MessageToEagle.com - While tunneling beneath the main temple of the ancient Maya city of El Perú-Waka' in
northern Guatemala, archaeologists have discovered an intricately carved stone monument with hieroglyphic text
regarding a little-known sixth-century Mayan princess.
"Great rulers took pleasure in describing adversity as a prelude to ultimate success," said research director
David Freidel, PhD, a professor of anthropology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis.
"Here the Snake queen, Lady Ikoom, prevailed in the end."
Click on image to enlarge
Stone-carved representation of Maya King Chak Took Ich’aak (Red Spark Claw) who died in 556 AD.
Photo by Francico Castaneda; courtesy of Proyecto Arqueológico El Perú-Waka´y PACUNAM.
"The narrative of Stela 44 is full of twists and turns of the kind that are usually found in time of war
but rarely detected in Precolumbian archaeology," Freidel said.
"The information in the text provides a new chapter in the history of the ancient kingdom of Waka' and its
political relations with the most powerful kingdoms in the Classic period lowland Maya world."
Carved stone monuments, such as Stela 44, have been unearthed in dozens of other important Maya ruins and each
has made a critical contribution to the understanding of Maya culture.
Maya Snake queen Lady Ikoom as represented on Stela 43. Photo by Francico Castaneda;
courtesy of Proyecto Arqueológico El Perú-Waka´y PACUNAM.
According to epigrapher, Stanley Guenter, who deciphered the text, Stela 44 was originally dedicated about 1450
years ago, in the calendar period ending in 564 AD, by the Wak dynasty King Wa'oom Uch'ab Tzi'kin, a title that
translates roughly as "He Who Stands Up the Offering of the Eagle."
After standing exposed to the elements for more than 100 years, Stela 44 was moved by order of a later king
and buried as an offering inside new construction that took place at the main El Perú-Waka' temple about 700 AD,
probably as part of funeral rituals for a great queen entombed in the building at this time, the research team suggests.
El Perú-Waka' is about 40 miles west of the famous Maya site of Tikal near the San Pedro Martir River in Laguna
del Tigre National Park. In the Classic period this royal city commanded major trade routes running north to
south and east to west.
Once the texts along the side of the monument were cleared, archaeologist Francisco Castaneda took detailed
photographs and sent these to Guenter for decipherment.
Guenter's glyph analysis suggests that Stela 44 was commissioned by Wak dynasty King Wa'oom Uch'ab Tzi'kin to
honor his father, King Chak Took Ich'aak (Red Spark Claw), who had died in 556 AD. Stela 44's description of
this royal father-son duo marks the first time their names have been known to modern history.
A new queen, Lady Ikoom, also is featured in the text and she was important to the king who recovered this
worn stela and used it again.
Map of the Maya World. Map courtesy of Keith Eppich.
Researchers believe that Lady Ikoom was one of two Snake dynasty princesses sent into arranged marriages
with the rulers of El Perú-Waka' and another nearby Maya city as a means of cementing Snake control over
this region of Northern Guatemala.
Lady Ikoom was a predecessor to one of the greatest queens of Classic Maya civilization, the seventh-century
Maya Holy Snake Lord known as Lady K'abel who ruled El Perú-Waka' for more than 20 years with her husband,
King K'inich Bahlam II.
She was the military governor of the Wak kingdom for her family, the imperial house of the Snake King, and
she carried the title "Kaloomte," translated as "Supreme Warrior," higher in authority than her husband, the king.
Maya Stela 44 photographed in the tunnel below a Maya temple where it was discovered March 5, 2013.
Around 700 AD, Stela 44 was brought to the main city temple by command of King K'inich Bahlam II to be buried
as an offering, probably as part of the funeral rituals for his wife, queen Kaloomte' K'abel.
Last year, the project discovered fragments of another stela built into the final terrace walls of the city
temple, Stela 43, dedicated by this king in 702 AD. Lady Ikoom is given pride of place on the front of that
monument celebrating an event in 574. She was likely an ancestor of the king.
Freidel and colleagues discovered Lady K'abel's tomb at the temple in 2012. Located near K'abel's tomb, Stela
44 was set in a cut through the plaster floor of the plaza in front of the old temple and then buried underneath
the treads of the stairway of the new temple.
Maya Snake queen Lady Ikoom as depicted on Stela 44.Photo by Francico Castaneda;
courtesy of Proyecto Arqueológico El Perú-Waka´y PACUNAM.
Stela 44 was originally raised in a period when no stelae were erected at Tikal, a period of more than a century
called The Hiatus from 557 until 692 AD - a turbulent era in Maya history during which there were many
wars and conquests.
Tikal's hiatus started when it was defeated in battle by King Yajawte' K'inich of Caracol in
Belize, probably under the auspices of the Snake King Sky Witness.
The kingdom of Waka' also experienced a hiatus that was likely associated with changing political fortunes but
one of briefer duration from 554 to 657 AD. That period is now shortened by the discovery of Stela 44.
The front of the stela is much eroded, no doubt from more than a century of exposure, but it features a king
standing face forward cradling a sacred bundle in his arms. There are two other stelae at the site with this
pose, Stela 23 dated to 524 and Stela 22 dated to 554, and they were probably raised by King Chak Took Ich'aak.
The name Chak Took Ich'aak is that of two powerful kings of Tikal and it is likely that this king of Waka' was
named after them and that his dynasty was a Tikal vassal at the time he came to the throne, the research team suggests.
The text describes the accession of the son of Chak Took Ich'aak, Wa'oom Uch'ab Tzi'kin, in 556 AD as witnessed
by a royal woman Lady Ikoom who was probably his mother, Guenter argues.
She carries the titles Sak Wayis, White Spirit, and K'uhul Chatan Winik, Holy Chatan Person. These titles are
strongly associated with the powerful Snake or Kan kings who commanded territories to the north of El Perú-Waka',
which makes it very likely that Lady Ikoom was a Snake princess.
"We infer that sometime in the course of his reign King Chak Took Ich'aak changed sides and became a Snake
dynasty vassal," Freidel said.
"But then, when he died and his son and heir came to power, he did so under the auspices of a foreign king,
which Guenter argues from details is the reigning king of Tikal. So Tikal had reasserted command of Waka' and
somehow Queen Ikoom survived this imposition.
"Then in a dramatic shift in the tides of war that same Tikal King, Wak Chan K'awiil, was defeated and sacrificed
by the Snake king in 562 AD.
Finally, two years after that major reversal, the new king and his mother raised Stela 44, giving the whole
story as outlined above."
Stela 44's tales of political intrigue and bloodshed are just a few of the many dramatic stories of Classic
Maya history that have been recovered through the decipherment of Maya glyphs, a science that has made
great strides in the last 30 years, Freidel said.