Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Quetzal Temple of the Cross, Palenque Animal Hieroglyphs

The color of the bird and the very long tail feathers have already been mentioned, and these explain the reason of the importance of this bird among the Mayas. It is claimed by several old authorities that the quetzal was reserved for the rulers, and that it was death for any common person to kill this bird for his own use. It seems from a statement in[341] Landa (1864, p. 190) that birds were domesticated for the feathers. This bird occurs again and again in various modifications throughout the Maya art. The feathers of the quetzal are the ones usually associated with the serpent, making the rebus, Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent, the culture hero of the Nahuas, or Kukulcan, which has the same signification among the Mayas. It is impossible to mention here all the various connections in which the quetzal appears. The feathers play an important part in the composition of the head-dresses of the priests and warriors, especially those in the stone carvings. A quotation has already been given from Landa, showing the use made of feathers in the dress of the people. Text shows perhaps the most elaborate representation of this bird. It is found on the sculptured tablet of the Temple of the Cross at Palenque. The quetzal is shown seated on top of a branching tree which was long taken to represent a cross. A similar representation is seen[342] on the tablet of the Temple of the Foliated Cross from the same ruined city. In the Codex Fejervary-Mayer, there are four trees in each of which there is a bird. A quetzal is perched in the one corresponding to the east, which is regarded as the region of opulence and moisture. Seler (1901, p. 17) suggests that the quetzal in the tree on the two bas-reliefs at Palenque may represent a similar idea and that temples which would show the other three trees and their respective birds had not been built in that center.

The representation of the quetzal as an entire bird is, after all, comparatively rare. The most realistic drawing is seen on a jar from Copan in the collections of the Peabody Museum. The whole body of the bird is shown as a head-dress in a few places in the codices where birth and the naming of children are pictured. In Dresden 16c (fig. 3) and Tro-Cortesianus 94c ( fig. 6), the quetzal is the head-dress of women. In Dresden 13b , fig. 2), a partial drawing of the bird is shown as a part of the head-dress of god E, in Dresden 7c , fig. 1) of god H, and in Tro-Cortesianus 110c of god F. The feathers alone appear as a female head decoration in Dresden 20c , fig. 8). It occurs as a sacrifice among the rites of the four years in Tro-Cortesianus 36b , fig. 12). In Tro-Cortesianus 70a (, fig. 5), it is found in the act of eating fruit growing over the “young god.” In Tro-Cortesianus 100b , fig. 4), the bird is perched over the encased head of god C.
There seems to be a glyph used for the quetzal. In those drawn in  figs. 10, 17, it is noticeable that the anterior part only of the head is shown. The first is a glyph from the tablet of the Temple of the Sun at Palenque, and at least suggests the quetzal by the feathers on the top of the head, as also , fig. 13, a glyph from Copan, Stela 10, where the entire head appears in a much conventionalized form. Other glyphs are shown in figs. 14-16, in which there is a single prominent recurved feather shown over the eye, succeeded by a few conventionalized feathers, then one or more directed posteriorly. It is to be noted that whereas in many[343] previous examples of glyphs the full drawing of the animal or bird has been found in connection with them, here with the quetzal glyphs there is no instance where a drawing of the bird occurs with them. A curious human figure  fig. 19), with a head decoration similar to the frontal curve and markings on the quetzal glyphs (fig. 14-16), may possibly represent this bird in some relation
Blue Macaw (Ara militaris). A large macaw (Maya, mox or ṭuṭ) is undoubtedly pictured in the figures in . The least conventionalized drawing found is that shown in Dresden 16c  fig. 2), a bird characterized by long narrow tail feathers, a heavy bill, and a series of scale-like markings on the face and about the eye. Further conventionalized drawings are found in , figs. 3, 10, 13, and , fig. 1. In all these the tail is less characteristic, though composed of long, narrow feathers, and the facial markings are reduced to a ring of circular marks about the eye. These last undoubtedly represent, as supposed by Stempell, the bare space about the eye found in certain of these large parrots. In addition, the space between the eye and the base of the bill is partially bare with small patches of feathers scattered at somewhat regular intervals in rows. It is probable that this appearance is represented by the additional round marks about the base of the bill in , figs. 1, 2, 5, 8, the last two of which show the head only. There has hitherto been some question as to the identity of certain stone carvings, similar to that on Stela B from Copan, of which a portion is shown in , fig. 8. This has even been interpreted as the trunk of an elephant or a mastodon, but is unquestionably a macaw’s beak. In addition to the ornamental crosshatching on the beak, which is also seen on the glyph from the same stela ( fig. 5), there is an ornamental scroll beneath the eye which likewise is crosshatched and surrounded by a ring of subcircular marks that continue to the base of the beak. The nostril is the large oval marking directly in front of the eye.
The animal in Dresden 40b , fig. 1) has always[344] been considered to be a tortoise (Schellhas, 1904, p. 44, and Förstemann, 1904). This animal, together with the dog, is found beneath the constellation signs carrying firebrands; both are regarded as lightning beasts. By comparing the head of the figure shown in , fig. 1, with figs. 2, 4, 5, of the same plate, the reasonableness of the identification of this head as that of a macaw and not that of a tortoise appears clear. The same figure occurs in Tro-Cortesianus 12a , fig. 3) carrying a torch.
In order to make this point clearer, we will take up the consideration of the glyphs at this place, rather than at the end of the section as usual. As the macaw in , fig. 1, has been hitherto identified as a turtle, so the glyph found in connection with it  has been considered to stand for the turtle. , fig. 7, is another drawing of the same glyph. By comparing the markings on the face of fig. 1, it is seen that a similar ring surrounds the eye shown on the glyph. The second glyph , fig. 7) is better drawn and shows, in addition to the eye ring, the slightly erectile feathers at the back of the head. Comparison with the glyphs representing turtles hitherto confused with these macaw glyphs shows differences, the most important of which are of course the eye ring and the feathers at the back of the head.
Various other glyphs occur which undoubtedly represent the heads either of macaws or smaller parrots. They are, for the most part, glyphs from the stone inscriptions. A crest, resembling that depicted on the head of the quetzal, is found on a glyph on Altar Q from Copan  fig. 10). The eye ring, however, seems to indicate the macaw which also has slightly erectile feathers on the head. Much doubt is attached to the identification of the glyph of the month Kayae from Stela A, Quirigua , fig. 9). It resembles closely the glyphs of the turtle ( figs. 7-9) and especially that on , fig. 10. The Quirigua glyph has a prominent fleshy tongue, however, like the parrot. From the fact that the glyph is certainly that for the month Kayab and the[345] Kayab glyphs in the codices , fig. 10) resemble the sign for a, in the Landa alphabet which seems to stand for ak (turtle), we are led to identify this as a turtle rather than a parrot.