Chapter 22: The Monumental Message


1. Norman (1976:264) explained these as planetary, moon, or star symbols. I think the best interpretation is that they are zenith gnomons, given the symbolism of their associated Throne 1 and Stela 9. Though crudely formed, they will indicate the zenith sun by casting no shadows at high noon, observable over a range of three days at the latitude of Izapa (see Appendix 3).


2. Because of its orientation northward to the Tacana cleft, this glyph also may have a secondary meaning of "north" (as in polar north). This seems to be a statement of equivalence between zenith and north that, as we explored earlier, is a widespread Mesoamerican idea. As mentioned, Group B's northward orientation is to the Tacana cleft, the emergence place of the north. However, the monuments of Group B seem to primarily address the zenith. Again, this seems to indicate the conceptual synthesis of "polar north" and "zenith."


3. Norman (1976:105) rejects the interpretation that the lower part of Stela 8 depicts the legs of a frog or toad, because of the "uniqueness" of these legs. However, the feet on the toad carving on Altar 1 and Stela 8 are very similar. 


4. D. Tedlock (1985:330, 360).


5. Neither Lowe nor Norman concur with Jakeman on the meaning of Stela 5, though Jakeman is often quoted and Lowe speaks in places of "our Canaanite model" (Lowe et al. 1982:272).


6. Schele (1992b:152, 212); Kelley (1989:92).


7. Stela 1 seems to depict a rain invocation. Lifting the fish out of the southern ocean might have invoked a sympathetic magic or ritual process through which the rains over Tacana to the north were assured. The fish on Stela 1 also are seen on Stela 5, and Stelae 67 and 22 in Group F. Their "ringed" tails resemble the  breech-cloth design on Stela 20 and elsewhere, which in turn parallels the "bifurcated tongue" symbol (Norman 1976:122). The breech-cloth design on the abstract Stela 20 is a symbol of male power and rulership, and the Freudian parallel between tongue and penis should not go unmentioned, as it provides a rationale for this symbolic parallel when we recall that, in Maya ritual, blood was let through both the penis and the tongue. The ring-tailed fish may represent the self-sacrifice of the Hero Twins, an event found in the Popol Vuh (they became fish for five days) that serves as the necessary precursor to their rebirth as celestial deities (the sun and moon).


8. Robertson (1967).


9. M. Miller (1995).


10. The three-spot motif also reminds one of the Ahau glyph as well as the "howl" phenomenon mentioned earlier in relation to vision enemas. In addition, it resembles the three-spot "solar face" on the tail of the Crotalus d. snake species, a key motif in the Zenith Cosmology reconstructed in Part II.


11. B. Tedlock (1982, 1992).


12. Lowe et al. (1982:285).


13. Laughlin (1975:132).


14. Lowe et al. (1982:285).


15. Kelley (1976:36); Lowe et al. (1982:295).


16. Schele (1992b); Freidel et al. (1993).


17. Cordy-Collins (1982) illustrates splayed females from Ecuador in the so-called "hocker" position of birthing and compares them to Tlaltecuhtli and other Central Mexican Earth Mother images. She postulates migration of this symbol southward from Central Mexico into South America circa A.D. 500. Several abstracted "ball and crescent" images from Ecuador resemble the Izapan sky-clefts, especially on Stela 88, which I propose is a male-female symbol of fertilization, a symbol with a primary astronomical reference at Izapa (the 13-baktun cycle end-date). In comparison, Cordy-Collins describes the Ecuadoran "ball and crescent" images as representing solely the Earth Mother (1982:218). Also see Klein (1976a) and Wilbert (1974).


18. Parsons (1986:142-143) provides a "sketch map" of Kaminaljuyu. The majority of the ballcourts, some seven of them, are oriented to the southeast horizon, about 4° south of the December solstice azimuth. The remaining three ballcourts at the site are perpendicular to this orientation. Despite the slightly skewed orientation (and there may be inaccuracies in the rough map  used), one wonders if Kaminaljuyu imitated the earlier ritual-astronomical orientation of Izapa. Similarly, scholars have proposed direct Izapan influence in the founding of Copán (Aveni 1980). A detailed map of El Baúl shows a similar Izapan orientation of its ballcourt.


19. Wren (1995).


20. Freidel et al. (1993).


21. Izapa Stelae 22 and 67 both depict similar iconography involving a boat, a solar hero, and sky-ropes. The serrated edges on these depictions encircle the solar hero and are comparable to the "cosmic center" frame on the upper portion of Stela 8 in Group B, as well as to the serrated edge surrounding the crossband on Throne 1 in Group B. The serrated enclosure on Stela 22 thus may represent an Underworld portal or denote a cosmic center. The similarity between Stela 22 and Stela 67 suggests that the solar hero in "the middle" of the Milky Way canoe is in a cosmic center.


22. Norman (1976:272).


23. Schele (1992b, 1995b); Freidel et al. (1993).


24. This center-front position is comparable to the center-front glyph on Throne 1, which we identified as equivalent to the center or zenith direction in the cosmogram on Throne 1's top surface. This interpretation is reinforced by the overall symbolism of the zenith in the surrounding Group B monuments.


25. Klein (1976a).


26. In Tzutujil Maya time philosophy, kexoj is a concept of regeneration and renewal that operates on the collective spiritual level of humanity (see Jenkins 1994c).


27. Norman (1976:268).


28. As representative of the cosmic source and womb of creation, a male ruler's sexual identity is subsumed into his higher role as a birther and conjurer, which are normally female functions. Today, Quiché diviners speak of having a "spirit wife," and the highest level of shaman-priest daykeeper is a "mother-father."


See for sources