998). The context in which Ruler 2's son, K'inich Yo'nal Ahk II, set all eight of his stelae at the base of J-4 comes into focus:

Evidently, the pattern of stelae in front of Pyramid J-4 is much like the series in front of R-5. The stelae pertain not to the person buried within these buildings, but to their offspring, who commemorated their own successes and dynastic records in close proximity to an ancestral shrine of immediate, genealogical relevance to them (Houston et al. 2000:105).

Simon Martin (personal communication 2004) points out that Yonal Ahk II's account of his father's military exploits on Panel 15 omits events that are recorded on Ruler 2's own Stela 35, including a "star war" attack against Santa Elena on 9.11.9.8.12 (February 13, 662) that probably took place with Calakmul support or encouragement, since since it seems to have immediately followed a joint ceremony with that power on 9.11.9.8.6 (February 7, 662) in Piedras Negras. Martin speculates that Yonal Ahk might have suppressed this event in the account because Piedras Negras in his time was no longer beholden to Calakmul. The remaining outlines of the eroded name of the foreign lord under whose auspices Yonal Ahk enacts an event in 723 (as recorded on Piedras Negras Stela 8) do not match that of the Calakmul king at that time. (As for what other power might have subjected Piedras Negras, Martin suggests the hypothetical possibility of Palenque and its ruler K'inich Ahkal Mo' Nahb III. This king is known to have captured a sajal of Yonal Ahk, probably in 725, and his predecessor, K'inich K'an Joy Chitam II is mentioned on Stela 8.)