Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Mayan Animal Hieroglyphic Glyphs of Fish

Figures of fish (Maya kai) occur commonly in the Maya codices in various connections as well as in the stone carvings, but none of these seems certainly identifiable. Among the representations, however, there are clearly several species. One (, figs. 2, 6, 7-9;  fig. 9) has a single dorsal fin, powerful teeth, and a generally ferocious aspect and may represent some large predacious variety, perhaps a tunny. The distinct operculum in most of the figures would preclude their representing a shark. Other figures picture similar fish without the prominent teeth ( fig. 4, 5;  figs. 2, 6, 10, 13). In two cases the scales are diagramatically shown by straight or crescentric lines (, fig. 4, 8). A third species of fish is shown provided with two dorsal fins ( figs. 3, 11; , fig. 6, the last an excellent stone carving). Others ( figs. 7, 14-17) represent fishes without dorsal fins, one of which (fig. 7) from its length may be an eel, possibly Muraena.

In the Nuttall Codex occurs a remarkable fish with an unmistakable wing arising just behind the head nearly at the dorsal line. While this may represent a flying fish (Exocetus), the head is so bird-like that the whole may be merely a combination figure.
Of frequent occurrence in the Dresden is a glyph, two modifications of which are here shown . figs. 4, 5). Stempell suggests that the vertical lines on the posterior portion of such figures may be gill slits and that hence they may represent sharks in which these orifices are without an operculum.
As with the molluscs, so with the fish, we naturally find them usually associated with the water. This may be seen especially well in the Nuttall Codex. In Dresden 33a ([308]fig. 13) the fish is clearly associated with the operation of fishing as two figures are seated on the edge of a body of water in the act of casting a net. An eel is shown in the water under god B in Dresden 65b ( fig. 7) and fish are shown just below the claws of a crocodile in text . In Dresden 44a god B holds a fish in his hands. As will be pointed out later (p. 314) this god is frequently associated with water. In Dresden 44c a fish appears between god B and an unidentifiable deity. In the Maya codices the greater number of representations of fish are in connection with sacrifice. In Dresden 27 ( fig. 6) the fish is pictured resting on two Kan signs, the symbol of maize or bread, and these in turn on a flat bowl. In Dresden 29b (, fig. 9) the fish is represented between the red and black numbers of the tonalamatl. Here again the fish is shown as an offering.

In two cases only do we find the fish used as a part of the head-dress and in each case the fish is graphically shown as held in the mouth of a heron. One of these is in the Dresden Codex 36b (, fig. 3) and one in the stone carving of the Temple of the Cross at Palenque (, fig. 5). Fish are often represented on the stone carvings as feeding upon a water plant. This is seen in the border at the bottom of the Lower Chamber of the Temple of the Tigers at Chichen Itza  figs. 2, 4; fig. 2). In several instances at Copan fish are shown as forming the sides of the Great Cycle glyph at the beginning of an Initial Series (figs. 14-17). It has often been suggested that as the word fish in Maya is kai (usually written cay), there may be some phonetic significance here, combining the fish, kai, with the usually drum-like sign for stone, tun, making kai tun or katun. This is the term usually given not to the Great Cycle but to the period composed of twenty tuns and is probably derived from kal meaning twenty and tun, a stone.