Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Mayan Animal Hieroglyphic Glyphs of Birds

Mayan Animal  Hieroglyphic Glyphs of Turkey  Birds

Herons (Ardea herodiasHydranassa tricolor ruficollis). Only a few water birds are shown in the Maya works. Several are found, however, that seem to picture herons ( figs. 1-7). The best of these (fig. 5), a carving from the west side panel of the Temple of the Cross at Palenque shows a crested heron standing on one foot and holding in its bill a fish. A second figure (fig. 1) is from the stucco ornament from the Palace, House B, at Palenque. It is less carefully executed, but seems to be a long-necked bird with a crest and outspread wings curiously conventionalized. In the Nuttall Codex there is another unmistakable heron , fig. 4) with the same general characteristics, though the crest is less prominent, here represented as a series of erectile feathers separated at their tips. This elongation of the crest seems to be carried still farther in what seems to be the head and neck of a heron from Dresden 37b ( fig. 3) with erectile feathers at intervals along its length.
The heron is seldom employed as a head-dress. In the Lower Chamber of the Temple of the Tigers at Chichen Itza, one of the warriors wears a bird head-dress  fig. 2), which from the length of the bill is probably made from a heron’s head, though the crest seems greatly exaggerated. The bas-relief on which this is found is strongly Nahua in feeling and execution. This head covering may indicate, according to the Nahua fashion, the tribe to which the warrior belongs. Again in Dresden 36a ( fig. 7), a man is shown wearing as a head-dress the head and neck of a heron that holds in its bill a fish. This head resembles very closely that of the heron in fig. 1. What appears to be a similar head is shown in fig. 6. It is interesting to note that the heron with a fish  from Palenque also forms a part of a complicated head-dress.
It is, of course, uncertain to which of the several herons occurring in Central America these representations refer. Possibly the Great Blue heron (Ardea herodias) or the Louisi[325]ana heron (Hydranassa tricolor ruficollis) is intended. It seems not unlikely also, that one of the white egrets may be shown as their crests are fairly conspicuous.
Frigate-bird (Fregata aquila). We have included here two figures  figs. 8, 9) that undoubtedly represent a single species of bird. It is characterized by a deeply forked tail and long beak, which has part way on its length, a circular object surrounded by a circle of dots. It seems still problematical what this object may be. In one figure (fig. 9), the beak is strongly hooked, in the other (fig. 8) it is straight, but as the latter is plainly a much more carelessly made drawing, we may infer that the hooked bill is more nearly correct. This would exclude the Terns (Sterna), to which Stempell has referred the figures. It seems probable that the frigate-bird (Fregata aquila) is the species intended, as this is not only a large conspicuous form on these coasts, but it has a long and strongly hooked beak and forked tail. The length of the beak would probably exclude from consideration, the swallow-tailed kite that also occurs in the region.
Both these birds are pictured, evidently as an offering or sacrifice. It is very seldom that the whole bird is represented in this connection, and still more infrequent to find anything but the turkey, which is the usual bird of sacrifice. The figure from the Dresden Codex (pl 15, fig. 9) rests upon the usual bowl or jar, that from the Tro-Cortesianus (pl 15, fig. 8) is pictured upon a grotesque animal head, three Kan signs and these upon the jar.
In the Tro-Cortesianus 20c, 21c, there occur several representations of man-like forms with very peculiar heads. The latter are each provided with a beak-like projection, on which appears the circle surrounded by dots noted above in connection with the frigate-bird. Brinton concludes that this mystic symbol is a representation of the curious knob on the bill of the male white pelican, and therefore identifies these curious figures as pelicans. Stempell follows Brinton in this, but considers that they are the brown pelican (P.[326] fuscus), since the white pelican is rare or casual, as far south as Yucatan. Unfortunately, however, for this supposition, the brown pelican lacks the curious knob that Brinton believed to be represented by the circle of dots. Moreover, this same sign occurs on the drawings of the bills of the frigate-bird and the ocellated turkey, and is evidently not of specific significance. To our minds it is doubtful if the figures under discussion are birds at all, and we are unable to assign them a name with any degree of confidence. A peculiar glyph occurs in connection with them which may be an aid to their ultimate identification. Brinton calls the glyph the “fish and oyster sign.”
Ocellated Turkey (Agriocharis ocellata). This turkey (Maya kuopen o with dot under) is an important species in the Maya economy, and is seen frequently in the manuscripts. This is a smaller bird than the more northern true turkey (Meleagris) and is characterized by the presence of curious erect knobs on the top of the naked head. These are shown in conventionalized form in the various figures , and afford a ready means of identification. On the bill of the bird shown in Tro-Cortesianus 10b , fig. 2) occurs again the curious symbol, a circle surrounded by dots, previously noted under the frigate-bird and pelican. It probably has some special significance. Other figures of ocellated turkeys show but little in addition to the points just discussed. One shown in  fig. 7, from Codex Vaticanus 3773, however, has a circular ring about the eye and the wattles are indicated as projections merely. In fig. 13, they are apparently shown as stalked knobs found elsewhere in connection with serpent head ornaments. It is only the head in this latter figure, which is considered in this interpretation.
In the Nuttall Codex, there frequently occur representations of a bird that was evidently used for sacrificial purposes. It is shown with erectile head feathers and a ring of circular marks about the eye ( or with concentric circles,  These figures are[327] not surely identifiable, but probably represent this turkey. Possibly they are the chachalaca (Ortalis vetula pallidiventris), a gallinaceous bird, commonly kept in semi-domestication in Mexico, whose bare eye ring and slightly erectile head feathers may be represented by the drawings. It is probable that this turkey is the bird represented frequently in the Maya codices as a bird of sacrifice. The head alone usually appears in this connection, among other places, in Dresden 34a , fig. 10), 41c (fig. 14), 29c (fig. 16), 28c (fig. 17), and in Tro-Cortesianus 12b fig. 11), 105b (fig. 12), 107b (fig. 15). In several of these places the head is represented as resting on one or more Kan signs, again meaning bread, as well as on the vessel or jar. In Dresden 26c  fig. 9), the whole turkey is pictured as an offering, as in the preceding case noted in Dresden 35a (fig. 9). The whole bird as an offering may also appear in Tro-Cortesianus 4a fig. 4) corresponding to the offering of venison and iguana on the following pages. This representation of the entire bird is very rare although the fish, when used as an offering, is always represented as a whole and the iguana is in most cases when used in the same connection. Landa (1864, p. 222) confirms the offering of the heads of birds with bread.
It is, however, the sacrifice of a bird, probably a turkey, by decapitating, that is especially interesting, as the operation as shown in the Dresden Codex 25c , 26c, 27c, 28c, in the rites of the four years, is described in full by Landa. In the codex, a priest is represented as holding in his hand before an altar, a headless bird. Landa (1864, pp. 212, 218, 224, 228) tells us that in the Kan, the Muluc,[328] the Ix, and the Cauac years, the priests burnt incense to the idol, decapitated a “gallina” (undoubtedly a turkey), and presented it to the god.