|Salaj B'olon 'Okib', Lord of 'Ux-te'-K'uh, from the west side of the recently discovered platform in Palenque's Temple XIX. (Photo: Mark Van Stone).|
Dept. of Archaeology, Univ. of Calgary
The prominent position occupied by a lord from a polity other than
Palenque on the new monument found by PARI/INAH's Proyecto Grupo de las
Cruces in Temple XIX is grounds for fascinating conjecture. The mystery
will be fully explained in the upcoming PARI monograph by Peter
Mathews, Marc Zender, Stanley Guenter and Armando Anaya, though a taste can be offered the readers of the PARI newsletter here.
The monograph is being prepared with a chronological framework, focusing on Palenque's foreign affairs and beginning with early defeats at the hands of Kalak'mul and her local allies Bonampak' and Piedras Negras. Into this situation was born K'inich Janahb' Pakal (sometimes referred to as Pakal the Great). As Peter Mathews recounts, defeats just before Pakal's birth were followed by others during his early childhood. A number of more senior heirs to the throne were killed. Even after Pakal's accession, Palenque was attacked by Piedras Negras, though Palenque succesfully reciprocated during the reign of Ahkal Mo' Nahb' III some years thereafter.
In the period immediately following Palenque's troubles, Tik'al was having difficulties of its own. Its ruler, Nuun U Hol Chajk (previously known as Nun Bak Chak) -- banished from Tik'al by Kalak'mul and her allies -- sought refuge at Palenque, as memorialized by Pakal in both the Temple of the Inscriptions tablets and the hieroglyphic stairway of House C in the Palace. With this great king and warlord at his side, Pakal took revenge to the east on Pomona and Piedras Negras, long-time allies of Kalak'mul. In coming years he expanded his kingdom to the west and north, his eyes on the westernmost of all Classic Maya cities, Comalcalco (anciently Hoy-Chan), conquered by his kinsman B'alam Ajaw of Tortuguero in December of 649.
The Palenque sphere was extended during Pakal's reign to embrace not only Comalcalco, but also the smaller, as yet archaeologically-unknown sites of Yompi, Ux-te'-K'uh and Peten-Ti'. Representatives of the former two polities appear on the south and west sides, respectively, of the new Temple XIX bench.
Stanley Guenter's contribution to the monograph concerns the eastern zone of the Palenque kingdom. Wars in the east feature attacks on Pomona by Pakal and his Tik'al allies, and from then on through much of her history Pomona was in the Palenque fold. Meanwhile Balancan-Morales was in the Kalak'mul sphere, as was Piedras Negras. Much later, during the twilight of the Palenque kingdom, there were devastating attacks on Pomona by Piedras Negras and her vassal, La Mar.
Palenque's later history can be said to hinge on the capture of Pakal's son, the ruler K'an Hoy Chitam II by K'inich B'aaknal Chajk of the rogue kingdom of Tonina. This was itself a reciprocal attack by Tonina for an earlier attack by Palenque, during which Kan B'alam had captured and possibly killed the previous Tonina king, father to K'inich B'aaknal Chajk. After a sizeable (ca. 10 year) interregnum, K'inich Ahkal Mo' Nahb' III acceded, and succesfully attacked Piedras Negras with the assistance of Yaxchilan, imposing tribute upon the hapless capital and hauling a number of her scribes and noblemen into captivity at Palenque.
Understanding the geography behind these references will be facilitated by Armando Anaya's important contribution to the monograph, the mapping of the Palenque kingdom. His ongoing work with Stan Guenter and Marc Zender in locating the lost cities of Sak-Tz'i', Yompi and Mopoy, all known from inscriptions but not yet found, and all of which played important parts in the history of the region, add a crucial, unifying geographic perspective to the predominantly historiographic and archaeological foci of the monograph.
The new finds in Temple XIX, then, are best seen in the context of the political and military exploits of Pakal, who died in 683 A.D. at the age of 80, having ruled 68 years. Though the sculptured platform in Temple XIX belongs to the early 8th-century, over fifty years later, the central presence of a lord of 'Ux-te-K'uh on the Palenque monument -- coupled with the possible presence of a lord known from the Yompi stela, Chan Ajaw, depicted on the south side of the platform -- suggests that the extended kingdom created by Pakal the Great and B'alam Ajaw lasted for over half a century, through the reigns of Kan B'alam II, the ill-fated K'an Hoy Chitam II, and even into the reign of the late Palenque ruler Ahkal Mo' Nahb' III.