Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Mayan Animal Hieroglyphic Glyphs of Reptiles

Serpent. It would be impossible in the present paper to enter into any lengthy discussion of the use of the serpent (Maya kan) in Mexico and Central America. It seems to be one of the main elements in the religion and consequently in the art of the Mayas and Mexican peoples. It is represented again and again in many forms and varied combinations. It underlies the whole general trend of Maya art. The serpent is often associ[311]ated with feathers. The culture hero of the Nahuas, Quetzalcoatl (feathered serpent) corresponds to a similar god among the Mayas, Kukulcan (also meaning feathered serpent). The feathers of the quetzal are the ones commonly used in connection with the serpent.
Any attempt at identification of the species represented is beset by grave difficulties for so conventionalized have the figures often become that, except in the case of the rattlesnake with its rattles, there are no characteristic marks by which the species may be known. It is natural to suppose that the species used for artistic purposes would be those that are most noteworthy because of their size, coloring, or venomous qualities. No doubt a number of harmless species were also used in the religious ceremonies. Such may be those used as hair ornaments in many of the figures (pl 8, figs. 7-13, 15) and in which no indication of a rattle is to be seen. The fierce eye of these reptiles is shown by means of an exaggerated overhanging brow occasionally embellished by recurved crests (-pl 8 figs. 10, 11, 13, 15). These crests are sometimes shown as two or three stalked knobs (pl 10 fig. 7) that Stempell was misled into identifying as the eyes of snails. Various heads of snakes usually with fangs exposed and tongue protruding are pictured in[312] Pl 8 figs. 4, 6 figs. 2, 4-6: one snake with a spiny back is shown in, fig. 5, but obviously it represents merely the artist’s endeavor to present as terrifying a creature as possible.
Various types of rattlesnakes are shown in Pl 9The presence of the rattle is of course the characteristic, and this portion alone is likewise used, in one case, at least, as a glyph (Pl 9, fig. 7). It cannot be denied, however, that some or most of the snakes in which no rattles appear, are nevertheless intended for rattlers. It may have been that the figures were so well understood that the addition of rattles in the drawings was quite unnecessary. This, however, is quite conjectural. The species of rattlesnake is probably Crotalus basiliscus or C. terrificus of southern Mexico and adjacent regions, not C. horridus or adamanteus as supposed by Stempell since these two species are confined to the United States. Among the figures shown on Plate it is noteworthy that five of the rattlesnakes show no fangs. Some are spotted, but in a wholly arbitrary manner. Three are unmarked. One is shown coiled about the base of a tree , another coiled ready to strike though the rattle is pictured trailing on the ground instead of being held erect in the center of the coil as usually is done . A rattlesnake is shown held in the hand of a man
In , fig. 1, is shown a rattle-less snake with prominent fang, coiled about the top of an altar which may represent a tree or bush. From the latter fact, it might be concluded that it was a tree or bush-inhabiting species,[313] possibly the deadly “bush-master” (Lachesis lanceolatus). Other figure are introduced here as examples of the curious head ornamentation frequently found in the drawings. The two first are merely serpents with the jaws extended to the utmost, and with a characteristic head decoration. The last is provided with an elaborate crest. The size and markings of the two serpents, as well as their want of rattles suggest that they may represent some species of large Boidae as Loxocemus bicolor or Boa (sp?).
After having commented upon the various serpents occurring in the codices and in several other places, we will now take up the manner and connection in which the various figures occur. We shall pass over completely the use of the “serpent column” at Chichen Itza, the importance of the serpent motive in the development of the masked panel as worked out by Spinden, and the countless representations of the plumed serpent in the whole field of Maya design and decoration. In the single Temple of the Tigers at Chichen Itza, the feathered serpent occurs in the round as a column decoration supporting the portico, as carved on the wooden lintel at the entrance to the Painted Chamber, again and again on the frescoes of this room,313-* in the Lower Chamber as dividing the bas-relief into zones or panels, and, finally, as the center of the whole composition of this bas-relief. It will be seen, therefore, that it will be necessary in a short paper, to limit ourselves to the representations of the serpent in the Maya codices.
The serpent is most frequently associated with god B. Schellhas (1904, p. 17), Fewkes (1894), Förstemann (1906), and Thomas (1882), seem to agree that god B is to be identified as Kukulcan, the most important of the deities of the Mayas and, as pointed out before, appearing in the Nahua mythology, as Quetzalcoatl, and in the Quiche myths asGucumatz. It was also noted that the name means both in[314] Maya and in Nahuatl, the “feathered serpent” or the “bird serpent.” Other authorities consider god B as Itzamna, another of the main gods of the Mayas. Seler interprets god B as the counterpart of the Nahua rain god, Tlaloc. It is certain that when god B and the serpent are associated together water and rain are usually indicated. God H, “the Chicchan god,” also has some relation to the serpent. As pointed out by Schellhas (1904, pp. 28-30), this god often appears characterized by a skin-spot or a scale of the serpent on his temple of the same shape as the hieroglyph of the day Chicchan (serpent). The glyph belonging to this deity also shows the Chicchan sign as its distinguishing mark. Similar signs appear on the body of the serpent in many places, as in Tro-Cortesianus 30a (Pl. 11, fig. 1).
We have already noted that the serpent, god B, and water are frequently shown together, so the serpent also appears associated with water and rain, when no figure of god B is present. From this connection, it can be argued that there is some relation between the serpent and the coming of the rains. These facts would give strength to the theory that god B is to be identified as a rain god. In Dresden 33a, 35a, god B is seated on the open jaws of a serpent, while the body of the reptile encloses a blue field evidently signifying water. The number nineteen appears on this blue color. It will be noted that there are nineteen spots on the serpents in Pl. 11, figs. 1, 2. In Tro-Cortesianus 3a-6a, corresponding scenes seem to be shown. The body of the serpent encloses water, and here the number eighteen appears in each case. God B occurs always in front of the serpent and his head appears as the head of the reptile in the first instance. In Dresden 35a, 36a, the head of god B is pictured as the head of the serpent in the midst of the water. In Dresden 37b (Pl. 10, fig. 8), B is holding a snake in the water.
Water appears in connection with the serpent and god B in many places in the Tro-Cortesianus. In 9, god B is pictured pouring water from a jar, a common method of showing the idea of rain in the codices. In 12b, B again is shown[315] perhaps representing a frog, and behind him a serpent. The reptiles in 13b-18b, are all associated with the idea of rain, the turtle and frog also appearing in this section. In 30a ( fig. 1), god B and a female figure are both pouring water from a jar, as they stand on the body of a serpent. In 32a, the black god (L) is seen in the rain, and a serpent is near, while in 32b and 33b (, fig. 1), the serpent forms the belt of god L, and a female figure and water are seen in both cases. The blue color of the snake and of god B in 31b may also suggest water.
God B also occurs in connection with the serpent in Dresden 42a  fig. 14), where the god is seated on the reptile, in Tro-Cortesianus, 10b, where the head of the same god is the head of the snake, and in Tro-Cortesianus 19a, where god B again and god A are each seated on the open jaws of a serpent.
The astronomical role of the serpent is noted in Dresden 56b, 57b , fig. 3), Tro-Cortesianus 5b, 12b, 15b, and 67b, where the snake is shown in connection with a line of constellation signs, the kin or sun sign prominent in most of the drawings. In the “battle of the constellations” in Dresden 60, the serpent appears forming a sort of altar, the seat of a figure which is supported by another figure. A serpent head also appears at the foot of the latter figure.
That the serpent appears associated with the idea of time seems clear from the fact of the long number series in Dresden 61, 62 (, fig. 7), and 69, which are shown in the spaces made by the winding of the serpents’ bodies. In Tro-Cortesianus 13a-16a, four large reptiles appear in connection with the lines of day signs.
The study of the serpent used as a head-dress is interesting. As noted previously, quite a different kind of snake seems to be represented when used in this connection. Two other points come out in this investigation, namely, that it is only with female figures that the serpent is employed as a head-dress, and in far the greater number of cases the women are shown, either in the act of offering something, or of pouring water from a jar. The usual type of serpent[316] head-dress is seen in Dresden 9c ( fig. 11), 15b ( fig. 12), 18a , fig. 13), 22b , fig. 10), and 23b (, fig. 8). In the first case, the offering is a jicara or gourd of some sacred drink (baltše?), in the second and third examples, the dish is clearly shown, but the offering is unidentifiable, in the fourth case, maize (a Kan sign), and in the last, a fish resting on a dish. In Dresden 20a ( fig. 15), a woman with serpent head-dress is seen associated with the Moan-headed figure, possibly in the act of offering it as a sacrifice.
In Dresden 39b (, fig. 7), 43b ( fig. 9), and 70, a similar serpent head-dress is shown on a female figure in the act of pouring water from a jar. In Tro-Cortesianus, the serpent head-dresses differ in type only, and in two out of the four cases where they appear, water is shown flowing from the breasts (30b) of the female figure or from the mouth (32b). The woman thus represented in connection with the water is god I, the water goddess of Schellhas. She is, as he notes (1904, p. 31) usually the figure of an old woman. “Evidently, we have here the personification of water in its quality of destroyer, a goddess of floods and cloud-bursts.” We are not at all sure that we have here a distinct god as similar female figures with serpent head-dresses occur frequently in the Dresden Codex with no suggestion of water. The failure to find any distinct glyph for this goddess seems to strengthen the view of not considering her as a separate deity. Finally, in our consideration of head-dresses, the serpent is to be seen in Tro-Cortesianus 79c on the head of the first woman who is weaving. Possibly, a conventionalized serpent forms the head covering of the second figure who is represented as dead.
The serpent in Dresden 26c-28c ( fig. 1) coiled around the altar which rises from a Tun sign is not easily explained. In 25c, the altar is replaced by god B and in the former cases, the reptiles may stand for this god with whom they are often associated. The serpent seems closely[317] connected with the idea of offerings as the body of a snake is shown in several instances as the support of the jar containing the various gifts in Tro-Cortesianus 34a, 34b, 35a, 35b, 36a, 36b, and possibly 52c ( fig. 3).
Finally the serpent is to be noted in a number of miscellaneous connections:—in Dresden 36b ( fig. 11), as being attacked by a black vulture, in Tro-Cortesianus 40b  fig. 4) a rattlesnake is biting the foot of one of the hunters, and in Tro-Cortesianus 66b, where the serpent has a human head and arm coming from its open jaws. This is a very frequent method of representing the serpent in the Maya stone carvings. In Tro-Cortesianus 60c, 100d (fig. 8), twice, 106a, and 111b, the rattlesnake is shown as a sprinkler for the holy water in the hand (in the first, second and fourth examples) of god D. Landa (1864, p. 150) describes in the ceremony of the baptism of children, that the leader of the rite wore on his head a kind of mitre embroidered with plumage in some manner and in his hand a small holy-water sprinkler of wood, carved skillfully, of which the filaments were the tails of serpents, similar to serpents with rattles.
In spite of the importance of the serpent in the manuscripts and stone carvings, it never seems to appear as a separate deity. With one exception, no glyph is to be found representing this reptile as is the case with many of the animals. Tro-Cortesianus 106c (fig. 7) is this exception showing the rattles of a snake which are found in the line of glyphs above two of the bees. No serpent appears in the picture.
The Nahuatl day, Couatl, has the signification serpent, as suggested before, in discussing the meaning of the name Quetzalcoatl or Quetzalcouatl. This day sign occurs through[318]out the Mexan manuscripts as the head of a serpent ( figs. 2, 4-6).
Iguana. Of the lizards represented, the iguana (Maya hu) is the most striking, and is readily identified on account of the prominent spines along the back. As noted by Stempell, there are two or three species of large lizards in Central America commonly called iguana, and it is probable that the one here considered is the Ctenosaura acanthura of Yucatan or Iguana tuberculata of South and Central America.
In the manuscripts the iguana is almost exclusively represented as an offering (, figs. 1-6). It is usually found on top of the Kan sign, meaning maize or bread, and this, in turn, resting in a bowl , figs. 3, 4, 6). Landa (1864, p. 230) gives a pleasing confirmation of this offering of an iguana with bread. It is possible that the object shown in Tro-Cortesianus 12b (, fig. 13) may be the conventionalized representation of this lizard. It must be admitted that this interpretation is very doubtful. The triangular points suggest the lizard, but the pointed character of the sign as a whole in no way resembles the back of this reptile. It is found associated with three Kan signs. In Cakchiquel, a dialect of the Maya stock, K’an, according to Guzman and Brinton (1893, p. 24) is the name applied to the female of the iguana or the lizard, and this is believed to be the original sense of the Maya term. It may also be noted that the Nahua day sign Cuetzpalin, meaning lizard, is the one which corresponds with the Maya day Kan. , figs. 10, 12, 14, show representations of the day corresponding to Cuetzpalin in the Aubin and Nuttall codices. These show a stout spineless species with a short thick tail and may be[319] the Gila monster (Heloderma horridum), a large and somewhat poisonous species having much these proportions.
Further offerings are shown in , figs. 7, 8. These seem to be the heads and forefeet of lizards, but, from the shape of the head, perhaps not of iguanas.
In Stela D of Copan, the Uinal period glyph seems to be represented by a spineless lizard covered with scales (, fig. 9). Frog-like characteristics also appear. This stone monument is remarkable from the fact that the glyphs are all more or less realistic representations of human and animal forms. It should be noted that there certainly seems to be some connection between the Uinal period glyph and the lizard.  fig. 9, represents a Uinal glyph from the Temple of the Foliated Cross at Palenque and the lizard form is clearly seen in the eyebrow and the upper jaw. Compare also , fig. 11, and , fig. 3. A collection of glyphs of this period shows clearly the lizard-like character of the face.
That some connection existed between the lizard and the idea of rain seems clear from a reference in the Relacion de la Ciudad de Merida (1900, p. 51). Finally the lizard is shown in Dresden 3a ( fig. 11) directly in front of god H beside the scene of human sacrifice.
Crocodile. The text figure (1) shows a dorsal view of a crocodile (Maya, ayin) carved on the top of Altar T at Copan. The general form is considerably conventionalized with limbs elongated and provided with human hands and long toes. The protuberances of the back are roughly shown by oval markings, which are here continued on the legs. The large scales of the ventral surfaces also appear at the sides of the body, and along the posterior edges of the limbs. The tail is shortened and bifurcate. The most interesting portion, however, is the head. The snout is distinctly pinched in at the base, though broadened again distally. In the alligator the snout is broad and tapers but[320] little. As in other representations of the crocodile, the lower jaw does not appear, and even in this dorsal view the artist seems to have deemed it necessary to show the row of teeth as if in side view, or as though they projected laterally from the mouth. What may represent ears or ear plugs are shown one on each side behind the eyes. There are few other examples of full drawings of the crocodile in the Maya writings. Dresden 74 shows an animal which has been considered to represent a crocodile or alligator but it seems to have more of the characteristics of a lizard.
Figures of a crocodile (Crocodilus americanus) are frequent in the Nuttall Codex, where there is one large figure of the entire animal , fig. 8), making its way along under water. It is shown with numerous dorsal spines, a long tail,[321] and powerful claws. Curiously, however, it has no lower jaw and the same is true of the numerous glyphs representing the head of the animal. This is so pronounced a characteristic, that it may be doubted if the open-mouthed head and the single limb shown in  fig. 2, really picture the same animal, though otherwise apparently referable to the crocodile. In the various glyphs showing the head of this species, the prominent, elongate eyebrow and the absence of the lower jaw are noteworthy points, while the teeth may vary in number from three to six.

The glyphs  figs. 1, 3-7) represent the Nahua day sign Cipactli corresponding to the Maya day Imix. In the band of constellation signs in Dresden 52b , fig. 10), there occurs a single figure with a long curled eyebrow and lacking the lower jaw. In the upper jaw three teeth are indicated. A comparison of this figure with the glyphs in the Nuttall Codex seems to leave little doubt that it represents a crocodile. This is the sign which Förstemann (1906, p. 206) interprets as standing for Saturn.  fig. 12, is certainly the same sign as it stands in relatively the same position in the constellation band on Dresden 53a. It represents the highly conventionalized head of a crocodile. On Stela 10 from Piedras Negras (Maler, 1901-1903, Pl. 19) the same glyph is seen.
The range of the alligator in North America does not extend to Yucatan, hence the crocodile, which does occur there, is taken as the original of all these figures. There is nothing in the latter that would distinguish it from the alligator.

Turtles. Representations of the turtle (Maya, ak) are not uncommon among the Mayas. At Uxmal there is a ruined building called Casa de las Tortugas on which at intervals around the cornice there are carvings of turtles. Turtles of at least two species occur in the Tro-Cortesianus. With one exception, they seem to be limited to this codex. That shown on figs. 1-3, 5, is a large species with the dorsal scutes represented by large diamond-shaped pieces. There is little[322] that might be considered distinctive about these turtles, although one  fig. 5) has the anterior paddles much larger than the posterior, indicating a sea turtle. What is doubtless the same turtle is pictured in several places in the Nuttall Codex. In one of the figures in the latter manuscript, the shell is shown apparently in use as a shield  fig. 4). This would indicate one of the large sea turtles, and there is not much doubt that either the Loggerhead turtle (Thalassochelys cephalo) or the Hawksbill (Chelone imbricata) is here intended.
Quite another species is that shown in  fig. 6. That this is a freshwater turtle is plainly indicated by the parasitic leeches that are noted fastened by their round sucking-discs to the sides of its body. The long neck, pointed snout, and apparent limitation of the dorsal spinous scutes to the central area of the back may indicate the snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) or possibly a species of the genus Cinosternum (probably C. leucostomum). It is hardly likely that it is one of the true soft-shelled turtles (Trionyx), as the range of that genus is not known to include Mexico. The turtle from Nuttall 43  fig. 11) may belong to the same species as its scutes seem rather few, or it may be that the view shown here is of the ventral side and that the scales indicate the small plastron of one of the sea turtles.
The turtle appears alone as one of the figures in the tonalamatl in several cases in the Tro-Cortesianus, 13a, 17a  fig. 3), 72b  fig. 6). It is found associated with the toad appearing in the rain in Tro-Cortesianus 17b  fig. 2) and alone in the rain in 13a. In Tro-Cortesianus 81c (, fig. 5), it appears in front of an unidentifiable god.
Schellhas has called the turtle an animal symbolical of the lightning basing his opinion, as Brinton (1895, p. 74) tells us, on Dresden 40b where a human figure with animal head is holding two torches in his hands. This figure does not seem to us to represent a turtle, as is commonly supposed, but a parrot, as will be pointed out later (p. 343). Förste[323]mann (1902, p. 27) identifies the turtle with the summer solstice, as has been noted before, explaining that the animal is slow of motion, and is taken to represent the time when the sun seems to stand still. He bases his theory (1904, p. 423) in part on the fact that the sign for the Maya month Kayab, which is the month in which the summer solstice occurs, shows the face of the turtle fig. 10). This undoubtedly is correct, but he seems to us wrong in classing as turtles the figure in Dresden 40b  with its accompanying glyph 
The turtle is found in connection with two sun (kin) signs beneath a constellation band in Tro-Cortesianus 71a. Resting upon his body are three Cauac signs. The single representation of the turtle in the Dresden Codex is on page 49 ( fig. 12) where a god is pictured with a turtle’s head. The heavy sharp beak indicates that he represents one of the sea turtles previously mentioned. He is shown transfixed by a spear and corresponds to the other figures in the lower parts of pp. 46-50. These all have some connection with the Venus period which is considered in these pages.
A number of glyphs representing the turtle are found throughout the codices  figs. 7-10). They are all characterized by the heavy beak. It may be noted that these glyphs are virtually the same as the sign for the first a in Landa’s alphabet. As the turtle is called ak or aak in Maya, the reason is clear for the selection of this sign for an a sound. These turtle glyphs often occur alone; one, however,  fig. 7) is found in connection with the swimming turtle in Tro-Cortesianus 17a  fig. 3). Figs. 7-9 agree in having the small scrolls at the posterior end of the eye. The head shown in , fig. 10, has quite a different eye, though otherwise similar. Its resemblance to the glyph is marked and suggests the parrot. Schellhas (1904, p. 44) gives in his fig. 64, a glyph for the turtle which seems clearly to be a glyph for the parrot