The story

Stela of Pairi

Stela of Pairi


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Chavín de Huántar

Chavín de Huántar is an archaeological and cultural site in the Andean highlands of Peru. Once thought to be the birthplace of an ancient “mother culture,” the modern understanding is more nuanced. The cultural expressions found at Chavín most likely did not originate in that place, but can be seen as coming into their full force there. The visual legacy of Chavín would persist long after the site’s decline in approximately 200 B.C.E., with motifs and stylistic elements traveling to the southern highlands and to the coast. The location of Chavín seems to have helped make it a special place—the temple built there became an important pilgrimage site that drew people and their offerings from far and wide.

At 10,330 feet (3150 meters) in elevation, it sits between the eastern (Cordillera Negra—snowless) and western (Cordillera Blanca—snowy) ranges of the Andes, near two of the few mountain passes that allow passage between the desert coast to the west and the Amazon jungle to the east. It is also located near the confluence of the Huachesca and Mosna Rivers, a natural phenomenon of two joining into one that may have been seen as a spiritually powerful phenomenon.

Over the course of 700 years, the site drew many worshipers to its temple who helped in spreading the artistic style of Chavín throughout highland and coastal Peru by transporting ceramics, textiles, and other portable objects back to their homes.

Model of the temple at Chavín de Huántar archaeological site. Peru, 900–200 B.C.E. (photo: Sarahh Scher, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The temple complex that stands today is comprised of two building phases: the U-shaped Old Temple, built around 900 B.C.E., and the New Temple (built approximately 500 B.C.E.), which expanded the Old Temple and added a rectangular sunken court. The majority of the structures used roughly-shaped stones in many sizes to compose walls and floors. Finer smoothed stone was used for carved elements. From its first construction, the interior of the temple was riddled with a multitude of tunnels, called galleries. While some of the maze-like galleries are connected with each other, some are separate. The galleries all existed in darkness—there are no windows in them, although there are many smaller tunnels that allow for air to pass throughout the structure. Archaeologists are still studying the meaning and use of these galleries and vents, but exciting new explorations are examining the acoustics of these structures, and how they may have projected sounds from inside the temple to pilgrims in the plazas outside. It is possible that the whole building spoke with the voice of its god.

Lanzón Stela, Building B, Chavín de Huántar (photo: Cyark, CC BY-SA 3.0)

The god for whom the temple was constructed was represented in the Lanzón (left), a notched wedge-shaped stone over 15 feet tall, carved with the image of a supernatural being, and located deep within the Old Temple, intersecting several galleries.

Lanzón means “great spear” in Spanish, in reference to the stone’s shape, but a better comparison would be the shape of the digging stick used in traditional highland agriculture. That shape would seem to indicate that the deity’s power was ensuring successful planting and harvest.

The Lanzón depicts a standing figure with large round eyes looking upward. Its mouth is also large, with bared teeth and protruding fangs. The figure’s left hand rests pointing down, while the right is raised upward, encompassing the heavens and the earth. Both hands have long, talon-like fingernails. A carved channel runs from the top of the Lanzón to the figure’s forehead, perhaps to receive liquid offerings poured from one of the intersecting galleries.

Detail of carving, Lanzón Stela, Building B, Chavín de Huántar (photo: Cyark, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Drawing of the Lanzon at Chavín de Huántar (Richard Burger and Luis Caballero)

Two key elements characterize the Lanzón deity: it is a mixture of human and animal features, and the representation favors a complex and visually confusing style. The fangs and talons most likely indicate associations with the jaguar and the caiman—apex predators from the jungle lowlands that are seen elsewhere in Chavín art and in Andean iconography. The eyebrows and hair of the figure have been rendered as snakes, making them read as both bodily features and animals.

Further visual complexities emerge in the animal heads that decorate the bottom of the figure’s tunic, where two heads share a single fanged mouth. This technique, where two images share parts or outlines, is called contour rivalry, and in Chavín art it creates a visually complex style that is deliberately confusing, creating a barrier between believers who can see its true form and those outside the cult who cannot. While the Lanzón itself was hidden deep in the temple and probably only seen by priests, the same iconography and contour rivalry was used in Chavín art on the outside of the temple and in portable wares that have been found throughout Peru

Nose Ornament, c. 500-200 B.C.E., Peru, North Highlands, Chavín de Huántar, hammered and cut gold, 2.3 cm high (Cleveland Museum of Art)

The serpent motif seen in the Lanzón is also visible in a nose ornament in the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art (above). This kind of nose ornament, which pinches or passes through the septum, is a common form in the Andes. The two serpent heads flank right and left, with the same upward-looking eyes as the Lanzón. The swirling forms beneath them also evoke the sculpture’s eye shape. An ornament like this would have been worn by an elite person to show not only their wealth and power but their allegiance to the Chavín religion. Metallurgy in the Americas first developed in South America before traveling north, and objects such as this that combine wealth and religion are among the earliest known examples. This particular piece was formed by hammering and cutting the gold, but Andean artists would develop other forming techniques over time.

Additional resources:

Richard L. Burger, Chavín and the Origins of Andean Civilization, London: Thames and Hudson, 1992.

RL Burger, “The Sacred Center of Chavín de Huántar” in The Ancient Americas: Art from Sacred Landscapes , ed. by RF Townsend (The Art Institute of Chicago, 1992), pp. 265-77.


Crime and Punishment

Along with the laws, the Code of Hammurabi also prescribes punishments for breaking them. Many feel harsh to us today: Death is a common sentence, whether for murder, robbery or failing to pay a mercenary. In some special cases, even the method of death is specified. Incest was punishable by burning, adulterous murder by impaling. Cutting off hands was another popular punishment if, for example, a son struck his father, or a field hand stole the crops they were tending. These punishments also include perhaps the most well-known of Hammurabi’s laws: the infamous “eye for an eye” dictate.

But such even-handed justice was not always the case. The punishments vary significantly in relation to the status of the criminal and the victim. If a physician accidentally kills a free man, for instance, the doctor’s hands will be cut off. If a physician kills a slave, however, they need only replace the slave. Similarly, if a free-born man strikes someone of equal rank, he must pay a penalty in gold. But if a slave strikes a free-born man, the slave’s ear must be cut off.

Women, too, dealt with more restrictive laws. If a woman neglected and left her husband, she might be cast into the water if a husband neglected his wife, his only punishment was that she could leave him. Men were also allowed to take another wife if their first wife bore them no children (though the law did stipulate that he must continue to care for her). But some protections for women did exist. If a wife became sick, the husband was forbidden from leaving her, for example and if a man divorced his wife, she had rights to some of his property in some cases.

Other laws established fair wages and terms for conducting business in ancient Mesopotamia. Prices for building houses, renting farm animals, hiring laborers, building boats, and more are laid out clearly. Punishments for poor work are also detailed — if a house should fall down and kill its owner, the builder would be killed, too. Or if a boat should leak, the shipwright must fix it at their own cost.


The Stela of Mesha

The Stela of Mesha: building inscription from ancient Moab, famous because it describes events from the history of Israel that are also described in the Bible.

In the first half of the ninth century BCE, Israel was a mighty kingdom. Its king Omri (884-873) owned at least two thousand chariots and even king Šalmaneser of Assyria admitted that Israel was a powerful enemy. Omri's son Ahab (873-852) brought the kingdom to even greater prominence.

However, king Hazael of Aram-Damascus defeated Ahab's son Jehoram, and a general named Jehu overthrew the dynasty of Omri. There is archaeological evidence that part of the kingdom's heartland was even occupied by Aramaean troops. At the same time, Moab, a vassal state of Israel, broke away from Israelite overlordship. Israel's fortunes were restored when the Assyrians attacked Aram-Damascus in 842, but Moab was lost.

Map of Israel, Judah, and other Iron Age Kingdoms

The story is told in the Bible, note [ 2 Kings 1.1, 3.4-27.] and was more or less confirmed by a Moabite inscription that was discovered by a German missionary in 1868 in Dhiban, the ancient Moabite capital Dibon. It records the building of Karchoh, which appears to have been a fortified quarter in the city. This was not without importance, because in the nineteenth century, many scholars had started to doubt the reliability of the Bible as source for ancient history. The stela in which king Mesha offers his view on the war against Israel was seen as an important argument against these skeptics.

To some extent, the inscription offers few surprises. The author of 2 Kings claims considerable Israelite successes the Moabite king Mesha makes the same claim. His victory, he says, is the result of support from the national god Kemoš, which was not a strange theological idea. The inscription also contained a reference to YHWH until now, this is the earliest occurrence of the name of the god in an inscription.

The Biblical tribe of Gad is also mentioned, but it is obvious that Mesha was unaware of a tradition in which Gad was regarded as one of the twelve tribes that had migrated to Canaan. Another difference between the account in the Bible and the story on the stela is that in 2 Kings , Mesha's opponent is Omri's grandson Jehoram, whereas the inscription speaks of a of Omri. This can, however, simply be explained, as the word "son" often meant "descendant".

After the French scholar Charles Clermont-Ganneau had made squeezes, the Arabs living in Dhiban destroyed the stela, which was about 1.24 meters high and 71 centimeters wide, because they believed that the black basalt stone had magic properties and could serve well as talisman to protect granaries. The fragments were recovered, however, and are now on display in the Louvre museum, in Paris the dimensions now are 1.15 x 0.60 meters.

The translation of the stela offered below is based on the surviving remains and Clermont-Ganneau's squeeze, and was adapted from a version by Klaas Smelik. The language closely resembles Hebrew.

[1] I am Mesha, the son of Kemoš-yatti, the king of Moab, from Dibon. My father was king over Moab for thirty years, and I was king after my father.

[2] And in Karchoh I made this high place for Kemoš [. ] because he has delivered me from all kings, and because he has made me look down on all my enemies.

[3] Omri was the king of Israel, and he oppressed Moab for many days, for Kemoš was angry with his land. And his son succeeded him, and he said - he too - "I will oppress Moab!" In my days he did so, but I looked down on him and on his house, and Israel has gone to ruin, yes, it has gone to ruin for ever!

[4] Omri had taken possession of the whole land of Medeba and he lived there in his days and half the days of his son, forty years, but Kemoš restored it in my days. And I built Ba'al Meon, and I made in it a water reservoir, and I built Kiriathaim.

[6] And the men of Gad lived in the land of Ataroth from ancient times, and the king of Israel built Ataroth for himself, and I fought against the city, and I captured, and I killed all the people from the city as a sacrifice for Kemoš and for Moab, and I brought back the fire-hearth of his Uncle from there, and I hauled it before the face of Kemoš in Kerioth, and I made the men of Sharon live there, as well as the men of Maharith.

[7] And Kemoš said to me: "Go, take Nebo from Israel!" And I went in the night, and I fought against it from the break of dawn until noon, and I took it, and I killed its whole population, seven thousand male citizens and aliens, female citizens and aliens, and servant girls for I had put it to the ban of Aštar Kemoš. And from there, I took the vessels of YHWH, and I hauled them before the face of Kemoš.

[8] And the king of Israel had built Jahaz, and he stayed there during his campaigns against me, and Kemoš drove him away before my face, and I took two hundred men from Moab, all its division, and I led it up to Jahaz. And I have taken it in order to add it to Dibon.

[9] I have built Karchoh, the wall of the woods and the wall of the citadel, and I have built its gates, and I have built its towers, and I have built the house of the king, and I have made the double reservoir for the spring, in the innermost of the city. Now, there was no cistern in the innermost of the city, in Karchoh, and I said to all the people: "Make, each one of you, a cistern in his house." And I cut out the moat for Karchoh by means of prisoners from Israel.

[10] I have built Aroer, and I made the military road in the Arnon. I have built Beth Bamoth, for it had been destroyed. I have built Bezer, for it lay in ruins.

[11] And the men of Dibon stood in battle-order, for all Dibon, they were in subjection. And I am the king over hundreds in the towns which I have added to the land.

[12] And I have built the House of Medeba and the House of Diblathaim, and the House of Ba'al Meon, and I brought there [. ] the flocks of the land.

[13] And Horonaim, the House of David lived in it. And Kemoš said to me: "Go down, fight against Horonaim!" I went down [. ] and Kemoš restored it in my days. And [. ] from there [. ]


The Dream Stela from Jebel Barkal (7th century BC) “The brood of weakness came out to fight His Majesty. His Majesty made a great bloodbath among them,so that one did not even know the number of the dead”,—full translation below.

Summary of events for people who don’t want to read the whole thing,the King of Kush,Tantamani is crowned and records that he has a dream where he was divinely inspired to kill the Assyrian puppet leader and garrisons in Lower Egypt and their Egyptian vassals and regain it for Kush. After his coronation,he sails north towards Egypt and does all of this by putting cities to siege and with some voluntarily submitting to him.

I thought this part in particular was pretty funny,don’t know why,when he was accepting some surrenders: “His Majesty went forth from his palace,just as the sun radiates from the horizon and he found them placed on their bellies,kissing and smelling the ground before him”.

Anyway,here’s the whole thing:

Sayeth Amun-Re to the King, lord of the thrones of the two lands, who resides in Karnak.

“I have given you all life and dominion”

“I have given you every land,all foreign countries gathered beneath your sandals forever”

His Majesty envisioned a dream in the night: two serpents, one on his right, the other on his left. His Majesty woke up but did not find them. [His Majesty] said “Why has this happened to me?” Then they (the courtiers) replied to him, saying, “The southern land is yours (already), (now) seize for yourself the northern land. The Two Ladies are apparent on your head, and the land shall be given to you in its breadth and its length, [there being none] other that shall share (it) with you.” When His Majesty appeared on the throne of Horus in this year, His Majesty came forth from the place where he had been, as Horus came forth from Khemmis. When he came forth from [---] millions came to him, and hundreds of thousands followed after him. His Majesty said, “Look, the dream is true! It is something beneficial for him who places it in his heart, (but) makes conditions bad for him who ignores it.” His Majesty went off to Napata, there being none who stood [in] his way. His Majesty arrived at the temple-compound of Amun of Napata, who resides in Gebel Barkal. His Majesty’s heart was happy when he saw (his) father Amun-Re, lord of the thrones of the two lands, who resides in Gebel Barkal, and garlands were brought to him for this god. Then His Majesty caused Amun of Napata to appear (in procession), and he made for him great offerings, and he presented him with 1 nb-jar, 36 bulls, as well as 40 ash-vessels and 100 shu-vessels of beer. His Majesty sailed downstream to the northern land to see (his) father. whose name is hidden (even) from the deities. His Majesty arrived at Elephantine (nome). Then His Majesty sailed across to Elephantine (city). He arrived at the temple-compound of Khnum-Re, lord of the Cataract,and caused that this god appeared (in procession). One (the king) made a great offering to him, he gave bread and beer to the deities of the Two Caverns, and he appeased Nun in his cave. His Majesty went downstream to the City, Dominion of Amun (Thebes). His Majesty sailed to the foremost (part) of Thebes. His Majesty entered the temple- compound of Amun-Re, lord of the thrones of the two lands. The servant of the ‘Great Foundation’ came out together with the hour-priests of the temple- compound of Amun-Re,lord of the thrones of the two lands, and they brought him garlands for he whose name is hidden. His Majesty’s heart was joyful when he saw this temple- compound. He caused Amun-Re, lord of the thrones of the two lands, to appear (in procession), and one created a great festival in the whole land. His Majesty sailed downstream to the northern land, while the western (bank) and the eastern (bank) expressed shouts of joy. They cried out, “Welcome in peace, your ka being in peace, to make the two lands live,to restore the temples that are fallen into ruin, to (re)establish their (cult)images to their (former) condition, to give endowments to the gods and goddesses and funeral offerings to the spirits of the transfigured dead,to put the wab-priest in his place, (and) to deal with everything concerning the god.” Those whose hearts wanted to fight, they turned into rejoicing.

His Majesty arrived at Memphis. The brood of weakness came out to fight His Majesty. His Majesty made a great blood bath among them, (so that) one did not know the number (of the dead). After His Majesty seized Memphis, he entered the temple-compound of 18. Ptah-south-of-his-wall, made an offering to his (father) Ptah-Sokar, and appeased Sakhmet with what she desires. His Majesty’s heart wished to make monuments for (his) father, Amun of Napata, and made a decree about it (and sent it) to bow land to build for him a new porch that one has not found being built since the time of the ancestors. His Majesty caused that one may build it in stone, one may overlay (it) with gold,its beams being of cedar wood, one may cense(it) with myrrh of Punt, the double doors thereof being of electrum, (and) the two doorbolt being of copper. He (also) built for him another porch for going outside to produce his (Amun’s) milk from his many herds, being tens of thousands, thousands, hundreds, and tens, without knowing the number of all yearling calves of their mothers. Thereafter His Majesty sailed downstream to fight the chiefs of the northern land.Then they went inside their walls like rats into their holes. So His Majesty spent many days because of them, without a single one of them coming out to fight His Majesty.

His Majesty sailed upstream to White-wall (Memphis) and rested in his palace, while conceiving of a plan with his heart, through which his army could go around the embankments. Then, indeed, [---] said, one came to report to him, saying, “These chiefs have come to the place where His Majesty is, O [sovereign], our lord.” Then His Majesty said, “Have they come to fight? (Or) have they come to serve (me)? (If the latter) I [will cause that] they shall live from this moment.” Then they said before His Majesty, “They have come to serve, O sovereign, our lord.” Then His Majesty said, “(My) lord is with me, this noble god, Amun-Re, lord of the thrones of the two lands, who resides in Gebel Barkal, the great god, the perfect one, whose name is known, who is watchful over him whom he loves, who gives bravery to him who is loyal to him, without misleading him who is under his governance, without leading astray him whom he leads. See, what he says to me by night,I shall see by day.” Then His Majesty said, “Where are they at the moment?” Then they said before His Majesty, “They are here, standing at the gate.” His Majesty went forth from his palace [---] just like Re radiates from the horizon. He found them placed on their bellies, kissing and smelling the ground before him. Then His Majesty said, “Look, it is true what he said [---] about me, and [---] happened. It was the decree of the god that it should happen. As Re lives for me and loves me, as Amun praises me in his temple, as I saw this noble god, Amun of Napata, who resides in Gebel Barkal, when he was standing by me, he said to me, ‘(I) guide you on every road, without your saying, ‘I wish I had assistance!’ I shall foretell you tomorrow before it has [arrived]. I am like the Majesty(?) over Fate. [---] a craftsman who knows about the fate of His Majesty. There will not [---] worship me. Your victories will come.’ ” Then they answered him, saying, “See, this god,he has foretold you the beginning, and he has brought about a good [ending] for you. See, the god does not take back what has come forth from his mouth, O sovereign, our lord.” The hereditary prince and count of House-of-Soped (Saft el-Henneh), Paqruru, rose up to speak, and said, “You kill whom you will, and (you) let live whom you will, (for) no one will reproach a lord because of a just deed.” Then they replied to him in unison, saying, “Give us life, O lord of life, (for) there is no life without you. Let us serve you like those who are without anything, as you said concerning it on the first occasion, (on) the day when you became king.” Then His Majesty’s heart was joyful after he heard this speech, and he gave them bread, beer, and every good thing. Now, when some days had passed after this, they placed themselves on their bellies [-] and said, “What are we doing here, O sovereign, our lord?” Then His Majesty spoke, saying, “What (do you mean)?” Then they said before His Majesty, “Let us go to our cities that we may command (our) subjects and bring our dues to the Residence.” So His Majesty (caused that) they may go back) to their cities. Then they were as those who (truly) live. (And from that time on) the southerners have been sailing downstream, the northerners upstream, to the place where His Majesty is, with every good thing of the southern land and every (kind of) provision of the northern land, to satisfy His Majesty’s heart while the king of Upper and Lower Egypt: Ba-Ka-Re, son of Re: Tanutamani, may he live, be prosperous, and healthy, appears upon the throne of Horus for ever!


Fall of Judah & Babylonian exile

Ultimately, it wasn't the Assyrian Empire that destroyed Judah. Nearly a century after Sennacherib's unsuccessful siege of Jerusalem, a Babylonian king named Nebuchadnezzar II conquered much of Assyria's former empire and laid siege to Jerusalem, taking the city in 587 B.C., destroying the First Temple (along with much of the rest of the Jerusalem) and deporting many of Judah's inhabitants to Babylonia. Both the Hebrew Bible and cuneiform tablets written in Nebuchadnezzar II's time tell of the events that took place.

The fate of the Ark of the Covenant, which contained tablets recording the 10 Commandments, is unknown. Some ancient writers say the ark was brought back to Babylon, while other suggest that it was hidden away. In the millennia after the destruction of the First Temple a number of stories were spun telling tales of the location of the lost Ark.

In recent years, a number of cuneiform tablets have emerged from Iraq revealing details of the lives of Jewish deportees who lived at a village called Āl-Yahūdu which means the "village of Judea." Many of the tablets were purchased by private collectors on the antiquities market, raising concerns that some of the tablets may have been recently looted.

The tablets were "written by Babylonian scribes on behalf of the Judean families that lived in and around Āl-Yahūdu," wrote Kathleen Abraham, a professor at the University of Leuven in Belgium, in a paper she wrote for an exhibition catalog, "Light and Shadows: The Story of Iran and the Jews" (Beit Hatfutsot, 2011).

The "tablets show that the exiles and their descendants had, at least to some extent, adopted the local language, script and legal traditions of Babylonia a relatively short time after their arrival there," wrote Abraham.

The Babylonians were eventually conquered by the Persian Empire, and the Persian king Cyrus the Great (died ca. 530 B.C.) gave the Jews permission to return to Jerusalem.


Discovery of stone monument at El Perú-Waka' adds new chapter to ancient Maya history

Stone-carved representation of Maya King Chak Took Ich’aak (Red Spark Claw) who died in 556 AD. Credit: Francico Castaneda courtesy of Proyecto Arqueológico el Perú-Waka´y Pacunam.

Archaeologist tunneling beneath the main temple of the ancient Maya city of El Perú-Waka' in northern Guatemala have discovered an intricately carved stone monument with hieroglyphic text detailing the exploits of a little-known sixth-century princess whose progeny prevailed in a bloody, back-and-forth struggle between two of the civilization's most powerful royal dynasties, Guatemalan cultural officials announced July 16.

"Great rulers took pleasure in describing adversity as a prelude to ultimate success," said research director David Freidel, PhD, a professor of anthropology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis. "Here the Snake queen, Lady Ikoom, prevailed in the end."

Freidel, who is studying in Paris this summer, said the stone monument, known officially as El Perú Stela 44, offers a wealth of new information about a "dark period" in Maya history, including the names of two previously unknown Maya rulers and the political realities that shaped their legacies.

"The narrative of Stela 44 is full of twists and turns of the kind that are usually found in time of war but rarely detected in Precolumbian archaeology," Freidel said.

"The information in the text provides a new chapter in the history of the ancient kingdom of Waka' and its political relations with the most powerful kingdoms in the Classic period lowland Maya world."

Carved stone monuments, such as Stela 44, have been unearthed in dozens of other important Maya ruins and each has made a critical contribution to the understanding of Maya culture.

Freidel says that his epigrapher, Stanley Guenter, who deciphered the text, believes that Stela 44 was originally dedicated about 1450 years ago, in the calendar period ending in 564 AD, by the Wak dynasty King Wa'oom Uch'ab Tzi'kin, a title that translates roughly as "He Who Stands Up the Offering of the Eagle."

After standing exposed to the elements for more than 100 years, Stela 44 was moved by order of a later king and buried as an offering inside new construction that took place at the main El Perú-Waka' temple about 700 AD, probably as part of funeral rituals for a great queen entombed in the building at this time, the research team suggests.

El Perú-Waka' is about 40 miles west of the famous Maya site of Tikal near the San Pedro Martir River in Laguna del Tigre National Park. In the Classic period this royal city commanded major trade routes running north to south and east to west.

Freidel has directed research at this site in collaboration with Guatemalan and foreign archaeologists since 2003. At present, Lic. Juan Carlos Pérez Calderon is co-director of the project and Olivia Navarro Farr, an assistant professor at the College of Wooster in Ohio, is co-principal investigator and long term supervisor of work in the temple, known as Structure M13-1. Gautemalan archaeologist Griselda Perez discovered Stela 44 in this temple.

Map of the Maya World. Credit: Keith Eppich.

The project carries out research under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture and Sports of Guatemala and its Directorate for Cultural and Natural Patrimony, the Council for Protected Areas, and it is sponsored by the Foundation for the Cultural and Natural Patrimony (PACUNAM) and the US Department of the Interior.

Early in March 2013, Pérez was excavating a short tunnel along the centerline of the stairway of the temple in order to give access to other tunnels leading to a royal tomb discovered in 2012 when her excavators encountered Stela 44.

Once the texts along the side of the monument were cleared, archaeologist Francisco Castaneda took detailed photographs and sent these to Guenter for decipherment.

Guenter's glyph analysis suggests that Stela 44 was commissioned by Wak dynasty King Wa'oom Uch'ab Tzi'kin to honor his father, King Chak Took Ich'aak (Red Spark Claw), who had died in 556 AD. Stela 44's description of this royal father-son duo marks the first time their names have been known to modern history.

Researchers believe that Lady Ikoom was one of two Snake dynasty princesses sent into arranged marriages with the rulers of El Perú-Waka' and another nearby Maya city as a means of cementing Snake control over this region of Northern Guatemala.

Lady Ikoom was a predecessor to one of the greatest queens of Classic Maya civilization, the seventh-century Maya Holy Snake Lord known as Lady K'abel who ruled El Perú-Waka' for more than 20 years with her husband, King K'inich Bahlam II. She was the military governor of the Wak kingdom for her family, the imperial house of the Snake King, and she carried the title "Kaloomte," translated as "Supreme Warrior," higher in authority than her husband, the king.

Around 700 AD, Stela 44 was brought to the main city temple by command of King K'inich Bahlam II to be buried as an offering, probably as part of the funeral rituals for his wife, queen Kaloomte' K'abel.

Last year, the project discovered fragments of another stela built into the final terrace walls of the city temple, Stela 43, dedicated by this king in 702 AD. Lady Ikoom is given pride of place on the front of that monument celebrating an event in 574. She was likely an ancestor of the king.

Freidel and colleagues discovered Lady K'abel's tomb at the temple in 2012. Located near K'abel's tomb, Stela 44 was set in a cut through the plaster floor of the plaza in front of the old temple and then buried underneath the treads of the stairway of the new temple.

Maya Snake queen Lady Ikoom as depicted on Stela 44. Credit: Francico Castaneda courtesy of Proyecto Arqueológico el Perú-Waka´y Pacunam.

Stela 44 was originally raised in a period when no stelae were erected at Tikal, a period of more than a century called The Hiatus from 557 until 692 AD. This was a turbulent era in Maya history during which there were many wars and conquests. Tikal's hiatus started when it was defeated in battle by King Yajawte' K'inich of Caracol in Belize, probably under the auspices of the Snake King Sky Witness. The kingdom of Waka' also experienced a hiatus that was likely associated with changing political fortunes but one of briefer duration from 554 to 657 AD. That period is now shortened by the discovery of Stela 44.

The front of the stela is much eroded, no doubt from more than a century of exposure, but it features a king standing face forward cradling a sacred bundle in his arms. There are two other stelae at the site with this pose, Stela 23 dated to 524 and Stela 22 dated to 554, and they were probably raised by King Chak Took Ich'aak. The name Chak Took Ich'aak is that of two powerful kings of Tikal and it is likely that this king of Waka' was named after them and that his dynasty was a Tikal vassal at the time he came to the throne, the research team suggests.

The text describes the accession of the son of Chak Took Ich'aak, Wa'oom Uch'ab Tzi'kin, in 556 AD as witnessed by a royal woman Lady Ikoom who was probably his mother. She carries the titles Sak Wayis, White Spirit, and K'uhul Chatan Winik, Holy Chatan Person. These titles are strongly associated with the powerful Snake or Kan kings who commanded territories to the north of El Perú-Waka', which makes it very likely that Lady Ikoom was a Snake princess, Guenter argues.

A new queen, Lady Ikoom, also is featured in the text and she was important to the king who recovered this worn stela and used it again.

"We infer that sometime in the course of his reign King Chak Took Ich'aak changed sides and became a Snake dynasty vassal," Freidel said. "But then, when he died and his son and heir came to power, he did so under the auspices of a foreign king, which Guenter argues from details is the reigning king of Tikal. So Tikal had reasserted command of Waka' and somehow Queen Ikoom survived this imposition.

Maya Snake queen Lady Ikoom as represented on Stela 43. Credit: Francico Castaneda courtesy of Proyecto Arqueológico el Perú-Waka´y Pacunam.

"Then in a dramatic shift in the tides of war that same Tikal King, Wak Chan K'awiil, was defeated and sacrificed by the Snake king in 562 AD. Finally, two years after that major reversal, the new king and his mother raised Stela 44, giving the whole story as outlined above."

Stela 44's tales of political intrigue and bloodshed are just a few of the many dramatic stories of Classic Maya history that have been recovered through the decipherment of Maya glyphs, a science that has made great strides in the last 30 years, Freidel said.

Freidel and his project staff will continue to study Stela 44 for more clues about the nuances of Maya history. While the text on Stela 44 is only partially preserved, it clearly reveals an important moment in the history of Waka', he concludes.


Start

Artifact: Stone stele
Provenience: Susa, modern Shush
Period: Late Old Babylonian Period (ca 1800-1595 BC)
Current location: Louvre Museum, Paris
Text genre, language: Royal inscription, legal Akkadian
CDLI page

Description: The stela of Hammurabi, now housed in the Louvre Museum, was found in Susa, where it was carried off by Šutruk-Nuḫḫunte after the sack of Babylon in 1155. It was composed much earlier during the last part of the reign of the King Hammurabi (1792-1750). The basalt stela records 282 legal provisions that deal with a range of cases, including those that involve economic transactions, loans, robbery and theft, negligence, marriage, and inheritance, among others. The overwhelming majority of the law provisions are expressed using the casuistic formula, where the protasis presents the circumstances of a legal case, and the apodosis presents the appropriate legal response to the case. The text of the laws are set within a larger prologue and epilogue, which are written in the hymnic-epic dialect and which reveal key aspects of kingship, particularly the king's commitment to justice. The top portion of the stela depicts King Hammurabi receiving the laws from Šamaš, the god of justice, along with a ring and a rod, two symbols of law and justice. (Moudhy al-Rashid, University of Oxford)

Lineart: Bergmann, E. 1953: Codex Hammurabi: textus primigenius (Rome: Scripta Pontificii Instituti Biblici 51). See also Borger, R. 2006: Babylonische-Assyrische Lesestücke, vol 2 (Rome: Editrice Pontificio Instituto Biblico), 286-314.

Edition(s): Roth, M. T. 1997: 'Laws of Hammurabi (LH) (ca. 1750 B.C.E., Babylon)', Law Collections from Mesopotamia and Asia Minor, 2nd ed. (SBL Writings from the Ancient World 6 / Atlanta: Scholars Press), 71-142.

Bibliography: Charpin, D. 2003: Hammurabi de Babylone (Paris: Presses universitaires de France) Roth, M. T. 1997: Law Collections from Mesopotamia and Asia Minor, 2nd ed. (SBL Writings from the Ancient World 6 / Atlanta: Scholars Press) Van De Mieroop, M. 2004: King Hammurabi of Babylon: A biography (Oxford: Blackwell) Westbrook, R., ed. 2003: A History of Ancient Near Eastern Law (Leiden: Brill).


Discovery of stone monument adds new chapter to ancient Maya history: New World 'Cleopatra story' waits 1,000 years to be retold

Archaeologists tunneling beneath the main temple of the ancient Maya city of El Perú-Waka' in northern Guatemala have discovered an intricately carved stone monument with hieroglyphic text detailing the exploits of a little-known sixth-century princess whose progeny prevailed in a bloody, back-and-forth struggle between two of the civilization's most powerful royal dynasties, Guatemalan cultural officials announced July 16.

"Great rulers took pleasure in describing adversity as a prelude to ultimate success," said research director David Freidel, PhD, a professor of anthropology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis. "Here the Snake queen, Lady Ikoom, prevailed in the end."

Freidel, who is studying in Paris this summer, said the stone monument, known officially as El Perú Stela 44, offers a wealth of new information about a "dark period" in Maya history, including the names of two previously unknown Maya rulers and the political realities that shaped their legacies.

"The narrative of Stela 44 is full of twists and turns of the kind that are usually found in time of war but rarely detected in Precolumbian archaeology," Freidel said.

"The information in the text provides a new chapter in the history of the ancient kingdom of Waka' and its political relations with the most powerful kingdoms in the Classic period lowland Maya world."

Carved stone monuments, such as Stela 44, have been unearthed in dozens of other important Maya ruins and each has made a critical contribution to the understanding of Maya culture.

Freidel says that his epigrapher, Stanley Guenter, who deciphered the text, believes that Stela 44 was originally dedicated about 1450 years ago in the calendar period ending in 564 AD by the Wak dynasty King Wa'oom Uch'ab Tzi'kin, a title that translates roughly as "He Who Stands Up the Offering of the Eagle."

After standing exposed to the elements for more than 100 years, Stela 44 was moved by order of a later king and buried as an offering inside new construction that took place at the main El Perú-Waka' temple about 700 AD, probably as part of funeral rituals for a great queen entombed in the building at this time, the research team suggests.

El Perú-Waka' is about 40 miles west of the famous Maya site of Tikal near the San Pedro Martir River in Laguna del Tigre National Park. In the Classic period this royal city commanded major trade routes running north to south and east to west.

Freidel has directed research at this site in collaboration with Guatemalan and foreign archaeologists since 2003. At present, Lic. Juan Carlos Pérez Calderon is co-director of the project and Olivia Navarro Farr, an assistant professor at the College of Wooster in Ohio, is co-principal investigator and long term supervisor of work in the temple, known as Structure M13-1. Gautemalan archaeologist Griselda Perez discovered Stela 44 in this temple.

The project carries out research under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture and Sports of Guatemala and its Directorate for Cultural and Natural Patrimony, the Council for Protected Areas, and it is sponsored by the Foundation for the Cultural and Natural Patrimony (PACUNAM) and the US Department of the Interior.

Early in March 2013, Pérez was excavating a short tunnel along the centerline of the stairway of the temple in order to give access to other tunnels leading to a royal tomb discovered in 2012 when her excavators encountered Stela 44.

Once the texts along the side of the monument were cleared, archaeologist Francisco Castaneda took detailed photographs and sent these to Guenter for decipherment.

Guenter's glyph analysis suggests that Stela 44 was commissioned by Wak dynasty King Wa'oom Uch'ab Tzi'kin to honor his father, King Chak Took Ich'aak (Red Spark Claw), who had died in 556 AD. Stela 44's description of this royal father-son duo marks the first time their names have been known to modern history.

A new queen, Lady Ikoom, also is featured in the text and she was important to the king who recovered this worn stela and used it again.

Researchers believe that Lady Ikoom was one of two Snake dynasty princesses sent into arranged marriages with the rulers of El Perú-Waka' and another nearby Maya city as a means of cementing Snake control over this region of Northern Guatemala.

Lady Ikoom was a predecessor to one of the greatest queens of Classic Maya civilization, the seventh-century Maya Holy Snake Lord known as Lady K'abel who ruled El Perú-Waka' for more than 20 years with her husband, King K'inich Bahlam II. She was the military governor of the Wak kingdom for her family, the imperial house of the Snake King, and she carried the title "Kaloomte," translated as "Supreme Warrior," higher in authority than her husband, the king.

Around 700 AD, Stela 44 was brought to the main city temple by command of King K'inich Bahlam II to be buried as an offering, probably as part of the funeral rituals for his wife, queen Kaloomte' K'abel.

Last year, the project discovered fragments of another stela built into the final terrace walls of the city temple, Stela 43, dedicated by this king in 702 AD. Lady Ikoom is given pride of place on the front of that monument celebrating an event in 574. She was likely an ancestor of the king.

Freidel and colleagues discovered Lady K'abel's tomb at the temple in 2012. Located near K'abel's tomb, Stela 44 was set in a cut through the plaster floor of the plaza in front of the old temple and then buried underneath the treads of the stairway of the new temple.

Stela 44 was originally raised in a period when no stelae were erected at Tikal, a period of more than a century called The Hiatus from 557 until 692 AD. This was a turbulent era in Maya history during which there were many wars and conquests. Tikal's hiatus started when it was defeated in battle by King Yajawte' K'inich of Caracol in Belize, probably under the auspices of the Snake King Sky Witness. The kingdom of Waka' also experienced a hiatus that was likely associated with changing political fortunes but one of briefer duration from 554 to 657 AD. That period is now shortened by the discovery of Stela 44.

The front of the stela is much eroded, no doubt from more than a century of exposure, but it features a king standing face forward cradling a sacred bundle in his arms. There are two other stelae at the site with this pose, Stela 23 dated to 524 and Stela 22 dated to 554, and they were probably raised by King Chak Took Ich'aak. The name Chak Took Ich'aak is that of two powerful kings of Tikal and it is likely that this king of Waka' was named after them and that his dynasty was a Tikal vassal at the time he came to the throne, the research team suggests.

The text describes the accession of the son of Chak Took Ich'aak, Wa'oom Uch'ab Tzi'kin, in 556 AD as witnessed by a royal woman Lady Ikoom who was probably his mother. She carries the titles Sak Wayis, White Spirit, and K'uhul Chatan Winik, Holy Chatan Person. These titles are strongly associated with the powerful Snake or Kan kings who commanded territories to the north of El Perú-Waka', which makes it very likely that Lady Ikoom was a Snake princess, Guenter argues.

"We infer that sometime in the course of his reign King Chak Took Ich'aak changed sides and became a Snake dynasty vassal," Freidel said. "But then, when he died and his son and heir came to power, he did so under the auspices of a foreign king, which Guenter argues from details is the reigning king of Tikal. So Tikal had reasserted command of Waka' and somehow Queen Ikoom survived this imposition.

"Then in a dramatic shift in the tides of war that same Tikal King, Wak Chan K'awiil, was defeated and sacrificed by the Snake king in 562 AD. Finally, two years after that major reversal, the new king and his mother raised Stela 44, giving the whole story as outlined above."

Stela 44's tales of political intrigue and bloodshed are just a few of the many dramatic stories of Classic Maya history that have been recovered through the decipherment of Maya glyphs, a science that has made great strides in the last 30 years, Freidel said.

Freidel and his project staff will continue to study Stela 44 for more clues about the nuances of Maya history. While the text on Stela 44 is only partially preserved, it clearly reveals an important moment in the history of Waka', he concludes.


Watch the video: Stella celi (June 2022).