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Title: On the Age of Maya Ruins
Author: Bowditch, Charles P.
Language: English
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                         ON THE AGE OF MAYA RUINS

                           CHARLES P. BOWDITCH

            (From the American Anthropologist (N. S.), Vol. 3,
                          October-December, 1901)

                                 NEW YORK
                            G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS

                         ON THE AGE OF MAYA RUINS

                          BY CHARLES P. BOWDITCH

The inscription lately discovered in Chichen Itza by Edward H. Thompson,
United States Consul at Merida, is of more than passing interest. It
contains an Initial Series of glyphs, which, so far as I know, gives the
only initial date that has been found in the northern part of Yucatan.

Although it may be a matter of doubt on what date the long count
declared by the Initial Series began, yet, if we assume that the
majority of the initial dates refer to the time when the buildings or
stelæ on which the dates occur were erected (and this assumption seems
altogether probable), we can at least decide on the relative age of the
ruined cities in which the buildings or stelæ are found.

The great cycle glyph in the Chichen Itza date is somewhat injured, but
it is apparently of the same character as those found elsewhere. The
numbers of the cycle, katun, tun, and uinal periods are 10, 2, 9, and 1,
respectively. The number of the kin period is a face which, from the
circle of dots around the mouth, is pretty surely 9. The day number is 9
and the month number is 7. The day glyph is somewhat obscure, but
contains a circular frame supported by a knot, while the month glyph is
pretty surely Zac. We can then be sure of the following:?. 10. 2. 9.
1. ?, 9. ?. 7. ?., with the probability that the second ? should be
replaced by 9 and the last ? should be replaced by Zac. Assuming for the
moment that the great cycle sign is what Goodman calls 54, we find from
the tables that 54. 10. 2. 9. 0. 0. is 6 Ahau 18 Chen (49), and that 54.
10. 2. 9. 1. 0. is 13 Ahau 18 Yax (49). Now, in order to reach a day
with the number 9 and a month day with the number 7 from 13 Ahau 18 Yax,
we must add 9 days. This makes the date necessarily 54. 10. 2. 9. 1. 9.,
9 Muluc 7 Zac (49). The day sign, though rubbed, has the characteristics
of Muluc, and the month is shown to be surely Zac; the kin number is
also proved to be 9.

There is just a possibility that the great cycle may not be 54. If it is
53, the date must be 9 Muluc 12 Muan; if it is 55, the date must be 9
Muluc 2 Yaxkin; but the month number is clearly 7, which eliminates both
these great cycle numbers. In order to find a great cycle with the
numbers ?. 10. 2. 9. 1. 9, 9. ?. 7. ?, we should have to go back or
forward from Great Cycle 54 at least five great cycles, which means over
25,000 years. This is such an enormous distance that it can practically
be thrown out of consideration, and we may be well satisfied that the
great cycle is really the same period in which almost every one of the
other dates occurs, viz., 54.

It will be interesting to compare this date with the first and last
known dates of the other ruined cities of Chiapas and Guatemala. I give
a list of these dates:

                                                            Period of
                     Earliest              Latest           Existence

  Piedras Negras  54.9.      54.9.12. 2. 0.16.    3.11.12. 0.
  Copan           54.9. 6.10.0. 0.[1] 0. 0.   10. 0. 0. 0.
  Quirigua[2] 0.12.
  Yaxchilan       54.9. 0.19.2. 4.[3]
  Palenque        54.9. 4. 0.0. 0.[4]   54.9. 8. 9.13. 0.    4. 9.13. 0.

  [1] The date of Stela D given by Goodman as 54. 9. 5. 5. 0. 0. is
  almost surely 54. 9. 15. 5. 0. 0.

  [2] The dates 54. 13. 0. 0. 0. 0. and 54. 9. 1. 0. 0. 0. may well
  be traditional and not historical, and refer to a period lying far
  in the past.

  [3] This date on Lintel 22 is very clear, but as it is the only
  one which I have seen, I omit it in the following discussion. If
  historical, it is earlier than the earliest date of Quirigua except
  that of the normal date 54. 13. 0. 0. 0. 0., 4 Ahau 8 Cumhu.

  [4] The dates of the Temple of the Cross, Temple of the Sun, and
  Temple of the Foliated Cross are almost surely traditional. The date
  on the Palace Steps, given by Goodman as 55. 3. 18. 12. 15. 12.,
  should undoubtedly be 54. 9. 8. 9. 13. 0.

The above collation establishes the fact that Piedras Negras, Copan,
Palenque, and Quirigua flourished contemporaneously for at least a part
of their existence, for the last known date of Palenque is but 0. 11.
16, or less than one year before the first known date of Piedras Negras.
This does not necessarily mean that Palenque was deserted at the
establishment of Piedras Negras. Of course as investigation proceeds
other inscriptions may be discovered which may give earlier or later
dates, but it is interesting to note the relation between the known
dates of all these cities.

The date of Chichen Itza is later than any of the dates found above. The
following list shows the distance from the earliest and latest dates of
the ruined cities of Chiapas and Guatemala to the date recently found in
Chichen Itza.


                         Earliest                       Latest

  Piedras Negras, 274 y. 323 d.   10. 7.0.13, 204 y.  73 d.
  Copan           15.19. 1. 9, 314 y. 259 d.    5.19.1. 9, 117 y. 164 d.
  Quirigua, 153 y. 247 d.,  55 y. 102 d.
  Palenque        18. 9. 1. 9, 364 y.   9 d.   13.19.6. 9, 275 y. 194 d.

The Book of Chilan Balam of Mani[5] states that on Katun 13 the people
whose history is recorded in this book reached Chacnouitan eighty years
after leaving Nonaual, and that on Katun 6 of the following cycle
Chichen Itza was discovered, and that on Katun 11 of the second
following cycle they removed to Chichen Itza, having remained at
Chacnouitan ninety-nine years. The distance from Katun 13 of one cycle
to Katun 6 of another is 200 tuns, or about 197 years. The distance from
Katun 13 of one cycle to Katun 11 of the second following cycle is 280
tuns or about 276 years.

  First date                  }                          }
  of Piedras}                          }
  Negras,                     }                          }
                              } = 70 y. 250 d.}
  Last date                   }                          }
  of Piedras}                          }
  Negras,                     }                          }
                                                         } =
  First date                  }                          } 274 y. 323 d.
  of Quirigua,}                          }
                              } = 98 y. 145 d.}
  Last date                   }                          }
  of Quirigua,}                          }
  Chichen              = 55 y. 102 d.}
  Itza,                           }

  [5] _The Maya Chronicles_, D. G. Brinton, Phil'a, 1882, p. 87.

The coincidences of dates are remarkable when it is seen that the length
of time from the first date of Piedras Negras to that of Chichen Itza is
278-2/3 tuns, while the time between the arrival at Chacnouitan to the
removal to Chichen Itza is given by the Book of Chilan Balam as 280
tuns. More than this, if an inscription should be found hereafter in
Piedras Negras recording a date as late as 54. 9. 13. 9. 6. 16, this
would show a stay in Piedras Negras of 99 tuns, the time given in the
manuscript for the stay at Chacnouitan, and if about 54. 9. 13. 9. 6.
16, the people of Piedras Negras deserted that city, they would have
passed 204 years and 73 days before arriving at Chichen Itza. Now, all
the historical dates of Quirigua lie between this last date and that of
their arrival at Chichen Itza. Could the people of Piedras Negras have
passed over to Quirigua and occupied that city during a part of this
period of 204 years?[6]

  [6] If, however, we accept the date of 54. 9. 1. 0. 0. 0. in Quirigua
  as historical, as I was inclined to think when I wrote "Memoranda on
  the Maya Calendars used in the Books of Chilan Balam," the foundation
  of Quirigua would be anterior to all the dates which I have used in
  the above calculations.

Such speculations may not be of great value, but if they excite enough
interest to induce a more thorough investigation, they will not be
absolutely useless.

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's note:

In general every effort has been made to replicate the original text as
faithfully as possible, including some instances of possible
irregularities in the use of commas and periods in Mayan dates.

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