Eclipse References on Maya Pottery

A combination of the postulated 12 Lamat 1 Pop base with dates of mythicoastronomical events depicted on Maya pottery has allowed the recognition of a number of additional iconographic features associated with eclipses and has supported the postulated placement of the 12 Lamat 1 Pop base. Dates from these pots are shown in Table 12.11. The most clearcut example of these dates is given on the Princeton 16 vase (Coe 1978, p. 108). Here, we see a pair of gods, one of whom is one of the monkey gods, identified by Coe (1977) as the gods of writing. On a sort of scroll attached to the body of one of these gods appear the numbers; if read as an Initial Series date before the Maya era base, this would be 3 Imix 19 Yax. This date is four eclipse table lengths of 11,960 days after, 3 Imix 14 Ch'en, the postulated naming date of Three Crocodile, the pulque goddess, mentioned in Table 12.7b as a goddess of draconitic node passage. Like that date, a mean lunation interval would suggest an eclipse three or four days later on

7 Snake or 8 Death. Moreover, the interval from 3 Imix 19 Yax to the normal Maya era base, 4 Ahau

8 Cumku, is 31,539 days, an important eclipse interval. This interval is, in fact, that which separates the Thompson correlation (584,285) from the second Schove correlation (615,824) (cf., Schove 1980). It may be considered to be composed of two intervals of 11,960 days plus 7619 days.

The date of the Princeton 16 vase thus firmly ties the previously postulated 12 Lamat 1 Pop to the normal Maya era base. The buxom woman who appears associated with the rear head of the two-headed dragon is presumably some sort of Moon goddess, perhaps the goddess Three Imix. The rear head of the two-headed dragon is often shown with a Sun glyph and, for this reason, has often been directly associated with the Sun. However, this Sun glyph is often partly or completely cross-hatched, a normal way of indicating blackening or darkening in the inscriptions. The darkened Sun glyph appears at Palenque in a context in which DHK read it as "eclipse" (although this interpretation now seems unlikely) and partly on this basis, and partly on the basis of Eurasian parallels, he argued (Kelley 1972, pp. 56-57) that the rear head of the two-headed dragon stood for the descending draconitic node. Its presence on this pot

11 See §5.2.2 for the eclipse cycles, §2.3.5 for lunar periods.

would support that interpretation. Its further presence as a decapitated head being borne by the black god L is also in accord with that view, because decapitation seems to be a good iconographic marker of eclipses. The Muan owl flying about may be directly associated with the old black god with the pointed chin, for that is a form of the head of god L who frequently wears the Muan owl as a headdress. DHK regards him as the adult form of Xbalanke, who, as a youth, opposes the lords of the underworld and then takes their place to be opposed in turn by his youthful alter ego. His identity as Thirteen Death identifies him with Saturn (Table 12.7 and Kelley 1980, p. S18). This is verified for this pot by the fact that the interval of 48,013 days from 12 Lamat 1 Pop to 3 Imix 19 Yax is 5 days less than 127 mean synodic period intervals of Saturn, and these 127 Saturn intervals would coincide exactly with the mean eclipse interval of 48,013 days, resulting in an eclipse on 7 Snake or 8 Death.

There is still much to explain about the iconography of this beautiful pot, but there seems little doubt that eclipse imagery plays a central role. Table 12.11 shows the eclipse-related phenomena of the postulated 12 Lamat 1 Pop base, the protoeclipse table, the Dresden eclipse table, and a number of pots. The latter have been placed at what seem to be appropriate places in the "mythical time" realm between 12 Lamat 1 Pop and the Maya era. The Princeton 1 vase (Figure 12.13; Coe 1978, pp. 16-21) carries the calendar round date 8 Caban 5 Ceh and a complex scene with a man about to be decapitated, watched by a lord and ladies.

Placed in its first possible position after, it becomes Table 12.11 shows astronomical intervals near this date. The iconography corresponds absolutely. God L is marked by a Saturn conjunction. His five ladies are the sacrificial goddesses of the number 2; Coe suggests that they may correspond to the Aztec Cihuateteo whom DHK identified, in turn, as goddesses of the eclipse season interval. The rabbit scribe suggests by his book (huun) the number one (hun), and 1 Lamat or 1 Rabbit was the original lunar eclipse goddess. The executioners seem to be Venus and Mercury, and the victim is the young Sun god, Hun Hunahpu, or "one lord."

The decapitation motif with eclipses continues. On Princeton vase 4 (Figure 12.14), the twins demonstrate their prowess before the Lords of Death by cutting each other's heads off and then restoring them.

After doing this, they were asked by the lords to cut off and restore the lords' heads. The twins obligingly cut their heads off, but did not restore them. The date given with this scene is immediately after a mean solar eclipse (the 4th repetition of the eclipse cycle) and shows that Xbalanke here has been restored to life. Now the lord of death, here Jupiter, is about to come into conjunction with the Sun (i.e., be decapitated in his turn).

The association of ball games with eclipses is shown on the pots. The opposition of Deer (bearer of the sun in Mesoamerican mythology) and of a bird or birds, represen-tative(s) of the lords of death, is frequent on Maya pots (including those without dates, not considered here). On one pot, Hummingbird is shown playing for the Lords of Death.

Table 12.11. Astronomical identifications of dates on Maya pottery. 3 Imix 14 Ch'en Birth of goddess of draconitic node passage 12 Lamat 1 Muan base of the postulated proto-eclipse table


( 8 Caban 5 Ceh cf. eclipse 27 of prototable Princeton vase 1 Saturn, Mercury, Venus, Moon (3 Imix 19 Yax) Princeton vase 16

Saturn 8 Kan 7 Zip eclipse 45 of prototable 12 Lamat 11 Zip 4 Ahau 8 Cumku the usual Maya era base

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