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The hypothesis that Tonina refrained from immediately sacrificing K'inich K'an Joy Chitam II might seem unlikely on the face of it. That the Palenque king, who was sixty-seven years old when captured, survived ten years of torture or public humiliation might also seem improbable. But the argument is stronger to the extent that there was no likely dispute of the succession at Palenque to account for the protracted interregnum.


K'inich K'an Joy Chitam II's older brother had captured and possibly killed the previous Tonina king (Martin and Grube, 2000), and there would have been no more auspicious time for Tonina to exact its revenge than the period ending that occurred shortly after the capture of K'inich K'an Joy Chitam (Marc Zender and Stanley Guenter, personal communication, 1999). As for the chances of the captive ruler living to what in ancient Maya times would have been the ripe old age of 77 (torture aside), it should be pointed out that his father, Pacal the Great, lived to 80, and the first Palenque king named K'an Joy Chitam lived to seventy-six. As mentioned previously, there is precedent in the Maya world for a captor forbearing to kill his captive. A king of Seibal, captured in 735, is known to have lived on as a vassal of Dos Pilas. Shield Jaguar of Ucanal was publicly humiliated for 18 years by his Naranjo captors before they finally sacrificed him in 712 (Schele and Freidel, 1990).

Detail of Tonina stucco frieze. (Drawing: Linda Schele.)