Aj-Ts’ib, Aj-Uxul, Itz’aat, & Aj-K’uhu’n : classic Maya schools of carvers and calligraphers in Palenque after the reign of Kan-Bahlam




Van Stone, Mark

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Ancient Maya inscription carvers at the city of Palenque in what is now Chiapas, Mexico worked in teams to complete large and complex stone tablets. Like artists everywhere, they each had developed idiosyncratic habits which the modern connoisseur can learn to discern, in order to identify which parts of a particular monument were sculpted by one or another artist. The author scrutinized several eighth-century CE inscriptions, panels in stucco and limestone, analyzing how many artists worked on each, to wit: the Temple XVIII Stuccos, the Temple XIX Platform, the Temple XIX Stuccos, the Temple XIX Panel, the Panel of the 96 Glyphs, the Lápida de la Creación and associated fragments, the Palace Tablet and its associated fragmentary panels, and the Tablet of the Slaves. The ensemble whose main components are the Panel of the 96 Glyphs and the Lápida de la Creación are all by one hand, and the Tablet of the Slaves was the work of four carvers, but the Temple XIX Platform surprisingly employed fourteen carvers, and the Palace Tablet over a score. Their territories were not divided textually, and display idiosyncratic spellings of glyph compounds as well as carving habits. The conclusion discusses possible reasons for these findings, relating them to the unusual Maya practice of never correcting mistakes in monumental inscriptions. A likely reason seems to be that the ancient Maya considered these texts not merely as a permanent record, but as ongoing, living repetitions of the ritual in question, and had to be completed in a very short time.



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