Caracol Stela

At the site of Caracol,18 Belize, the Mayas erected a monument known to us as Caracol Stela 3 (see Figure 12.18). It contains a great deal of information about Mayan astronomy, integrated into the dynastic history of the site. Previous discussions of the astronomy of the monument are given in Kelley and Kerr (1973) and Kelley (1975, 1976, 1977a, 1983, 1990), but much remains to be learned, and more is now known of the glyphic context. The monument refers to two Caracol rulers, both of whose names incorporate star glyphs. The name of the first includes the glyph for god C, which Linda Schele (private communication to Kelley) has shown to be the head of a howler monkey (it was suggested some time ago that the head glyph of god C in the codices represented a monkey, but the evidence was far from clearcut). As shown previously, the god Mixcoatl and related Mayan gods are sometimes shown with monkey characteristics and Kelley has identified Mixcoatl with Jupiter. It is therefore interesting that in the Spinden correlation and in 663,310, suggested by Kelley, the birthdate assigned to "Monkey God Star" is a Jupiter conjunction. Kelley and Kerr (1973, p. 181) proposed that astronomical inscriptions among the Mayans might be recognized by any of five characteristics:

(1) The use of star glyphs, and other glyphs with previously defined astronomical associations, sometimes including Sun and Moon glyphs

(2) The use of a particular series of day names (DHK would now add month dates)

(3) The definition of known astronomical intervals by dates of a monument

(4) The calculation of dates with ranges far outside the historical period

(5) References to ceremonies or deities that normally recur in particular astronomical contexts

18 Unrelated to the building of the same name in Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico.

Figure 12.18. Stela 3 of Caracol, Belize, shows integration of Mayan astronomy and dynastic history. Photo by Peter Matthews and David H. Kelley.

Caracol Stela 3 shows star glyphs, repeated day names, repeated month dates, and known astronomical intervals. In 1973, that was enough to cause Kelley to reject a historical interpretation of the monument. Now, it seems clear that the monument is integrating historical and astronomical/ astrological data.

The people of Caracol, under Monkey-God-Star, conquered neighboring Naranjo and commemorated the conquest by building a hieroglyphic stair there that gives many of the same dates commemorated at Caracol. The structural reality of the phenomena given by the intervals between dates given on the monument may be readily seen in Table 12.17, which shows the dates from Caracol Stela 3 with the equivalent Julian day numbers and phenomena in the Spinden and Kreichgauer correlations and in 663,310. Perhaps the most remarkable of these are the two JupiterSaturn conjunctions. However, there are also Jupiter-Sun, Venus-Jupiter, Venus-Mercury, Venus-Sun, Mars-Venus, Mars-Mercury, and Mars-Sun conjunctions. Some planetary intervals that do not appear associated with conjunctions in the Spinden or 663,310 correlations do appear as such in other correlations. This monument should eventually have a key role to play in the correct solution of the correlation problem and in showing Mayan knowledge of astronomy.

Table 12.17. Caracol Stela 3 dynastic history and astronomy.

Maya date: LC

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