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Teotihuacan Traders in Tikals Royal Dynasty

A proposal for the origin of Tikals Emblem Glyph

Ruud van Akkeren

In this paper I will propose a historical origin for the Emblem

Glyph of Tikal, the bended knot of hair. It is based on ideas that emerged while writing
my latest book Xibalba y el nacimiento del nuevo sol una visin posclsica del co-
lapso maya1. Some ideas were included as suggestions in the last chapter but my main
point, the Tzonmolco thesis, was left out. Here is the place to elaborate it. The hy-
pothesis will link Tikal even firmer to Teotihuacan.

Tatiana Proskouriakoff was the first one to notice the foreign influences in the Maya
Lowlands, in her book Maya History, edited posthumously, she called this chapter The
Arrival of Strangers2. It was a title which David Stuart paper later borrowed for his inno-
vative article on the identity of Teotihuacan presence in Tikal. Clemency Coggins sug-
gested, based on her analysis of Teotihuacan iconography in Tikal, that there was a
change of power. She introduced the term New Order, a Central-Mexican power Teo-
tihuacan entering Tikal, and the intruders brought with them new calendrical rites3.
Simon Martin kept using this notion of the New Order while elaborating on the Teotihua-
can influences in his later Tikal work4.

Stuart started out his article, organizing the different views on the Teotihuacans influ-
ence on Tikal. He distinguished grosso modo two approaches, divided between what
he called the internalist and externalist view. The internalists are sceptical about any
invasion or other type of take-over of Tikal by foreign power. They rather prefer to inter-
pret the Teotihuacan iconography and personel presence, as the ruling Tikal dynasty
simply emulating the discourse and iconography of power, of this western metropolis.

In contrast, the externalists believe there was efectively some sort of a military incur-
sion and political domination of Teotihuacan in Tikal. Martin is among them: While the
precise nature of Teotihuacans intervention in the Maya Lowlands will continue to be
debated, recent epigraphic discoveries broadly support long-held ideas for a physical
intrusion, even a political takeover in 3785. Stuart himself puts himself among the ex-
ternalists. To him the personages mentioned in the various texts in and outside of Tikal
were historical people from Teotihuacan and came to dominate the region6.

More scholars joined the discussion. To mention a few, Erik Boot took an intermediate
position, claiming that Siyah Kak may be a Teotihuacan ambassador but all the others
mentioned in the game were local nobles who received from Siyah Kak the Teotihua-
can paraphernalia of power. He compared the Tikal case with other historical examples

1 Akkeren 2012.
2 Proskouriakoff 1993.
3 Coggins 1990: 96; 2002: 48, note 41; Fash & Fash 2002: 437-438.
4 Martin 2003.
5 Martin 2003: 17
6 Stuart 2002: 506.

1 Ruud van Akkeren

of local lords being invested by a minister of the Feathered Serpent cult, as in later
times happened in Chichen Itza and Cholula7.

Nielsen used the information on the New Fire ceremony in the Mixtec and Zapotec area,
marshalled by Michel Oudijk and by Maarten Jansen & Gabina Jimnez, to introduce a
new term: Coming of the Torch8. To him, what happened in Tikal was a take-over by
Teotihuacan, that is, an interference in the continuity of the old dynasty, which was
subsequently legitimized by a New Fire ceremony. Tikals iconography shows that Yax
Nuun Ayin is bringing in the torch. It makes Nielsen an externalist

Bill and Barbara Fash and Alexandre Tokovinine have a somewhat similar view. Accord-
ing to these scholars, the founder of the dynasty of Copan experienced a first invest-
ment as a legitimate lord in the city of Teotihuacan, and later had another accession
moment in Copan itself, in a building marked by New Fire iconography, called the Wi Te
Naah, interpreted by by Stuart as a Foundation House. This practise is very similar to
what we learn from indigenous documents of Guatemala or the aforementioned Mixtec
codices in which aspirant lords travel to a place called Tullan to receive the legitimate
paraphernalia of lordship9.

All these explanations, each in its own way, are describing an historical picture. Yet,
they fail to explain why and how people and their ideology would move from Central-
Mexico to the Maya area and back. William Ringle, Toms Gallareta and George Bey
have tried to fill this gap with their article The return of Quetzalcoatl, in which they
paint a Mesoamerican network of shrines connected to each other by the cult of Quet-
zalcoatl. This cult went hand in hand with a military ideology. Of course, this was during
the Epiclassic, but the subtitle of their essay Evidence of a Second Spread of a World
Religion during the Epiclassic Period implies there existed an earlier network, created
by Teotihuacan where the Quetzalcoatl cult blossomed for the first time10.

Clemency Coggins embraced the idea about the spread of the Feathered Serpent cult,
while building her theory on Mesoamericans ideology which se called Toltec. To her
the ideology was born in the first Tullan, Teotihuacan, from which the Toltec ideology
spread through Mesoamerica:

All evidence suggests the Teotihuacanos who traveled abroad were lone warriors and mer
chants who married foreign women [..]. Thier heraldry, regalia, and symbolism combined the
ancestral Tlaloc religion, which became a lineage cult in Maya territory11

This thesis of the spread of the Quetzalcoatl cult sounds like a joint effort of religious
proselitism and military conquest. But why would a power like Teotihuacan put vast
amounts of manpower, money and time in an endeavor that was bound to fail. It would

7 Boot 2004: chapter 3.

8 Jansen & Gabina as well as Oudijk show that the founding of a new dynasty or town included the drilling of New
Fire. Oudijk had called that the complex of the Toma de Posesin, Seizing of Power (Janssen & Prez Jimnez 2000;
Oudijk 2002; Nielsen 2006). I myself have written frecuently on this phenomenon after discovering that the Rabinal
Achi was created to mark the beginning of a new Calendar Round (Akkeren 2000, 2002, 2006b, 2011; 2012, in press).
9 Fash et al. 2009: 212-216; Akkeren 2000, in press.
10 Ringle et al. 1998.
11 Coggins 2002:54.

2 Ruud van Akkeren

be alltogether too difficult for a Central-Mexican polity to keep the distant conquered
territory at bay, as many scholars have rightfully explained. There must have been
other interests at stake, in such a way that the contact would be attractive for the in-
coming as well as the recieving party. History in other parts of the world has proven
that cults and ideology move along a very basic infrastructure: trade-routes12. That is
what we are witnessing in Tikal, as I will show. I believe that first of all there is the ex-
change of goods along a network of interdependent merchant calpultin13, with military
convoys to protect the long-distance caravans.

In this sense, I agree with Susan Kepecs who writes in a reaction on the article of Ringle
et al.:

These authors marshal an impressive corpus of data on the iconography of Quetzalcoatl, drawing
parallels between devotes of the plumed serpent and medieval Christians and suggesting that
military motifs shared by Tula and Chichn were emblems of religious crusades. I suspect they
are right, but only partially so; I disagree with their conclusion that an overarching religious sys-
tem subsumed economic relations ... .

Kepecs advocates the world-system approach, adopted for pre-industrial Mesomerica.

She explains how the trade-network functions:

The regular transfer of surplus among polities creates systemic interdependence between them
[...]. Participating units share not only labor but also structures of accumulation as communica-
tions and transportation networks. The state cult of Quetzalcoatl is a case in point. Public build-
ings a both Chichn and Tula were emblazoned with
symbols promoting warfare, and military motifs are
present at virtually all of the Epi/EPC cores15.

This would not only account for the ex-

change of prestigious goods but for every
kind of commodity her article in Twin
Tollans is about the full scale production of
salt on the northern coast of Yucatan.

When talking about actors, Kepecs still

thinks in terms of polities, like Chichen Itza
or Tula, but I would rather lower to the
lineage- or calpulli level. Trade was in the
hands of lineages-clusters or calpultin
which spread all over Mesoamerica. To
give an example from my book, in the
same field of salt-production, the Kanek
were the owners of the salt-springs of

12 Pohl 1999; Kepecs 2007.

13 Calpultin, plural of calpulli.
14 Kepecs 2007: 129-130
15 Kepecs 2007: 131-132

3 Ruud van Akkeren

Salinas de los Nueve Cerros, the historical Xibalba. From this area they expanded their
commerce to the coast of Yucatan, the main salt-producing area of Mesoamerica. That
is how
Kanek got involved in Ek Balam and were co-founders of the city of Chichen Itza.
Later we find the same Kanek in Epiclassic Ucanal, sending out colonists to Ceibal to
take control of the Pasion corridor16.

I have suggested that the Kanek are the forefathers of the Kaweq, the authors of the
Popol Wuj and thus of the Xibalba myth, perhaps Mesoamericas most vivid expres-
sion of the merchant ideology. In an article that awaits its publication, I show that other
Mesoamerican calpultin express similar conduits, like the Toj-Atonal, the chinamit17 or
calpulli which introduced the Tojil cult into the Guatemalan Highlands, and which appear
as lords, priests and traders along the Pacific trade-routes from El Salvador all the way
to Central-Mexico18. In this article I will propose that the founders of Tikal are affines of
the merchant calpulli Tzonmolco of Teotihuacan.

That is about the actors. Polities along the network shared the structures of accumula-
tion, as Kepecs remarks, meaning the infrastructure like routes, stops and tamemes or
porters, but also the ideology. That is the complementary topic of this article. I will pro-
pose various new ideas about the merchant ideology, in which Quetzalcoatl is only one
part of the story, perhaps the more visible one because of its connection with military
pomp. The other, complementary deity at home that is, in Teotihuacan is Xiu-
hteuctli, in charge of the New Fire ritual. As for the infrastructure, the route they walked
was conceived off as a serpent, which they traveled from the center to the outpost,
two opposite poles presided by Xiuhteuctli on the one hand and Quetzalcoatl on the
other, an emblem that adorns the famous Temple of Quetzalcoatl in Teotihuacan. The
men on the ground were merchant calpultin organized in guilds, with their shrines scat-
tered along the serpent road, the so-called Wi Te Naah, the Temple of Xiuhteuctli.

In his article The Coming of Strangers Stuart reiterates his identification of the logo-
gram PU as the Classic Maya name for Tullan. He further elaborates on the fact that in
Mesomerica the image of Tullan represents a place of origin, a city blessed with a high
degree of civilization, where many aspirant lords would recur to, to be invested, a com-
plex he calls the Tullan paradigm19. There have been more cities in Mesoamerica with
this title, but his final conclusion is: Many Tulas are known from later Mesoamerica,
but my own Maya perspective leads me to agree that Teotihuacan was held as the first
ideal city, the primordial Tollan20.

Since I specialized in the indigenous documents of Guatemala, I have written frequently

on the theme of Tullan21, as I also do in my latest book. I argue in Xibalba y el

16 Akkeren 2012: 104-113; 139-143.

17 In Highland Maya documents one often finds the term chinamit, castellenizado as chinamital, or otherwise trans-
lated as parcialidad (Akkeren, 2000, 2002b, 2006a, in press).
18 Akkeren in press.
19 I have compared the legitimizing role of Tullan with that of the Vatican which in Europe represented the religious

doctrine sanctifying terrestrial rulers.

20 Stuart 2002: 506; Boone 2002.
21 Akkeren 2000: 61-63; 2002b, 2006a, 2012; in press.

4 Ruud van Akkeren

nacimiento del nuevo sol that at the end of the Classic, a new mercantile elite arose on
the Gulf Coast of Mexico the modern states of Veracruz, Tabasco and Campeche. Its
members were a mix of Maya, Olmec-Xicalanca and Nonoalca lineages, and descen-
dents of Teotihuacan. This elite established a mercantile ideology which synthesized
two mythological corpuses, each with its accompanying ritual expression. They may be
summarized in the terms Tullan, a Teotihuacan heritage, and Tzuywa, a referrence to
Xicalanco on the Gulf Coast, which mythology might date back to ancient Olmec times.
The protagonist of the Tullan complex was the Sun Hero whose decisive rite was the
New Fire. The protagonist of the Tzuywa complex was the Maize Hero and its ritual ex-
pression is the Ballgame22.

Carriers of this new

ideology aptly called
Tullan-Tzuywa in the
Popol Wuj changed
the traditional trade
routes and founded
new centers, which
caused a hundred
years later the end of
Classic Maya culture.
The foremost city of
that ideology was
Chichen Itza. Among
its founders was the
Kanek lineage, salt-traders and owners of Salinas de los Nueve Cerros, a city which
belonged to the area of the historical Xibalba. As said, I propose in my book that Ka-
nek were the ancestors of the Kaweq lineage, authors of the Popol Wuj and the
Xibalba myth, which is perhaps the most idiosyncratic expression we have of this new
mercantile ideology.

So far a brief summary of the book. A second remark is about my interpretation of the
Classic Maya pantheon. The reader will notice that I am mixing up deities that scholars
have labeled different gods. I have been living and working with Maya people for some
twenty years now. I have recorded a great number of prayers and myths in various
Maya languages. The single most important deity to ancient and modern Maya is what
they call Lord Mountain-Valley, Dios Mundo or Rajawal Juyubal Taqajal in Kiche, Qawa
Tzuul Taqa in Qeqchi, or Tiuxhil Witz, Tiuxhil Tchaqaala, Tiuxhil Xolwitz23 in Ixil, to
name some examples. He is further known as Mam or Grandfather. He is the guardian
of the mountain and has his residency inside of it. Every hill or mountain has his own
custodian, so there are many Lords Mountain-Valley.
Lord Mountain-Valley is the all-embracing divinity, and he has countless aspects, which
have led Mayanists myself included - to think they are different gods24. They are not.

22 I found that one can reduce both mythological corpuses to only two complementary Maya glyphs: kin, sun,
which is white and masculine, and kan, 'yellow', the color of the corn, which is feminine (Akkeren 2012).
23 God Mountain-God Plain-God Valley (Akkeren 2005b).
24 Scholars may come up with technical terms like theosynthesis or theopolymorphosis for this cluttering of deities (Grofe

2009: 6). But the point is that they are not different deities; they are different aspects of the same deity, much as no

5 Ruud van Akkeren

As a god living inside the mountain, he is a god of caves, and inside the caves he has
his storage rooms of corn and any other crop you may think of25. As such he emulates
God N whose conch shell represents a cave. He is the owner of the animals roaming its
surface, and he has special caves for all the creatures people use to hunt, thus when
you want to go on a hunt you ask Lord Mountain-Valley his permission, a deity which
has been called the hunting god Sip26. Every Lord Mountain-Valley assembles clouds
around its top, to make it rain; he further has his own weapon, the thunderbolt, which
makes him also a version of God C. True, there are some mountains whose guardians
are more famous for their deadly thunderbolt, but they are not a different deity27.

There is also a hierarchy in the mountains and the highest mountain of them all usually
is the supreme Lord Mountain-Valley, which scholars have called God D. As inhabitants
of caves they are the lords of the underworld or Xibalba as well, the ones mentioned
in the Popol Wuj, and the supreme Lord Mountain-Valley is God L. Lord Mountain-Valley
has many nawales as well, one of
them being the Ajaw Chan, the
snake we see on many classic
scenes. Then there is his
personification as a tree crowning
the top of a mountain, in Kiche
called Kutam or Trunk, which
scholars have called the Pax God.
One could continue mentioning
aspects of Lord Mountain-Valley,
and some others appear in
Xibalba y el nacimiento del
nuevo sol.

His Central-Mexican counterpart is

Tlaloc, hence there a many Tlalo-
que. In listing the characteristics of Tlaloc, Alfredo Lpez-Austin comes to a similar com-
plexity for this all-embracing Mesoamerican deity28. The Tlaloque are the residents of
Tlalocan, which in Central-Mexican and Gulf Coast mythology is the equivalent of the
Maya underworld or Xibalba29. We just may recall the Tlalocan mural from Tepantitla
surrounded by a series of Tlaloque. In the Codex Borbonicus he is the only god out of
36 deities depicted sitting on a mountain, revealing his nature. That is in the trecena
starting with 1 Quiahuitl. In front of him we find another Tlaloc wielding an undulating
serpent which represents his thunderbolt. We will see that the supreme Tlaloc of the

Catholic would call the Child in the Manger, the Sacred Heart, the Crucified Jezus, the Resurrected Christ, the Mes-
siah, the Lamb of God, or Corpus Christi different deities.
25 Lpez-Austin 1994: 184-186.
26 Confer the dance-drama texts in Xajooj Keej. Baile del Venado de Rabinal, (Janssens & Van Akkeren, 2003).
27 When in the Qeqchi myth The Hills and the Corn the Lords Mountain-Valley rejoiced the fact that the corn is re-

stored to its original place inside the store rooms of Xucaneb the highest mountain in Alta Verapaz - they put on a
lightening show with their thunderbolts (Burkitt 1920). When in La historia de Sol y Luna, Balam Qe y Qana Po, the
main Lord Mountain-Valley has his daughter kidnapped by Balam Qe, he sent his brother after them, called Qawa
Kaaq or Seor del Rayo, the Classic Chaak (H.Q. Dieseldorff 1966).
28 Tamoanchan y Tlalocan (Lpez-Austin 1994: 175-181).
29 Lpez-Austin 1994: 181. Braakhuis 2009; Chinchilla 2011.

6 Ruud van Akkeren

center is Xiuhteuctli, and indeed the wielding Tlaloc has aspects of this god, as well as
other elements in this image do30. In the trecena 1 Quiahuitl of the Codex Aubin, the
same Tlaloc is marked by the denomination 3 Dog, which is the calendrical name of

Spearthrower Owl
Back to the intrusion of Teotihuacan in Tikal. The facts are more or less known. On
January 16th 378 a high official named Siyah Kak, Born in Fire, arrived in Tikal, proba-
bly in the company of a Teotihuacan lord dubbed Spearthrower Owl. Less than a year
later a son of Spearthrower Owl, called Yax Nuun Ayin took the throne to become Ti-
kals 15th lord31. Still, it appears that Siyah Kak remained a liege of the man who was
quite young at the time of his accession, that is, a 1
katun lord. Siyah Kak remained in the area for at least
another 22 years acting as a dominant sovereign
directing various other local Maya lords32.

Most of our information comes from two monuments,

stele 31 of Tikal and a ballcourt marker excavated at
Group 6C-XVI of Tikal33. From texts on both monuments
we learn that Spearthrower Owl reigned in Teotihuacan
for over six decades (374439). As said, to Stuart and
Martin, he was a historical figure. Nielsen & Helmke pro-
posed that Spearthrower Owl was the name of a deity,
and that the similar called Teotihuacan lord mentioned
in Tikal, named himself after this god. They compare
him to Huitzilopochtli. I have taken a similar approach in
Xibalba y el nacimiento del nuevo sol, but to me
Spearthrower Owl is
the title of the Central-
Mexican god
Xiuhteuctli, Lord of
Fire, and supreme lord among the Tlaloque. In
addition, he is the Guardian of the Hearth in the
center; and, most importantly, patron of the mer-
chant guilds.

High Priest of Xiuhteuctli

In Xibalba y el nacimiento del nuevo sol, I identify
Spearthrower Owl as the supreme priest of the Cen-
tral-Mexican deity Xiuhteuctli, Lord of Fire. The
argument requires some explanation. It starts with
the Classic Maya God L, head of the underworld. God

30 Codex Borbonicus folio 7; Seler 1963 TII: 189-191. The lightening-wielding Tlaloc has similar aspects as the Xiu-
hteuctli priest on folio 30 of the same codex (Lpez-Austin 1994: 182, 189).
31 Martin 2003: 39.
32 Martin 2003: 12-13. Recently, a new reference to Siyah Kak came to surface in the city of La Sufricaya (Estrada

Belli et al. 2009).

33 Laporte 2003; Stuart 2002.

7 Ruud van Akkeren

L is an old god, often painted black, wearing a jaguar skin as a cloak. But not just of
some ordinary jaguar, but of the Waterlily Jaguar, closely related to the Jaguar God of
the Underworld. In other instances, he himself features jaguar ears, claws and paws. As
a deity of the underworld, God L has a subterranean residence - a luxury palace
where he is pictured on a throne, covered with a skin of the same Waterlily Jaguar. An-
other notable attribute is the wide-brimmed hat of owl feathers, often adorned with the
head of a bird whose accompanying hieroglyphic references reads as kuy or kuh, owl.
One particular text narrates his hat with the owl is the partner of the god L, much as
the owls (tukur) in the Xibalba myth are the allies of the Lords of Xibalba34. A final
characteristic attribute of God L to be mentioned is his staff, which was a symbol of the
long-distance merchants. It is a feature of God L which cannot be stressed enough: his
role as the patron saint of commerce.

One of the Classic names of God L turned out

to be Bolon Okte Ku. Scholars used to re-
phrase the title to Bolon Yokte Ku but in
Classic texts his name seems to read as
Bolon Okte Ku35. The logogram OK refers to
a dog, whose equivalent in higland Maya lan-
guages would be tzi. That is how I came to
contemplate the idea that okte was a cog-
nate of tzite (Eritrina corallodendron) the
coral tree or palo de pito a famous and sig-
nificant tree whose red bean-seeds today are
still used by Maya
priests in their
divinations . This
appeared to be
very fruitful and
matched various
interesting clues
about the tzite tree in the Popol Wuj.
The grandfather of the ancestral couple Xmukane and Xpiya-
kok, is said to be an ajtzite which can be translated as him
being a diviner, as well as him being made of the wood of
the coral tree. The male members of the Wooden People in
the Popol Wuj, the race previous to the Corn People, are
also made of the tzite, explaining why God L or Bolon Okte
Ku is called Mam, Grandfather, or, in Nahuatl, Huehueteotl,
Old Deity: he is a denizen from an earlier era! He is further
present in the tale of Xibalba, as the first couple of the un-

34 Grube y Schele, 1994: 12; Grofe, 2009: 1-3.

35 He is called Bolon Yokte in a colonial text, Chilam Balam de Chumayel (Roys, 1967: 133).
36 I am not familiar with an historical analysis of the logogram OK, and its posible fonetic determinants. Otherwise,

it is worth investigating if the proper Classic name of God L was not Bolon or Bahlun Okte Ku but rather Bolon
Tzite Ku, since in neighboring highland languages tzi is the common lexeme for dog. The word ok appears to be a
loanword from Mixe (Boot 2009: 140).

8 Ruud van Akkeren

derworld lords, who turned out to be just wooden effigies, as One and Seven Junajpu
failed to notice. According to the text they are descendents of the same Wooden Peo-
ple. Finally, tzite is the wood of which Maximon is made, according to various scholars
a modern version of God L.

From the Codex Dresden folios 49 and 60 we may deduce that B'olon Okte Ku was
the equivalent of the Central-Mexican god Xiuhteuctli, as scholars have showed. That is
very helpful in defining the nature of God L or Bolon Okte Ku. In Central-Mexican cos-
movision Xiuhteuctli, Lord of Fire, is the creative principle. He was the oldest god in the
pantheon, known as Huehueteotl. He was considered the father of the gods (Teteo
Inta), as such coupled with the Moon Goddess, Tlazolteotl called mother of the gods
(Teteo Innan). His place was the center of the earth (tlalxicco) where one pictured the
terrestrial Hearth, the center of fire (tlexicco).

The term xiuhteuctli is derived from xiuh and teuctli,

lord. Xiuh root of the term xihuitl does not mean
fire, as expected, but rather year or turquoise.
However, Xiuhteuctli was known as the Lord of Fire or
by his other name, Ixcozauhqui, Yellow Face, referring
to the color of fire37. Still, because of its relationship
with the color turquoise, another characteristic of the
God of Fire was the xiuhtototl or bluebird in his
headdress (Cotinga amabilis). Xiuhteuctli was a Tlaloc,
as explained, the Central-Mexican term for Lord
Mountain-Valley, but among them, the supreme Tlaloc,
guardian of the teotexcalli or Divine Hearth. As such, he
also presided the New Fire ceremony and the highpriest
of Xiuhteuctli was in charge of drilling New Fire at the
end of the Calendar Round of 52 years. Finally,
Xiuhteuctli had various aspects in common with Mictlan-
teuctli, the Lord of Mictlan, the Nahuatl term for Xibalba 38.

There is a striking image of him as the

Tlaloc of the terrestial Hearth on the
famous Calpulalpan bowl, where he is
depicted covered in flames, occupying
the very center of this ceramic piece:
tlalxicco and tlexicco. On another
vessel (K4503), which is almost a copy
of the scene on the bowl, we see four
sacrificers, two on each side, walking
towards a central hearth portrayed with
the same head of Tlaloc and flames surrounding him.

37 The title Yellow Face coincides nicely with him being made of the tzite tree. In an interview with Vicente Asig,
Qeqchi Maya of Cahabn, I learned that they used to paint the walls of their school yellow with the bark of the
tzite. They would strip the stem of its bark and the inside gives off a yellow color.
38 Limn Olvera, 2001: 88, 95-96, 105.

9 Ruud van Akkeren

Xiuhteuctli was legendary for his weapon,
known as the Xiuhcoatl or Fire Serpent. It
often had the form of an undulating snake.
However, from his appearance in the Codex
Dresden we understand that this thunderbolt
could be replaced by the spearthrower. This
helps to clarify the title of Spearthrower Owl.
In Xibalba y el nacimiento del nuevo sol, I
suggest that stela 4 of Ucanal sports another
example of a Spearthrower ancestor,
conveniently portrayed with a torch in his
headdress. It appears that on the vase men-
tioned above the makers also might have
wanted to represent this Fire Serpent: there
is a thunderbolt larger than the other flames,
which crosses behind the Tlaloc head.

As a final aspect, Xiuhteuctli was considered

to be the supreme patron of the merchants.
In Aztec society there were two complemen-
tary merchant guilds: Pochteca and Ozto-
meca. The Pochteca merchants were back
home in charge of the internal domain, like
religious activities in the main temple in
Tenochtitlan. The Oztomeca were in charge of the external domain; they were, besides
merchants, also military forces and spies, and protected the long-distance caravans of
the merchants on their trips into new areas. Pochteca is derived from pochotl meaning
ceiba which is the tree of the east. The seat of this guild in the Aztec capital was
called Pochtlan, whose titular merchant deity was Yacateuctli. The term oztomeca
means those of the large cave, which is associated with the west. Its tree is the pine
tree or acxoyatl and its seat was called Acxotlan, whose titular merchant deity was
Nacxitl . However, the all-embracing merchant god of both, the Pochteca and Ozto-
meca-Acxoteca, was Xiuhteuctli whose temple-pyramid in Tenochtitlan stood in the
northwestern quarter of the city. The calpulli in charge of this sanctuary was Tzon-

39 Zantwijk 1977: 119-128.

10 Ruud van Akkeren

Going back to Spearthrower Owl, he is mentioned in the text of the famous ballcourt

marker excavated at Group 6C-XVI of Tikal. His nominal phrase consists of three picto-
graphic elements: the stylized mouth of Tlaloc, symbolizing a cave, with three hearth-
stones above it; a hand holding an atlatl or spearthrower, and an owl. I argue in
Xibalba y el nacimiento del nuevo sol
that those are Central-Mexican ele-
ments of the god Xiuhteuctli, as proves
the image of the Tree of Tlalocan in
Tepantitla40. There has been quite
some discussion about this over-
whelming image of a bust sitting on
top of a cave stored with seeds and
other goodies. However, about one
thing scholars have agreed: the dia-
mond-shaped eyes are those of Xiu-
hteuctli, similar to the ones found on
many sculptures featuring the old de-
ity41. The glyph for the cave is the
same as the one on the Marcador, and
it also has the hearthstones on top of
it. In addition, the rich headdress has
the head of an owl, just like God L. I
point out that in the Xibalba myth the
owl allies of the lords carry the highest
military title, rajpop achij. It may allude

40 Akkeren 012: 196-198.

41 Lpez-Austin 1994: 228.

11 Ruud van Akkeren

to the famous Teotihuacan military order of Owl warriors, who probably just like the Oz-
tomecan warriors, protected the merchants on their marches42. Above the headdress
towers an enormous tree of which we come to speak when discussing the title Ka-
lomte. The tree is an image of the center of the universe, as Alfredo Lopez Austin has
The same elements of Spearthrower Owls nominal phrase are present in the center
medallion of the Marcador. On the front part we see the spearthrower and the owl, and
on the back the stylized cave with the three hearthstones. It should further be men-
tioned that the flowery marcador sits on top of a ball featuring in its center two faces of
a Teotihuacan lord with below them a Mexican Year-sign which alludes to the xihuitl
reading. All together they offer strong evidence that Spearthrower Owl was indeed the
high priest of the Xiuhteuctli cult in Teotihuacan, and hence, the head of the merchants

Spearthrower Owl is the father of Yax Nuun Ayin. On

stela 31 Yax Nuun Ayin is portrayed as a Teotihuacan
military, however
not as an Owl- but
as a Jaguar-
warrior as we will
come to see. In
his headdress
appear the
torches that are
used by the Xiu-
hteuctli priest to light the divine oven. On stela 4
he carries the torch in his left hand44. His office
seems confirmed by the title he receives on the
so-called Hombre de Tikal: Tajal Chaak, which
Martin & Grube translate as Torch of Chaak. If we
take Chaak to be the equivalent of the Central-
Mexican Tlaloc, this title may actually refer to him
as the Tlaloc of the Center, Xiuhteuctli. In Xibalba
y el nacimiento del nuevo sol I have shown that
another epithet for Xiuhteuctli was Ocoteuctli or
Lord of the Ocote, the pine timbers with which
they lightened the oven and which in Classic chol
reads as taj45.

42 Stuart 2000: 484-486.

43 Lpez-Austin 1994: 223-229.
44 Nielsen 2006: 24.
45 Martin & Grube 2000: 32-33. It appears there are more referrences to his profession as fire priest on the Hombre de

Tikal: the collocations D2-C4 feature the handglyph of taking a torch, followed by the readings CHAN-na and KIN-
ni, and his name Yax Nuun Ayin.
The Tajal Chaak may recall the name of another Classic Maya lord, Taj Chan Ahk, whom I have identified as a fire-
priest as well (Akkeren 2012: 197-198).

12 Ruud van Akkeren

Lord of Fire and Sun God
As various scholars have suggested, Bolon Okte Ku is a god of calendrical transi-
tions46. He is the deity that presided the Baktun change, in 3114 BC as well as in 2012
AD. At a lower level, Bolon Okte Ku is present during the first katun (11 Ajaw) of the
katun-cycle of 256 years, as we may read in the Chilam Balam of Chumayel47. At a still
lower level, he is the god in charge of the five closing days of the year, the Wayeb he
is also God N. It corresponds with his Central-Mexican counterpart, Xiuhteuctli, who is
patron of the last trecena, the last month Izcalli, and the close of the Calendar Round.
There is a reason why Xiuhteuctli or Bolon Okte Ku are present at the end of the cal-
endrical cycles, as I demonstrate in Xibalba y el nacimiento del nuevo sol48.

As said, the high priest of Xiuhteuctli was in charge of the drilling of New Fire at the end
of the 52-year period. These moments were conceived as the beginning of a new era,
generating myths like those of the birth of the sun49. As is well-known, the Central-
Mexican myth of the origin of the sun, related in the Leyenda de los Soles or the Flor-
entine Codex, situates his birth in the divine oven (teotexcalli) of Teotihuacan. It nar-
rates the story of the Sun Hero, Nanahuatzin, who throws himself into the blistering
flames to transform into the sun of the new era. The story tells that, to prepare himself
for the sacrifice, the gods built a hill with a temple on top, the place we now know as
the Pyramid of the Sun. It is the Lord of Fire, Xiuhteuctli, who arranges the oven for the
heroic deed of Nanahuatzin.

But there is more, Xiuhteuctli is not just the Lord of Fire, he is fire50. In his body of
flames the terrestrial fire the new, celestial fire is born, which is the sun, and sun is
time. Indeed, Mayan languages dont have a term for time; they use a variation of the
word for sun. Thus, with the birth of the sun, new time and calendrical cycles are cre-
ated. Thats why Bolon Okte Ku or Xiuhteuctli presence was indispensable at the be-
ginning of new cycles. He supplied the medium for the sun and time to be born51.
We then understand that, unlike in Christian religion, the underworld or Xibalba plays a
crucial role in the creation of the new era, the era of sun and corn. Without terrestrial

46 Eberl, Markus & Christian Prager 2005; Grofe 2009.

47 It is in this source that the god is called Bolon Yokte, a name which subsequently was embraced by Maya scholars
(Roys 1967).
48 Akkeren 2012: 163-167.
49 Just like Sahagn or Motolina claim and many modern scholars, as we will learn later (Limn Olvera, 2001: 161-

163; 167).
50 As shows the image of this deity on folio 46 of the Codex Borgia.
51 Akkeren 2012: 166-167.

13 Ruud van Akkeren

fire, no celestial fire! In the Xibalba myth, this mutual dependency is cast in the person
of Xkik, daughter of Kuchuma Kik, Lord of Xibalba. She presents the Xibalbas con-
tribution to the new era. She becomes the mother of the Hero Twins who later be-
queath sun and corn to mankind. In the Popol Wuj version they skip a generation, but
very often, as in Qeqchi mythology, the relation between the Lord of Fire or Lord
Mountain-Valley and the Sun Hero is that between father-in-law and son-in-law, whereas
his daughter is the intermediate. In this concept, the sun-eras are reduced to genera-
tions. Indeed, many Maya creation myths are situated at the micro-level of the family,
as we may read in the Popol Wuj or in La historia de Sol y Luna, Balam Qe y Qana Po52.
Thus for these various reasons, both, Lord of Fire or Lord Mountain-Valley and the Sun
God, are often portrayed together in Mesoamerican imagery and architecture.

.A striking rendering of the couple we

find in the great ballcourt complex of
Chichen Itza, the city which is the
apogee of the new merchant ideology
that shall eclipse the Classic. In the
central scene of the bas-relieves of the
Lower Temple of the Jaguars they are
the two personages in front of the high
priest of the Feathered Serpent: the first
one is a version of Jun Ajpu with his
blowgun53 followed by the aged
Xiuhteuctli with his Fire Serpent they
appear in the North Temple again as a
couple54. There are other examples from Aztec culture, like the Calendar Stone where
both adorn the outer rim of the
monument, each coming out of their re-
spective Fire Serpent. There is the Templo
Mayor which harbored two temples, one
for Lord Mountain-Valley (Tlaloc) and one
for the Sun God (Huitzilopochtli). It was
from the temple of the latter that the New
Fire was reparted among the other cities of
the Triple Anahuac55.

. In a sense there is a similar juxtaposition

in the complex of the Pyramid of the Sun
in Teotihuacan. Fash, Tokovinine and Fash
(2009) have revived an idea of one of the

52 Akkeren 2012 Apndice.

53 It shows that the blowgun and Fire Serpent are conceptually the same weapon, as we may learn from Qeqchi
54 Schele & Mathews 1998: 221-222; Akkeren 2012: 199-202.
55 Similar cases can be made for the twin-temple complexes in Highland Guatemala, like the one in Kaqjyub,

Rabinal. Fash, Fash and Tokovinine recognized the couple in the iconography of Temple 16 in Copan: iconic repre-
sentations of both the Sun God and the Storm God, in a sense presaging the later Posclassic Twin Temples of
Huitzilopochtli and Tlaloc (Fash et al. 2009: 211).

14 Ruud van Akkeren

first archaeologists who excavated in this city, Leopoldo Batres. Based on the iconogra-
phy he found on the pieces of rubble of the Adosada temple at the foot of the pyramid,
Batres suggested that this must have been the place where the New Fire was drilled.
Indeed, he discovered xiuhmolpilli or year-bundles in stone, there were columns depict-
ing a temple with emerging flames and stylized crossed bundles, and in its center the
image of a cruller as a name-tag56. Taube has argued that the cruller, mostly known
for adorning the face of the Jaguar God of the Underworld, evokes the cord which
served for drilling fire57.

To the Maya the Jaguar God of the Underworld was the god in
charge of making fire. We will deal with the Jaguar God of the
Underworld later and demonstrate that in Teotihuacan a similar
creature was involved in fire-making rituals. The nine jaguars
that archaeologists have located among the
debris of the temple, are hence further
proof that it was indeed the temple of
Xiuhteuctli58. Thus in the hearth at the bot-
tom, the sun was born, whose temple must have crowned the top,
according to the Florentine Codex. Still as it appears, Xiuhteuctli
also had its place in that sanctuary, as of writing these lines, news
broke that Mexican archaeologists excavating the top of the
Pyramid of the Sun, uncovered a 58 cm tall sculpture of the Lord of
Thus, the Pyramid of the Sun was the place where time and sun
was born. As said in the first paragraph, the mercantile ideology
was a mix of two bodies of mythology: Tullan and Tzuywa. The con-
tribution of the Tullan paradigm, in Stuarts words, is the concept
of the New Fire. Tullan was called Pu in Maya. I explain in Xibalba y el nacimiento del
nuevo sol that Jun Ajpu foremost means First of Tullan, a name that likely was forged in
the mercantile ideology. I found that the Xibalba myth of the Popol Wuj was born in
the southern Peten and northern Alta Verapaz, and that the historical oven of Xibalba
seems to have been situated in Machaquila. Machaquila formed part of the network of
the new mercantile elite, either coming from Chichen Itza or directly from the Gulf
Coast. It is called Pu on stela 8 of Ceibal, and its most prominent feature is a cuadripar-
tite plaza which, according to archaeologist Alfonso Lacadena, proves to have been the
scenery of an inmense fire. I argue that the peculiar shape of the plaza is intentional 60.

Junajpu61 is the last day-sign in the row of twenty. Its Central-Mexican equivalent is
Xochitl, Flower, the shape of the plaza. Eric Thompson was perhaps the first one to note
that the Maya glyph KIN, sun, represented a flower.

56 Fash et al. 2009: 207-209

57 Taube 2002: 292.
58 Fash et al. 2009: 209-210
59 February 12th, 2013
60 Akkeren 2002: 34; 2012: 122-125; 192-196.
61 When referring to the 20th day, I use the spelling Junajpu, when referring to the Sun Hero, Jun Ajpu.

15 Ruud van Akkeren

If the cuadripartite plaza was
the sacred oven of Xibalba,
it means that this was place
where Jun Ajpu launched
himself with his brother into
the fire to transform into the
sun of the new era. Hence, I
believe that the Postclassic
term Jun Ajpu, replacing Late
Classic Jun Ajaw, emerged in
Machaquila. In addition, it is
my point that the cuadri-
partite plaza of Machaquila
wants to emulate the
primordial flower-shaped
cave which sits in the inner
center of the Pyramid of the Sun, the place where according to Central-Mexican myth
the sun rose up from the divine hearth or teotexcalli.
One of the names of Teotihuacan, found on
a bone from Tikal, is spelled Nikte Wits,
Flower Mountain, which verly likely refers to
the complex of the Pyramid of the Sun62.

Returning to our personage of Spearthrower

Owl, who has been identified as Xiuhteuctli,
one may speculate that the name or title of
his ambassador in the Central Petn, Siyah
Kak or Born from Fire63, was not accidental.
It seems to allude to the Sun God, being
born from the divine hearth in Teotihuacan.
Perhaps the year 378 marked the end of a
52-year period, in which ceremony Siyah
Kak was born and installed as the new
sun-captain. Teotihuacan may have taken
this calendrical moment as propitious to in-
troduce new blood in the dynasty of Tikal.
Later, we will hear more about the political
use of the New Fire ceremony in Mesoamerica.

Tikal Emblem Glyph and Tzonmolco

The Emblem Glyph of Tikal represents a bound knot of hair, listed
as T569 by Thompson. Clemency Coggins has put forward the
idea that the glyph resembled a ritual bundle used at katun and
baktun endings64. Linda Schele has come up with a reading which

62 Fash et al. 2009: 219.

63 Martin & Grube 2000: 29.
64 Coggins 1990: 96; 2002: 48, note 41.

16 Ruud van Akkeren

implied the jaguar suggesting that the animal was a patron god of Tikal65. This was be-
fore a fonetic reading of T569 surfaced, simultaneously discovered by Christian Prager
and David Stuart, in 1992, leading to a reading of mut66. According to a Yucatec dic-
tionary mut pol rodete hacer la mujer de sus cabellos, which seems the image the
glyph is conveying67. Ever since, the classic city of Tikal has been known as Mutul or

Writing about the meaning of Tikals Emblem Glyph, Simon Martin pondered:

While the root term mut refers to the tied knot of hair depicted in the famous bundle hiero-
glyph T596, its deeper meaning as a place-name is currently lost to us68.

Nontheless, I will offer a reading for this deeper meaning. I propose in this article that
Tikals Emblem Glyph expresses a pictographic reading of a Central-Mexican calpulli
named Tzonmolco: from tzontli, hair, molli, derived from the verb to stir, turn, fold,
bend, and co, being a locative, resulting in the reading Place of the Bended Hair69.
True, it is not a seamless reading of Tikals Emblem Glyph, but the the idea did not
originate with the name, rather with the iconography, and subsequent circumstancial
evidence, as we will see. Regardless, it implies that the calpulli Tzonmolco is somehow
connected to the origin of Tikal.

Our knowledge about the calpulli Tzonmolco almost only comes from Aztec sources. It
was a calpulli with ancient roots. It did not belong to the original seven calpultin of the
Aztecs, but dated back to Toltec origins, and perhaps even to the time of Teotihua-
can70. This corresponds with the antiquity of their titular god, Xiuhteuctli, called Father
of the Gods and Old God or Huehueteotl. Sculptures of this deity are already found in
the pre-Teotihuacan culture of Cuicuilco71.

Tzonmolcos temple, dedicated to the god Xiuhteuctli, stood in the barrio of Copolco, in
the northwestern part of Tenochtitlan. From its members the calpulli recruited the high
priest in charge of the drilling of the New Fire72. The precinct of Xiuhteuctli in Tenochtit-
lan was very prestigious: Tzonmolco harbored one of the seven Calmecac or elite
schools, and in the barrio of Copolco they used to bury the ashes of the Aztec lords,
huey tlatoani. In Book 1 of the Florentine Codex we may read that Motecuhzoma
danced each four years as an impersonator of Xiuhteuctli at the temple of Tzonmolco73.

Tzonmolco is called a calpulli, certainly alluding to a double descent kinship group, but it
included also non-consanguinal affiliates that became family because of similar inter-

65 Schele 1985: 64.

66 The fonetic reading of mut is based on the appearance of T596 complemented with the syllables mu on A9, Panel 2
of La Amelia y tu on Lintel 17 of Yaxchilan (Martin 2003: 38).
67 Barrera-Vsquez 1991: 542.
68 Martin 2003: 4.
69 According to the Calepino of Sahagn - his notes to the Florentine Codex - tzonmolco is translated as en el cabello mul-

lido, which should be loosened hair.

70 Zantwijk 1977:108; Zantwijk, personal communication, november 2012.
71 Coggins 2002: 54.
72 Zantwijk 1977: 199.
73 XX wrs Limn Olvera, 2001: 88, 95-96, 105.

17 Ruud van Akkeren

ests. As Rudolf van Zantwijk has put forward, Tzonmolco was probably an interethnic
calpulli that included the members of the six other merchant calpultin each with their
own patron god, and temple-pyramids, divided over the four barrios of Tenochtitlan.
The two most important ones are the above-mentioned Pochteca and Oztomeca with
their respective patrons Yacateuctli and Nacxitl, apart from four lesser ones. These six
calpultin were are all socially and ceremonially related to Tzonmolco74. Additionally,
Tzonmolco had, among other calpultin, a special function in the worship of the Sun God
Huitzilopochtli, something to be expected from the twin model Lord of Fire and Sun
God we presented above75.

Interestingly, to Tzonmolco also belonged the prestigious feather-craftsmen, the aman-

teca whose roots also seem to go back to ancient times. Sahagn writes that in his
time people considered the amanteca to be among the first people inhabiting the valley
of Mexico 76. The Franciscan chronicler also describes how Pochteca and Amanteca,
both wealthy corporate groups, lived and celebrated together77:

El barrio de los amantecas y el barrio de los pochtecas estaban juntos, y tambin los dioses de
los amantecas y de los pochtecas estaban pareados, el uno se llamaba Yiacatecutli [sic] que es
el dios de los mercaderes, y el otro se llamaba Coyotlinual, que es el dios de los amantecas,
por esta causa los mercaderes y los oficiales de la pluma se honraban los unos a otros.

Y cuando se sentaban en los convites de una parte se sentaban los mercaderes y de la otra
parte los oficiales de pluma. Era casi iguales en las haciendas, y en el hacer de las fiestas, o
banquetes: porque los mercaderes traan de lejas tierras las plumas ricas; y los amantecas las
labraban y componan, y hacan las armas y divisas y rodelas de ellas, de que usaban los
seores y principales ... 78.

Summarizing, Tzonmolco was a respected calpulli which included wealthy members of

the Pochteca, Oztomeca and Amanteca guilds, and which had deep roots in Central-
Mexican society seemingly going back to Teotihuacan times79.

God L and the Knot of Bended Hair

Thus, I suggest that the Emblem Glyph of Tikal is a
pictographic reading of the term tzonmolco, Place of
the Bended Hair. The idea emerged when writing
Xibalba y el nacimiento del nuevo sol. Analyzing the
imagery of God L, I ran into an iconographic element
which seemed particular for this god: a bended and
bound knot of hair popping up from under his
headdress or simply crowning his head. We are all
familiar with the historical information Mesoamerican
artists used to put in their images, especially in the

74 According to Van Zantwijk, the six calpultin were divided in two cosmovisionally related groups headed by the
Pochteca and Oztomeca (1977: 123-125).
75 Zantwijk 1977: 123.
76 Zantwijk 1977:123+ Davies 1977: 177.
77 Sahagn 1982: 517- 519.
78 Sahagn 1982: 519.
79 Angulo, 1998.

18 Ruud van Akkeren


A number of these illustrations are unmistakably linked to the

new international mercantile order following the decline of
Teotihuacan. A fine example comes from Epiclassic Cacaxtla; in
the Red Temple we have God L in his role as the patron of com-
merce, an old deity dressed in his familiar jaguar outfit. In his
right hand he holds a bar with the head of a dog on top. Schol-
ars have pointed out that the wooden bar plus the four dots
may read as nine, followed by the dog offers a rebus spelling of Bolon Okte; and in-
deed he is a fine copy of this deity80. Behind him is a large cacaxtli typically of long-
distance merchants. It is packed with merchandize and on top is the common owl
headdress of God L. Underneath the feet of the merchant deity, runs a serpent covered
in blue feathers: that is how long-distance merchants thought of the route they walked.
It is a continuous road including hills and water. We will come to that in a later para-
graph. Our interest here goes to the bended knot of hair popping from underneath the
jaguar head: it seems an appropriate copy of the Tikal Emblem Glyph.

During the Epiclassic Cacaxtla, just like its close neighbor Cholula, was an Olmeca-
Xicalanca site. The Olmeca-Xicalanca, also called historical Olmecs, came from the Gulf
Coast . The ethnic term Xicalanca is derived from the famous port of trade Xicalanco,
which lay in the Usumacinta delta, although we know that in Aztec times, the Gulf Coast
from Coatzalcoalcos to Campeche was referred to as Anahuac Xicalanco, Xicalanco
Coast. In an earlier writing I have identified Xicalanco as the Tzuywa of the Maya
sources81. The Cacaxtla of the Olmeca-Xicalanca formed part of the international trade
network that grew in the aftermath of Teotihuacans decline. Many scholars have
pointed out at the Mayan style of its murals. Olmeca-Xicalanca are hard to distinguish
from another ethnic group, Nonoalca, which I mention hear because we will come back
to the Nonoalca82.

A second example of God L and the knot of bended hair, is found on the bas-relieves of
the Lower Temple of the Jaguar, as part of the Great Ballcourt complex of Chichen Itza.
Chichen Itza and its ballcourt
complex is key in the new
mercantile ideology of the
Epiclassic, and I have
interpreted its iconography
lengthily in Xibalba y el
nacimiento del nuevo sol. The
inner temple is covered with
processions of warriors.
Although the wall is divided in
several registers, one on top of each other, it is clear from the position of the people
that they are all watching the central scene. There we have the high priest of the

80 Grofe, 2009:10.
81 Akkeren 2006b.
82 Davies 1977; Kirchhoff et al 1989; Foncerrada 1993; Ringle et al. 1998; Pohl 1999; McCafferty 2002.

19 Ruud van Akkeren

Feathered Serpent, and in front of him two personages who are the other principal
characters, we discussed them briefly when
mentioning the cosmovisional relation between
the Sun God and Xiuhteuctli. Indeed, the first one
can be identified as the young Sun Hero, for his
blowgun, comparable to Jun Ajpu or Jun Ajaw. I
have suggested that the speech scroll coming
from his mouth, covered with calabash flowers, is
an example of the famous Language of Tzuywa83.
As said,
Tzuywa is the
equivalent of
Xicalanco, and according to the Chilam Balam of
Chumayel, Itza and their founder father came from
the Gulf Coast. The person behind him I have
identified as Xiuhteuctli: an old man with the Fire
Serpent in his hand84.

Interesting are the name glyphs that hover above

their heads. They belong to the Olmeca-Xicalanca
writing system, as has been pointed out, and which
was also in use in Cacaxtla85. However, some
glyphs, like the one above Xiuhteuctli, go back to
Teotihuacan, as Caso and Taube have shown. On a
stela from Veracruz we find an appealing rendering
of the Lord of Fire in a syncretized Teotihuacan-Gulf
Coast style. His outfit is the Fire Serpent with the
familiar pointed tail. He holds two torches in both
hands; another two are worked into his headdress,
together with the glyph we see above Xiuhteuctli in
Chichen Itza. I have suggested that the name glyph
above Xiuhteuctli in Chichen Itza reads Chicome
Coatl or Seven Serpent, the calendar name of the
Maize God, portrayed on the other side of the
temple, on the ballcourt benches86.

83 Roys Chumayel; Coggins 200:48.

84 When I showed this image to Rudolf van Zantwijk, he identified the so-called sloppy shields both heroes carry in
their other hands, as xiquipiles, bags that served merchants for packing cacao. It was further used as a pictograph for
the number 8000. It seems a proper suggestion for personages representing a mercantile ideology (personal commu-
nication, november 2012).
85 Schele & Mathews 1998: 222.
86 Indeed, in my book I suggest that it reads Seven Serpent, or Chicome Coatl, the Nahuatl name for the Maize God.

The name also appears on the bench walls of the ballcourt, as the beheaded person. Six snakes plus the Tzuywa vine
squirting forth from his neck, which counts for the seventh snake as we know from other images. It is a picto-
graphic reading of the name Chicome Coatl. In Central Mexican cosmology Chicome Coatl is the Maize Goddess,
although there have been discussions about her gender (Seler 1963 TI: 119; Zantwijk 1977: 139). Still, Chicome Coatl
is the mother of Cinteotl, the young Maize God. I show that in the Maya area Seven Serpent appears to be the name
for the young Maize God, as shows, for example, stela 13 of Ceibal, a contemporary monument of the ballcourt of
Chichen Itza (Akkeren 2012). It is interesting, that the Xiuhteuctli character carry this name. From Gulfcoast my-

20 Ruud van Akkeren

Nevertheless, we are interested in the impressive knot of
bound hair on top of his headdress, which must have a se-
mantic significance. As I argue, we witness in this central
scene the mercantile elite responsible for the Classic Maya
collapse. An international elite, formed at the end of the
Classic on the Gulf Coast , which included lineages from
Teotihuacan, Olmeca-Xicalanca, Nonoalca and Maya. The first
warrior behind Xiuhteuctli, is standing in a canoe which
identifies him as a Acallan warrior, a province on the same Gulf
Coast . Thus, I postulate that the bound knot of hair on
Xiuhteuctlis head
refers to the social
group to which the
old man pertained,
the calpulli Tzon-

Xiuhteuctli is also present on the outer

columns of the same temple. Here he
blends in with God N; still, he is acting like
the Lord of Fire, as I put forward in my
book. Similarly as in the central scene of
the inner sanctum, he is wearing two
sacrificial knives, hanging from his
carapace. When I composed the book I did
not yet realized the meaning of the knives,
although, as it seemed, I had already written extensively about it, but in another
context. The sacrificial knife is a permanent item of the Lord of Fire.

I have shown that the most important deity of the postclassic Guatemala Highland, Tojil,
is also a Fire God. When, as narrated in the Popol Wuj, the Kiche and their allies are
grouped together in the mountains, dying of cold, with every fire extinguished, it is Tojil
who drills new fire. In an article that awaits its publication, I make an effort to trace back
the origin of Tojil, a cult introduced by the Toj lineage. I show that the Toj the ruling
lineage in Rabinal and authors of the Rabinal Achi - was originally a Mexican lineage,
which at the end of the Classic migrated from the Pacific Coast into the Highlands, get-
ting mayanized in the process and changing their Mexican name into a Maya one. The
original name of the Toj was Atonal. Toj is the equivalent of the day-name Atl, and
atonal is a contraction of atl-tonalli, Atl-Day. The patron saint of the day Atl is, again,
Xiuhteuctli, who in Central-Mexican pictorials is commonly portrayed together with Ix-
tapal Totec, the personified Flint Knife. I quote quite a few references from indigenous
documents which prove that Tojil was also conceived off as a sacrificial knife87.

thology we know that it was the Maize God who bestowed the Fire Serpent thunderbolt to the lords of Tlalocan,
Lords Mountain-Valley (Braakhuis 2009: 14; Akkeren 2012: 132, 203).

87 Akkeren 2000, 2012, in press.

21 Ruud van Akkeren

The migration of Mexican peoples to the Pacific Coast including Nonoalca is the
outcome of similar contemporary movements along the international trade network as
we encounter in Chichen. I was able to trace the Atonal family all the way back to Tula
and Cuauhtitlan. However, we lack the sources to determine if they were originally from
Teotihuacan. Atonal are mentioned in various indigenous sources, and the places
where they appear as lords, priests or scribes - together form a string of cities that
finely shaped the trade-route from Central-Mexico to the Pacific Coast. I further show
that the other titulary gods mentioned in the Popol Wuj Qaqawits and Awilix are
but idiosyncratic versions of the same Lord of Fire. Thus, the presence of Xiuhteuctli in
Chichen Itza, is part of a larger domain, which, indeed, is our mercantile ideology of the
Late Classic.

The sacrificial knife being part of Xiuhteuctlis

instruments, may prompt new investigation of
familiar imagery. I have called attention to the
famous central tree of the panel of the Temple of
the Cross in Palenque. Taube already pointed out
the three hearthstones at the end of each branch.
To me the snake in its branches is the Fire Serpent,
and its base is the place where the sun, kin, is
born, suggesting a tree of the central hearth
(tlexicco). At the same base we find the sacrificial
knife. It should also be remembered that the
Temple of the Cross features the famous panel of
Bolon Okte88.

Returning to God N as the Lord of Fire,

on the outer columns of the Lower
Temple of the Jaguar. A carapace can
be part of the outfit of God L as well: it
appears on the backrack of this deity
in Cacaxtla. Fairly recently, a large
Aztec sculpture of Xiuhteuctli wearing
a carapace was unearthed in the his-
torical center of Mexico City89. I pro-
pose in my book that the carapace or
conch shell of God N, is the Maya
equivalent of the Central-Mexican pic-
tograph of the cave, that is, Tlalocs
mouth, the one we found in

88 Akkeren 2012: 177.

89 Hernndez Pons 1996.

22 Ruud van Akkeren

Spearthrower Owls nominal phrase with the three hearthstones on top. I identify the
four creatures around the old god on the outer columns of the Lower Temple of the
Jaguar, which has been called Mars Beasts by scholars, rather as four Fire Serpents,
the same ones that adorn the shield of the high priest of the Feathered Serpent, of
which several copies have been found. However, that the old god is in fact the Lord of
Fire, is best seen from the object he is carrying in his hand which, I claim, is not a rat-
tle, but a a torch of flames. Notably, the flames are depicted in the Central-Mexican
way, not being the lustrious flares and flames Maya would paint90.We are witnessing
here a New Fire ceremony, something that Coggins already suggested91

Other examples of God L and the knot of bended hair are

from a cilindrical column of Santa Rosa Xtampak, a site
on the border of the Puuc and Chenes area92. The city is
Late Classic and Epiclassic, as most of the recorded
dates are from the 10th Baktun, thus, contemporary of
Chichen Itza93. Here the knot of hair pops from under-
neath his traditional owl-headdress. Interesting is also
that God L holds the typical merchant staff, otlatl, which,
according to Sahagn, merchants used to bind together
at the place where they stayed the night. The Kiche
capitals nahuatl name, Utatlan, Place of the Staff, took
its title from it, apropriate for a capital ruled by a lineage
of traders, Kaweq, that produced the outstanding expres-
sion of the new mercantile ideology, the myth of
Xibalba. Finally, it should be mentioned that this God L
from Xtampak seems to wear the same long necklace of
beads as does his counterpart in the Lower Temple of
the Jaguar. It shares this object also with God L from the Temple of the Cross in Palen-

One of the few examples in Classic Maya iconography where God L ostentates a torch,
is painted on a Chama vase (K702). The reason for this late appearance, as I explain in
my book, is that the Central-Mexican mythological corpus which I have dubbed Tullan
including imagery and personages, only make its entrance in the Maya area at the
end of Classic94. Chama is in the heartland of the Xibalba area95. Chama is also close
to Salinas de los Nueve Cerros, an important trade-center for its salt, ruled by the Ka-
nek family, as we explained. The Kanek were co-founders of Chichen Itza and tutors

90 Taube 2000; Nielsen 200: 22-23.

91 Coggins 2002: 74.
92 Taube 1992: 84.
93 Grube 2003.
94 Taube, for example, argues that Xiuhteuctli enters the Maya area at the end of the Classic (1992)
95 The geographical information about the location of Xibalba was always present in the text of the Popol Wuj, but

never recognized by its translators. According to the document, the entrance to the underworld was in Nim Xol
Karchaj. Santo Tomas Nim Xol turns out to be a barrio from Coban and Karchaj refers to San Pedro Carcha. A
historical analysis of the peoples reduced by the dominicans in the colonial towns of Coban and Carcha, shows that
many of them came from what we now call the Franja Transversal del Norte. It is in the piedmont of northern Alta
Verapaz, a place where caves abound, among them the second largest cavernal system of the Maya world, La Cande-
laria. Its inhabitants were predominantly Chol-speaking Maya.

23 Ruud van Akkeren

of the dynasty of Ek Balam. I have traced the origin of the Postclassic Kaweq lineage
back to the Salinas area, and show that they are descendents of the Classic Kanek.
Chama proves to have quite some Yucatecan influences, not in the least its name,
which is derived from the Chol or Yucatec term chamak, fox, a military order which
according to Chama iconography was one of the ruling lineages96. Thus, it does not
seem to be a coincidence to find one of the few images of God L with a torch in the
area where the Kaweq originated97.

On this vase God L is painted black and dressed

the common way, with a large bended knot of
hair appearing from underneath his owl-
headdress, much like the Xtampak image. In
his hand he holds a torch, the handle of which
is similar to the one of the outer column of the
Lower Temple of the Jaguar. In front of him,
there is a dynamic image of God K holding and
featuring similar torches98.

There is main role for

Bolon Okte Ku on
the famous Rabbit
Vase (K1358) which
tells a by now lost
story including a rabbit trickster . Standing nakedly in front of
the rabbit, Bolon Okte Ku features an unusual lock of hair,
arranged in a spiral; an even better visual image of hair being
stirred, tzonmolli. On vase K4598 we see God L, with his
jaguar ear, paws and claws. He is taken prisoner by several
young men and put on a throne of stone with his arms tied
behind is back. Two of them are approaching him with burning
torches, seemingly in the act of putting him on fire. God L, as
a counterpart of Xiuhteuctli, is of course also fire himself. The
darker strokes aroung his head perhaps want to allude to him
being yet ardently hot. This God L also features a prominent
knot of bended hair.

All these examples of God L, some of them closely related to a Central-Mexican origin,
have the knot of bended hair as a major attribute. Again, it is located in a position
head or headdress which is usually reserved by Mayan painters for historical informa-

96 In this context it is worth mentioning that the term Chamak is actually used in the Marcador text of Tikal, as if
referring to a Teotihuacan origin (Boot 2004: 229-230).
97 Although, scholars have dated Chama pottery to the VIIIth century, new investigations and archeaological findings

show we are rather looking to a later date for its production.

98 I suggest in Xibalba y el nacimiento del nuevo sol, that it is worth investigating if God K was the original Lord of Fire

in the Classic Maya area. He is known for its torch, and he is the deity of the center, par excellence, tlexicco and
tlalxicco, much like Xiuhteuctli in Central Mexico (Akkeren 2012).
99 One may recall how the rabbit in the ballcourt of Xibalba plays a trick on the Lords of Xibalba by bouncing

away as a ball.

24 Ruud van Akkeren

tion. It is my proposal that it is a reference to the historical calpulli Tzonmolco, whose
members occupied a powerful position in Mesoamerica. They comprised the heads of
rich merchant families and priests of Xiuhteuctli. If correct the Tzonmolco calpulli goes
back to the times of Teotihuacan. Even more, if the Emblem Glyph of Tikal is in fact a
version of this same knot of bended hair, Tzonmolco must have been instrumental in
the founding of the Tikal dynasty.

To close this paragraph, there is a large fragment of a tripod in the museum at the site
which might represent an example of the knot of bended hair in Teotihuacan style. The
fragment displays five personages, three on the lower part and two on top. The bottom
three all sport a type of hair with a bound knot on the front, the same place where God
L used to have his bended knot of hair. The middle of the three appears to be the prin-
cipal character since he has the speech scroll coming out of his mouth. Just like in later
Aztec codices the cover page of the Mendoza, for example the one with the speech
scroll is the one who rules (tlatoani).
One may make a point that in his
headdress are the usual two sticks
with which the New Fire is drilled,
characteristic of Central-Mexican im-
ages of Xiuhteuctli. Their are further
two goggles with the squinted eyes
on the same headdress, also tipically
of Tlaloc-Xiuhteuctli. Although Taube claims he is pointing his finger like a ruler, this
seems to be incorrect if we count the number of fingers100. To me, his right hand holds
a sacrificial knife, another symbol of Xiuhteuctli as we saw. Thus, perhaps we are look-
ing at a few members of the Tzonmolco calpulli on this tripod.

Jaguar God of the Underworld

If Tikals dynasty was indeed founded by members
of the Tzonmolco calpulli, one would expect to find
the Lord of Fire as their titulary god. Much as this is
true, it is a little more complicated. We do not see
direct images of Bolon Okte Ku. Still, we may re-
call that one of the more prominent features of God
L was him wearing a jaguar skin, of the Waterlily
Jaguar to more precise, a deity which merge easily
in the iconography with the Jaguar God of the
Underworld. It appears that this creature was the
patron god of Tikal.

Now, various scholars have claimed that the Jaguar

God of the Underworld was the Classic Maya Lord of Fire. In an early stage, Taube al-
ready noticed the relation between the Jaguar God of the Underworld and fire101. This

100 Taube 2003: 283-284.

101 Taube 1992: 54.

25 Ruud van Akkeren

particular jaguar was characterized, among other elements, by a cord which ran be-
neath his eyes, then forming a scruller above his nose. According to Taube the cord
was used as an instrument for drilling fire with a stick102. Stuart elaborates further on
the role of Jaguar God of the Underworld in fire rituals: the deity seems to appear often
on incense burners103. The Jaguar God of the Underworld was the patron of the day
akbal, meaning darkness and night appropriate for someone roaming the under-
world and the personified number seven. As said, he is hard to distinguish from the
Waterlily Jaguar, marked by a waterlily plant on his head, defining him, again, as a crea-
ture of the underworld.

This feline deity seems to be the titulary god

of Tikal. On stela 31 Siyah Chan Kawil is
holding Tikals austere patron deity in his
arm. It has the cruller over his nose and
eyes. There are flames rising from his jaguar
ear, and on top of his head, that is, on the
scalp itself, sits the Tikal Emblem Glyph, the
knot of bended hair, joining the dynasty with
the Jaguar God of the Underworld. On stela
4 Yax Nuun Ayin holds in one hand a torch
as we already mentioned and in the other
the head of the same Jaguar God of the
Underworld. We will soon talk about his

headdress, because that also seems to represent

a jaguar .

Stela 31 was ritually put to rest in the funerary

chamber of Siyah Chan Kawil, the creator of the
monument, and a new huge pyramid was raised
on top of it. This happened during the reign of
Jasaw Chan Kawil who defeated Calakmul in 695
and built Temple 1 to conmemorate this victory.

102 Taube 2000: 292

103 Stuart 1998: 403-409.

26 Ruud van Akkeren

The temple features two gorgeously carved lintels. On Lintel 2 we find Jasaw Chan
Kawil portrayed, sitting on a throne and dwarfed by a huge version of the Tikal patron
deity, rendered as the Waterlily Jaguar reason why they baptized pyramid 1 as Gran
Jaguar. The accompanying text relates that the creature in question was called Nuun
Balam Chaaknal104.

Lintel 3 depicts the same ruler on a throne, this time

dominated by a huge serpent in the well-know mosaic
style of Teotihuacan. Jasaw Chan Kawil sports a shield,
arrows and a spearthrower. Stuart has called the ophidian
the Fire Serpent, weapon of Xiuhteuctli which as we have
found, could be
replaced by the
spearthrower. The
throne is standing
on a pair of steps
with toponymic fea-
tures, among them
one identified by the
same Stuart as the
cattail glyph PU for
Tullan105. I would
draw the attention
to the cuadripartite
flower, which
seemed to have
been related, as we
saw, with the place
of the divine hearth,
the Pyramid of the
Sun in Teotihuacan.
They are all elements which would link Jasaw
Chan Kawil with Spearthrower Owl, which appears to be intentional: the inauguration

104 Lintel 2 - D2 (Martin & Grube 2000: 45)

105 Stuart 2002: 490, 502.

27 Ruud van Akkeren

date of lintel 2, featuring the enormous Jaguar patron god, fell on a day that was ex-
actly one cycle of 13 katuns after the Spearthrower Owls death, and there were more
dates aligned with the life of this Teotihuacan ruler106.

On Lintel 2 of Temple IV , built by Jasaw Chan Kawils son and sucessor Yikin Chan
Kawil (Ruler B), we anew encounter the giant titular god, this time in his traditional out-
fit of the Jaguar God of the Underworld107. We have Yikin Chan Kawil sitting on his
throne with the colossal feline overlooking the Tikal lord. The deity wears his common
scruller and, in addition, sports the number seven written on his cheek, and the head-
band with the three Jester Gods, representing the three hearth-stones.

The last carving commented is Lintel 2 of Temple 3, also the last great building erected
in Tikal. The stela and altar at is base conmemorated the katun change of 810. The
principal dignitary on this lintel probably is a lord dubbed Dark Sun. Like his forefathers,
he worshipped the Jaguar God of the Underworld. He is dressed in the skin of an enor-
mous big-bellied jaguar, while holding a stick commonly used for fire-drilling and a so-
called nuckle-
duster . Dark
Suns companions
hold the same
sticks and sacrificial
knife. They have
incredible hairdos
of bound and put-
up hair and
pectorals. One
wonders if the pectoral which looks like a whirl of hair was another portrayal of the
Tzonmolco name-glyph. They are identical to the
pectorals worn by the persons displayed on K4598
which are, as we have seen, without doubt fire-

Other examples
of Tikals titulary
god are found
on the
Vase, excavated
in Buenavista
del Cayo, Belize
(K4464). It
features the Maize God carrying a exuberant plumed
backrack, serving as a portable niche for the image

106 Martin&Grube 2000: 45. Martin 2003: 33-34.

107 Taube 1998: 450, 465.
108 Martin & Grube 2000: 52-53.

28 Ruud van Akkeren

of the Waterlily Jaguar sitting on top of the Tikal Emblem Glyph. Vessel K2696 displays
a Tikal lord sitting on his throne while a lesser noble hands him the skin of a jaguar. In-
teresting is the type of scepter the lord is holding in his hand.

A jaguar as the personification of the Lord of Fire is an image not only restricted to the
Maya. The Central Mexican equivalent of the day akbal - as we saw, a day ruled by the
Jaguar God of the Underworld is calli which had Tepeyollotl as its patron. Tepeyollotl,
literally, Heart of the mountain, is of course an apt name for Lord Mountain-Valley who
resides in a cave inside the mountain. As show various Mexican codices, Tepeyollotl
had the appearance of a jaguar. In his commentaries on the Codex Borgia, Seler ex-
plains that the jaguar is the animal of the earth and the darkness and thus a proper in-
carnation of Jaguar God of the Underworld109. Interesting is also the link of Tepeyollotl
with the teccistli or conch shell, which in Teotihuacan as well as Maya was the symbol
of the cave, and recalls the Maya God N110.

We mentioned that God L had all kinds of jaguar aspects, wearing ears, paws and claws
of that animal, or he simply wore the entire skin. And if he did not carry the skin his
throne was covered with its hide, including head and paws. Now, it seems he had this
in common with Xiuhteuctli, as we may read with Sahagn. When commenting the an-
nual Xiuhteuctli festival in the last month of the Aztec calendar, Izcalli, he writes:

Estaba sentado [sic] esta estatua en un trono de un cuero de tigre que tena pies y manos y ca-
beza natural, aunque estaba seco, esta estatua as adornada no lexos de un hogar que estaba
delante della. Y a media noche sacaban fuego nuevo, para que ardiese en aquel hogar, y sac-
banlo con unos palos, uno puesto abaxo, y sobre l barrenaban con otro palo, como torcindole
entre las manos con gran priesa, y con aquel movimiento y calor se encenda el fuego. Y all lo
tomaban con yesca y encendanlo en el hogar.111

I want to make the

point that the rela-
relation of X-
iuhteuctli with the
jaguar is older, and
goes back to
Teotihuacan. I pro-
pose that Yax Nuun
Ayin on stela 31 is
dressed as a jaguar
in charge of fire-
making. We are
talking about the
left side of stela 31
where Yax Nuun
Ayin displays the

109 Tepeyollotl appears in the sections dedicated to the 20 daynames, as the patron of the day Calli
and to the 20 trecenas, the latter as patron of the trecena 1 Deer.
110 Seler 1963 TI: 73-75.

111 Sahagn, 2000: 261.

29 Ruud van Akkeren

torches in his headdress. Scholars usually say he wears the headdress of the Fire Ser-
pent but I think this to be incorrect. The key piece for comparison is a fragment of a
mural of Techinantitla, a fire-hurling jaguar112.

The similarities are astonishing. Both images have the same headdress, with the feath-
ers attached in a way that they fall backwards like a cascade of hair. The front part of
the headdress on stela 31 represents the head of a jaguar, with a large round eye and
squarish ears, and a
blunt snout with fangs
which resembles in
every detail the jaguar
head in the
Techinantitla mural.
The necklace of beads
and shells is exactly
the same, with the
spondyles shells, as is
the tail arrangement
and round knot. They
both sport the loincloth
and similar knee
adornments. The
sandals of Yax Nuun
Ayin have been eroded but we can still see the square upperpart, just like the ones
worn by the Techinantitla Jaguar. But perhaps the most important element of our ar-
gument here is the fact that the Techinantitla jaguar is hurling fire with his claws
whereas Yax Nuun Ayin features the fire torches in his headdress. There can be little
doubt that they both impersonate fire-making priests, dressed as a jaguar113.

With this new insight it is convenient to reassess Yax Nuun Ayins headdress on Stela
4, which has also been called a Fire Serpent. We established already that he carries the
head of the Jaguar God of the Underworld in one hand probably the same regal article
that Siyah Chan Kawil bears on stela 31 and a torch in the other. I claim that his
headdress on stela 4 is the one of the fire-hurling Jaguar, that it is, in fact, a frontal ver-
sion of his headdres of stela 31. To prove so, we have to shift our attention to the
complex of the Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan.

Recall how the Fashes and Tokovinine have argued that the temple on the Adosada at
the foot of the Pyramid of the Sun, was the Early Classic sanctuary where the New Fire
was drilled. The iconography of its columns revealed a temple with a cruller in the mid-
dle, a tipical item of the Jaguar God of the Underworld. To these scholars, it served as a
name tag, identifying the temple as the New Fire shrine. It turns out that the platform of
the Adosada was also decorated with jaguars. According to Batres they were painted
with black spots. Fash, Tokovinine and Fash already suggest that the feline is a Teoti-

112Drawing by Saburo Sugiyama (Paulinyi 2009: 187-8)

113In the discourse of the Techinantitla jaguar appears the Teotihuacan year-sign, thus perhaps the act refers to a
period-ending ritual.

30 Ruud van Akkeren

huacans version of the Jaguar God of the Underworld. It is perhaps not a coincidence
that until now they have only identified nine copies.

Fash, Tokovinine and Fash compare this jaguar to a more pristine version they un-
earthed in the Xalla complex, which features the animal with the extended claws much
like the one on the Techinantitla mural114. The same way Tepeyollotl is depicted in the
Codex Borgia. The extended claws perhaps defines
the jaguar as a fire-maker, which brings us back to
Lintel 2 of Temple 1 of Tikal where we have the giant
jaguar in a similar position. He is the Waterlily Jaguar
acting as the Lord of Fire. His name is Nuun Balam

The complex of the Pyramid of the Sun harbored

more jaguars. A mural from the ruins of the Conjunto
del Sol (prtico 13, mural 2) displays a gorgeous
version of the netted jaguar sporting a headdress that
is identical to Yax Nuun Ayins on stela 4116. Curiously,
just like the Xalla jaguar it has a bifurcated tongue.
There are other examples, like the one on a Fine Orange vessel in the museum in situ
next to the Pyramid of the Sun. Again, we have Yax Nuun Ayins headdress. This jaguar
may as well have stood at the base of the well-known mythological beast: the jaguar-
serpent-bird creature, first described by George Kubler117.

Returning to our argument, if the Tikal dynasty had its origin in a calpulli of fire- making
priests, Tzonmolco, its titular god, the Jaguar God of the Underworld, seems to fit the
hypothesis. Additionally, this mythological animal is already present as a fire-maker in

Our knowledge about the origin of the Tzonmolco calpulli is not very ample. We already
explained that it did not belong to the original seven Aztec founding calpultin, and that it
at least seemed to go back to Toltec times. As for Teotihuacan, we lack the sources to
establish that, but if our hypothesis is correct, they were among the highest nobility in
that city. Still, there are some indications which, put together, prove to be fruitful.

We should start out with a suggestion that Coggins makes about the name of Yax Nuun
Ayin. She remarks that the part nuun is perhaps alluding to his foreignness, him being

114 Fash et al. 2009: 207-210.

115 In contrast, Jasaw Chan Kawil seems to interpret the role of the Sun God, as we may guess from his headdress.
This way we have the Lord of Fire and the Sun God together, alluding to a new birth, a theme which reflects very
convenient Tikals revival after the defeat of its archenemy.
116 Now that we have a better understanding of the significance of this jaguar, we may venture a meaning for the tree

that he carries in his paws. The three flowers seem to express the three hearth-stones. It may be compared to the
central tree on the Tablet of the Cross, Palenque, with the three hearth-stones, as flowers, at the end of each branch.
Many new ideas emerged while writing this article. One wonders if the net-element on the famous netted jaguar, are
just stylized version of the Ollin symbol, since the sun of the new era was born on 4 Ollin.
117 Cited in Fash et al. 2009: 209-210.

31 Ruud van Akkeren

a Nonoalca or Nunualca118. This connection of the identity mark nuun with the Nonoalca
is older, and was already suggested by Thompson and picked up by Davies in his book
on the Toltecs. Thompson, in his essay on the Putun, suggests that the Itza, carrying
the nickname Ah Nun or stammerers and stutterers, alludes to the Nonoalca119. Da-
vies, discussing the origin of the Nonoalca, notices that Kakupakals characterization
as u nun is an apparent corruption of Nonoalca, thus like Thompson suggesting he
might be of Nonoalca origin120. Schele, Grube & Boot observe about this title of
Kakupakal: This broken speech title appears in Kakupakals name [...] in order to
mark his foreigness as one who could not speak Yucatec well121. In Yucatec nun means
bozal, que no sabe hablar la lengua de la tierra122.

There has been quite some discussion on the etymology of the term nonoalca. Davies
brings up the suggestion of earlier authors to derive it from nontli, dumb or poor-
speaking, but gives other suggestions as well123. However, I have argued that the
Memorial de Solol seems to offer the solution. In this kaqchikel document nonoalca
appears with its poetic complement xulpiti. Xulpiti is derived from the Nahuatl xolopitli,
stupid, idiot, mad124. Ever since, I have come upon other references to groups of
Nonoalca, most of all on the Pacific Coast of Guatemala, of which some call themselves
in Spanish Ideotas corruption of Idiotas which confirms the argument125. Nonoalca
did not speak Nahuatl, and to a Nahuatl ear they sounded garbled and dumb, much as
the term barbaros onomatopoetically evokes the image of babbling, that is, a person
speaking a non-Greek language. Thus Nonoalca seemed to be what one calls an ex-
onym, an ethnonym created by outsiders.

If nuun is a Nahuatl loanword into Classic Chol it implies that the term already existed
in the IVth century, that people from Teotihuacan spoke Nahuatl, and that the lineage or
calpulli of Yax Nuun Ayin, Tzonmolco, was originally neither Nahuatl nor Maya-speaking,
and probably Nonoalca. In this context, it is worth recalling the name of the giant jaguar
on Lintel 2 (Temple 1), Nuun Balam Chaaknal, perhaps another indication of the
Nonoalca origin of the calpulli of Tikals fire priests and rulers. The title Nuun was subse-
quently used by various other lords of the Tikal dynasty126.

In his book Toltecs, Davies scrutinized the colonial Mexican documents on the
Nonoalca, and they all coincide in that they came from the Gulf Coast, the legendary
Tlillan Tlapallan, Land of the Black and Red, that is, the area of modern state Tabasco
and its inmediate neighbors. To name a few of the sources, Torquemada writes: the
Lands of Onohualco, which are situated by the sea, and are this which today we call
Yucatn, Tabasco and Campeche; the natives in pre-Christian times called them
Onohualco. Ixtlilxchitl notes that the Gulf Coast was inhabited by coatzaqualcas,

118 Coggins 2002: 71-72.

119 Thompson 1990: 16.
120 Davies 1977: 164.
121 Schele, Grube & Boot 1998: 404.
122 Barrera Vsquez 1991: 588.
123 Davies 1977: 164-165.
124 Van Akkeren 2000: 223, 2006.
125 Akkeren 2008.
126 Nuun Ujol Chaan, Yax Nuun Ayin II, Nuun Ujol Kinich (Martin & Grube 2000).

32 Ruud van Akkeren

nonoalcas, xicalancas 127. Sahagn talking about the same coast says: Pero los que
estn hacia el nacimiento del Sol se nombran olmecas, huixtoti, nonohualca, y no se
dicen chichimecas128 In the famous Nahuatl poem, The Flight of Quetzalcoatl, that is,
to the Land of the Red, Tlapallan, Nonoalco, the land of the Nonoalca, is cites in con-
nection with other well-known toponyms from the area, like Xicalanco, Zacuanco (Teo-
zancuanco) and Acallan129.

We know that in Tula there were two ethnic groups constituing the confederation of
Tullan-Xicocotitlan: Tolteca-Chichimeca and Nonoalca130. Reconstructing the origin of
the Toltec confederation, Davies describes the migration of the Nonoalca started in the
IXth century from the Gulf Coast, which brings them to Tullantzingo control of the
Pachuca obsidian and a little later to Tula, Hidalgo. This way the Nonoalca became one
of the two moieties of Tullan Xicocotitlan, the Tolteca-Chichimeca being the other.

As for the ethnicity of the Nonoalca and the language they spoke, scholars have come
up with a mix of Mazateca, Popoluca and, later of course, Nahuatl131. Davies further
states, it is hard to distinguish the Nonoalca from another ethnic group active at the
time: the Olmeca-Xicalanca. The latter derive part of their name from the town of Xi-
calanco, evidently Nonoalca area. Olmeca-Xicalanca conquered the Cholula area, includ-
ing Cacaxtla, at the time of the Nonoalca migration to Tula. The Maya inspired murals of
Cacaxtla are contributed to them. Davies does not want to go so far as to postulate
Olmeca-Xicalanca and Nonoalca to be one and the same,
yet it is still quite difficult to point out their differences132.
One may contemplate the idea that the ethnonym Ol-
meca-Xicalanca existed as an endonym, that is, was the
ethnonym defined by the ethnic group itself, whereas the
same group was called Nonoalca by outsiders.

There is little doubt about the degree of civilization of the

Nonoalca. In the words of Davies, in Tula they were the
brain where the Tolteca-Chicimica were the brawn. He
called them the Kulturvolk, a german term referring to
bearers of civilization. Interestingly, Davies adds to this:

...they were to constitute the intellectual elite: they arrived

from an area to which the
tlamatinime, or wise men, are reported to have dispersed after
the dissolution of Teotihuacn, bearing off with them the
written codices and the ancient lore. Possibly to be included
among the Nonoalcas of Tollan was a band of Amantecas, the
traditional feather worker... 133

127 Davies 1977: 166-168.

128 Sahagn 2000: 979.
129 Garibay 1964 TIII: 1.
130 Davies 1977: 141.
131 Davies himself also suggests that Chontal may be an option, since this was the language spoken in Xicalanco at

the end of the classic.

132 Davies 1977: 166.
133 Davies 1977: 164.

33 Ruud van Akkeren

We have seen that the Amantecas were close allies of the Pochtecas and that both had
their representatives in the calpulli Tzonmolco134. According to Sahagn they were
among the oldest people of the Valley of Mexico. Knowing that Olmeca-Xicalanca were
active at the end of the Classic in Cacaxtla and Cholula, connecting this way the Gulf
Coast with Central Mexico, it is not too daring to suggest the Nonoalca were already
present in Teotihuacan, and that they have always been active in trade between the
Gulf Coast peoples and Central Mexico. This leads us to propose that Tzonmolco was a
Nonoalca calpulli. There is modest evidence for that in the Codex Borgia where we find
the temple of Tzonmolco associated with Olman135. Olman is the name for the Olmec
heartland, seemingly linking it with Gulf Coast peoples. But there is more proof.

After the fall of Tula, around 1150 DC, the Nonoalca

left the area and settled in the Teohuacan valley,
under the command of two leaders, Xelhuan and
Huehuetzin. They founded places like Teotitlan and
Cozcatlan136. The story is told and painted in the His-
toria Tolteca-Chichimeca. Now, on folio 3r of the His-
toria Tolteca-Chichimeca there is an image of Xelhuan
on top of the mountain Quetzaltepec. The text relates
that he has just arrived in the area and is fasting
there. In the image two place-name glyphs
mentioned in the text are painted pictographically on
either side of him. Intriguingly, Xelhuan has another
name-glyph sitting on his forehead, which must
express a nominal phrase, as is the custom in this
manuscript. It looks like a bound knot of hair, not
bended like we used to know but it may be a colonial
version of the Tzonmolco name-glyph.

As said, Xelhuan is the head of the Nonoalca, but he is also related to the Olmeca-
Xicalanca. In fact, he is considered to be a mythical ancestor of the area. Torquemada
narrates a legend in which Xelhuan survived the deluge by hiding out in the cave of the
mountain Tlaloc. To show his gratitude to the gods he built an inmense pyramid in Cho-
lula, that almost reached the clouds and sky, such that it provoked the anger of
Tonacateuctli who threw an enormous toad from the heavens to block any further
contruction. This is a proper image of the pyramid depicted in the Historia Tolteca-
Chichimeca. We know that its first three Classic phases of construction show influences
both from Teotihuacan and the Gulf Coast, and that in the Late Classic (700-900), ac-
cording to the ethnohistorical sources, the site was taken over by Olmeca-Xicalanca137.

134 On the days 1 Tochtli, 1 Rabbit, and 1 Itzcuintli, 1 Dog there were special feasts in honor of Xiuhteuctli. Both
merchants and Amanteca came to the temple of Tzonmolco to offer goods, throwing copal and paper covered with
pieces of jade and feathers into the fire. The ceremony was called Nextlahualli, meaning Payment. I have suggested
that Tojil, another Lord of Fire, in fact took his name from this ceremony, because it also means Payment (Zantwijk
1977: 137-139, Akkeren in press).
135 Seler 1963 TI: 60 y TII: 177.
136 In Teotitlan converged two main Mesoamerican trade-routes, one coming from Tochtepec and the Mixtequilla

region, Anahuac Xicalanco, and another coming from the Pacific coast of Anahuac Soconusco and beyond.
137 McCafferty 1996; 2002.

34 Ruud van Akkeren

Thus, Xelhuan may have been a representative of the calpulli Tzonmolco. In this context
it is interesting to note that west of Teotitlan, one of Nonoalca towns founded by him,
there was a place called Tzonmolco138. In the Relaciones Geogrficas of Teotitlan we
may read that one of their principal gods was Iztapal Totec, the personification of the
sacrificial knife that accompanies Xiuhteuctli in the codices139. Finally, a last suggestion.
From the nominal phrase Yax Nuun Ayin we know that the semantic value of NUUN may
be provided by a glyph representing a knot. A similar knot is of course adorning the
Tikal Emblem Glyph. Is it possible that there is reference to Nuun in the Emblem Glyph
as well?

Serpent Road
In the introduction we mentioned the fact that the polities participating in the Meso-
american network of trade, shared the structures of accumulation of wealth, including
the infrastructure and its ideology. Although, in this context I would prefer to descend
from the level of 'politiesto that of the mixed consanguinal-corporate groups -
calpultin or chinamital - of which Mesoamerican societies were made up consanguinal-
corporate groups like calpultin, but still they partook in these elements. In these last
paragraphs I want to draw attention to various aspects of the mercantile infrastructure
and its symbols, since they entered Tikals cosmovision with the entrance of Siyah
Kak and Spearthrower Owl.

I have proposed in Xibalba y el nacimiento del nuevo sol that the long-distance mer-
chants who marched to all
corners of Mesoamerica,
considered their road to be
a serpent: they called it Ce
Coatl Otlimelaoac One
Serpent Marching Road140. A
proper image of that route
as I already hinted at earlier
is found on the murals of
Cacaxtla. We see God L, the
patron of merchants stand-
ing on a serpent-route
covered in blue feathers. It
is a continuous road that
includes hills and water. I
have further suggested that
the constructors of the
Pyramid of Quetzalcoatl in
Teotihuacan had a similar concept in mind for its faade, the famous undulating serpent
with the two tenoned masks. Like the mural in Cacaxtla it has the watery symbols un-
derneath the undulating ophidian body. The first mask is the head of the Feathered

138 Davies 1977: 438.

139 Acua 1984: 198.
140 Zantwijk 1977: 133.

35 Ruud van Akkeren

Serpent, the other, according to Taube, was a headdress representing the War Ser-

I differed with his interpretation and rather identified the other as the deity Xiuhteuctli,
Lord of Fire. Indeed, the masks includes the Central-Mexican year sign, the trapeze and
ray motif, xihuitl, cast in a familiar Teotihuacan mosaic style of turquoise, again xihuitl,
evoking the part xiuh of his name142. Taube had already identified the instrument on top
of the year sign as a torch, to which I agree with him. The mask is sitting on the tail-end
of the ophidian body, which is quite significant143.

To me, the image as a whole wants to display a cosmogram of Teotihuacan merchant

ideology, an Early Classic version of the similarly organized Aztec complementary guilds
that we mentioned above. The Pochteca were in charge of the internal domain, like
religious activities in the main temple in Tenochtitlan. The Oztomeca presided over the
external domain; they were, besides merchants, also military forces and spies, and pro-
tected the long-distance caravans of merchants on their trips into new and familiar ar-
eas. The titulary god of the Pochteca was Yacateuctli, and the patron of the Oztomeca,
was Nacxitl which in many indigenous documents features as another name of the
Feathered Serpent. However, the all-embracing patron deity of the merchants was Xiu-
hteuctli. On the Temple of Quetzalcoatl we have Xiuhteuctli, god of the central hearth,
tlexicco, representing the center, tlalxicco, as the start of the merchant route, the
ophydian body as the trade-route itself, and the Feathered Serpent as the endstation,
reigned by Nacxitl-Quetzalcoatl. It should not go unnoticed that the Ciudadela was op-
posite from what probably was Mesoamericans largest marketplace144.

In this article I
want to add two
more suggestions
for the
identification of
the mosaic mask
as a Xiuhteuctli. It
appears that the
year sign is cast
in the form of a

141 Taube 2002: 271-275.

142 Unlike Taube who identify the mask as a headdress of cut shell platelets (2002: 271).
143 One wonders if the rattle at the end had a similar reading as the logogram used in the och kak phrase.
144 It is further interesting that the Ciudadela has two great palace-complexes.

36 Ruud van Akkeren

spearthrower. When analyzing the image from the side, you see the handle being
folded, then there is the body of the cage and the two holes to position the fingers into.
That will finally explain the goggle eyes which never were its real eyes but which caused
the image for a long time being identified as Tlaloc. It coincides with our findings about
the identity of Spearthrower Owl as the title of the high priest of Xiuhteuctli. The trapeze
and ray motif still evokes the Fire Serpent as a weapon, since it is an intrinsical part of
its tail which, just like here in Teotihuacan use to sit on the tail-end of the snake. It
should be recalled that the spearthrower could replace the undulating Fire Serpent.

Recently Nielsen & Helmke identified on a mural of Atetelco a reference to a place they
baptized Spearthrower Owl Hill, in which the head of the owl is actually a spearthrower
and his eyes are the two finger-holes. For the analysis they assembled a number of
Teotihuacan style spearthrowers; various images feature a cage with a tapering end,
much as the one shown on the Xiuhteuctli mask145. They muse in their essay about the
name Spearthrower Owl, suggesting that it must have been an important being or
person146. In-
deed, that was
my conclusion as
well in Xibalba y
el nacimiento del
nuevo sol: it is
the title of the
high priest of
Xiuhteuctli. In an
intent to situate
this toponym,
Spearthrower Hill
Owl, they suggest
it might be the
Pyramid of the Moon, but I would rather opt for the Pyramid of the Sun, where the New
Fire was drilled by the priest of Xiuhteuctli. The Temple of Quetzalcoatl is another op-
tion, although there he has to share the hill or pyramid with the Feathered Serpent.

As for the image of the animal below the spearthrower, it has always been interpreted
including by myself as a snake, hence its cualification as a War Serpent. But now that
we have found the image of the fire-hurling jaguar, one begins to waver. The beast
could as well be a copy of the creature that sits in the headdress of Yax Nuun Ayin,
which we have identified as a jaguar. The eyes and the spiraled eyebrows seem snake-
like, but the snout definitely differs with that of the ophidian next to him, and is called
muzzlelike by Taube147. To me it looks more like the blunt snout of a jaguar, similar to
the jaguars that once adorned the Temple of New Fire, on the Adosada. Moreover, if we
compare Yax Nuun Ayins on stela 31 with the Xiuhteuctli mask, there is also a similar-

145 The mural is from Portico 1 on patio 3 of Atetelco (Nielsen & Helmke 2008: 465).
146 Nielsen & Helmke 2008: 476.
147 Taube makes a similar comparison of the Xiuhteuctli mask with Yax Nuun Ayins headdress but comes to a dif-

ferent conclusion; to him they are both examples of the Teotihuacan War Serpent helmet (2002: 272).

37 Ruud van Akkeren

ity in the place of the torch in the headdress. Indeed, we have identified the fire-hurling
jaguar as one of the incarnations of Xiuhteuctli.

There is additional proof for the ophidian be-

ing a route, the road merchants walked, and
which Aztec had deified as Ce Coatl Otlime-
laoac. It was celebrated on the day One Ser-
pent, the day that initiated the ninth tre-
cena148. It was Seler who discovered the cor-
relation between day-signs and trecenas in
the Codex Borgia 149. They are ruled by the
same deity. Thus, the god presiding day
number nine, atl, being Xiuhteuctli, is also
found among both deities presiding the ninth
trecena Ce Coatl, together with Tlahuizcal-
panteuctli, the Feathered Serpent as the
Morning Star. In the Codex Telleriano-
Remensis he is simply called Ce Acatl, the
calendar name of Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl150.
Thus in the calendrical codices we see a similar juxtaposition of both gods guarding the
merchant road as on the faade of the Temple of Quetzalcoatl in Teotihuacan. It does
not seem a coincidence that route and patron god are related to the number nine, as
we will see in the next paragraph.

The ideogram fits seamless in Mesoamericans cosmovision, of the two poles: the con-
cept of the center, the fireplace in a house, and of the outer wilderness. The first one is
ruled by the father, the head of the household, still it is the female domain, because it
is the place where food is made, and the father is the provider of brides151. The wilder-
ness is the territory of the young hunter and warrior, the male domain. The central
mountain and its terrestrial fire, is the place of origin, as well of the celestial fire, be-
cause the sun is born in its hearth. But once born, the sun begins to roam around the
center, in the periphery. In many contemporary Maya myth this hunter of the wilder-
ness is called Kiche Winaq, Man of the Wilderness, and it is no coincidence that the
Kiche Maya used this concept as the name for their confederation: they became the
sun of the new era after the Classic. In the ideogram on the Temple of Quetzalcoatl,
Xiuhteuctli symbolizes the center, the divine hearth, and Nacxitl-Quetzalcoatl, the war-
rior. Indeed, there are versions of the myth of the birth of the sun in Teotihuacan, in
which Nanahuatzin is called another Quetzalcoatl152.

148 Zantwijk 1977:136.

149 Seler TII: 174-175.
150 Seler TII: 193-196.
151 Like Xkik in the myth of Xibalba or the daughter of Lord Mountain-Valley, Qana Po, Seora Luna, in La historia

de Sol y Luna, Balam Qe y Qana Po.

152 Talking about the new sun Nahui Ollin born in the divine oven of Teotihuacan, the Leyenda de los Soles writes:

ste fue tambin el sol de Topiltzin de Tollan, de Quetzalchuatl. ste, cuando no era sol, se llamaba Nanhuatl, y
su morada estaba en Tamoanchan (Tena 2002: 181).

38 Ruud van Akkeren

To close this paragraph, if the image on the Temple of Quetzalcoatl in Teotihuacan
symbolizes a merchant route, with Xiuhteuctli as the center and the Feathered Serpent
as the outer corner, I think we may postulate that Chichen Itza is such an endstation.
Here the titulary god of the Oztomecan guild, or its Teotihuacans equivalent, ruled as
proves the ubiquitous imagery of the Feathered Serpent. It was also expressed on the
bas-relieves of the Lower Temple of the Jaguar which we already commented. The cen-
tral figure was the high priest of the Feathered Serpent, Nacxitl-Quetzalcoatl, and before
him, stood the young Sun God holding his blowgun and Xiuhteuctli carrying the Fire
Serpent, both representing home.

Wi Te Naah
As is well known, time and space was highly entwined in Mesoamerica. In Xibalba y el
nacimiento del nuevo sol I revived an idea that I already published some years ago,
about the merchants and their special calendar. They divided the year in nine times 40
days plus the Wayeb which they subsequently projected on the road they walked.
This idiosyncratic calendar resulted in a route divided in stops that were called Nine
Place or Forty Place153.

This mercantile calendar of nine times forty days may have elicited a title like Bolon
Okte Ku. One of the more outstanding images of this deity can be found in the Tem-
ple of the Cross, in Palenque, which features the god and his
merchant path, including nine footsteps, probably referring
to these nine stops. His Central-Mexican name was probably
Chicnauhyoteuctli, Lord of Nine Times, another nickname for

The mercantile calendar may further have supplied one of

the names of the Fire Serpent, Waxaklahun Ubah Chan, Eig-
theen are the Images of the Serpent. Scholars have related
this title to the nine serpent-heads on each of the balus-
trades of the staircase of the Quetzalcoatl temple.155 The
serpents closest to the balustrades do not have a head; the
serpent body finishes of at the end of the tablero while the
head sits on top of the balustrade. With a route of nine
stops, this title may refer to a trip back and forth.

In these particular places the merchants had a sanctuary for

their gods. Book 9 of the Florentine Codex is the volume
that deals with the merchants. At one point it describes what
merchants were used to do coming back from Anahuac156:

153 On the route of the Valley of Guatemala to the Valley of Mexico, through the Usumacinta corridor I have located

sofar: Chinautla = Kaminal Juyu (9) Kawinal (40) Beleju (9) Kawinik (40) - Salinas de los Nueve Cerros (9)
Chiconautlan Tulapan (9) Chiconautla in Teotihuacan (9) (Akkeren 2003b, 2012)
154 Limn Olvera 2001: 104.
155 Freidel et al., 1993; Boot, 2004: 118, 245-246.
156 Anahuac may either be the coast of Xicalanco or Soconusco, although in this text it rather refers to the latter.

39 Ruud van Akkeren

And how they returned from Anauac, how they followed the
roads, how they came back, we have already told. Not
purposelessly did they come. Wherever there was a
pyramid place, there they went to pay their debt, to
perform penances, at places where debts were paid, until
they reached Itziocan [modern Izucar] where they stopped.
They there sought a favorable day sign; [perhaps still ten or
still twenty days they awaited the good day sign]. And
when it was a good day sign, at once they quickly trav-

Returning to Tikal, with the arrival of Siyah Kak,

ambassador of the Teotihuacans high priest of
Xiuhteuctli, and of his son Yax Nuun Ayin, we
witness the introduction of two new elements
belonging to the mercantile ideology: the Wi Te
Naah temple and the Kalomte title.

In Xibalba y el nacimiento del nuevo sol I suggest that the temple-pyramids on the
trade-route are the so-called Wi Te Naah. Epigraphers have interpreted the glyph for this
building, T600, as a Foundation House, for it appears that rituals in the Wi Te Naah of-
ten involved the founding or re-establishing of a dynasty.158 However, the one does not
exclude the other. The ritual of the New Fire at the end of a Calendar Round, was often
used for political reasons, as shown many Central-Mexican documents159. I have been
confirming similar practices in the indigenous documents of Guatemala, ever since I
published Place of the Lords Daughter Rabinal, its History, its Dance-Drama in which I
show that the Rabinal Achi was created to mark the transition of the Calendar Round,
probably the one starting in 1478160. The same transition date was used by the
Kaqchikel to inaugurate their new capital Iximche.

157 Dibble & Anderson 1959: 30-31.

158 Stuart, 2002: 492-493; Fash y Tokovinine, 2009: 212.
159 Janssen & Prez Jimnez 2000; Boone 2002; Oudijk 2002, Nielsen 2006; Fash et al. 2009: 213.
160 Highland Maya employed a different cycle as did Central Mexico where the Calendar Round ended in 1455 or

1507 (Akkeren 2000, 2007, in press). In Xibalba y el nacimiento del nuevo sol I dedicate a paragraph to New Fire cere-
mony as a political instrument (Akkeren 2012: 190-192).

40 Ruud van Akkeren

Thus I proposed that the every Wi Te Naah was part of a chain of temples adminis-
trated by the merchant guilds, where they worshipped their deities and practised the
cosmovision of the New Fire. Coggins already likened the crossed bundles of the T600
glyph to the Central Mexican images of the New Fire ceremony161. To me T600 is, es-
sentially, a simplified image of the AJAW glyph (T542a-b) lying on top of two crossed
bundled torches representing a pyre, in other words, alluding to the (re-) birth in the
teotexcalli of Jun Ajaw or Jun Ajpu as the Sun God. In his analysis of the Wi Te Naah
glyph, Stuart has shown that the Wi Te Naah is a place of fire rituals, firmly associated
with Teotihuacan162.

Apart from Tikal, they are mentioned in other Maya cities. An exhaustive analysis falls
beyond the scope of this article, we will only offer some examples. In Copan there are
quite some references to the Wi Te Naah. Fash, Tokovinine and Fash put forward the
idea that Temple 16 where the founder of the dynasty, Yax Kuk Mo and his wife lie
buried, is a Wi Te Naah. Altar Q, at the foot of this pyramid, relates the accession of Yax
Kuk Mo which included rituals in
the Wi Te Naah. The
accompanying iconography fea-
tures the founder with a torch in
his hand. Fash, Tokovinine and
Fash state that Yax Kuk Mo was
invested as a lord in Teotihuacan,
in the primordial Wi Te Naah at
the foot of the Pyramid of the
Sun. To them Temple 16 of
Copan is an imitation of the
Pyramid of the Sun163.

Temple 23 appears to be a proper candidate for the Wi Te Naah of Yaxchilan, given the
particular iconography of its lintels, 25-24-26. In chronological order, we first have lintel
25 in the central doorway
where the T600 Wi Te
Naah glyph is mentioned.
Here we see Lady Kabal
Xook in the presence of a
huge mayanized Fire
Serpent. From its jaws
emerge an ancestor,
wearing a jaguar headdress
with the Mexican year sign,
xihuitl164. The ancestor is
called Ajkak O Chaak.
Ajkak defines him as a fire priest; interestingly the vocal O is an owl feather, which

161 Coggins 2002: 62.

162 He identified the och kak or fire entering phrase (Stuart 1998: 385-389; 2002:491-494).
163 Fash et al. 2009: 213-214.
164 Martin & Grube 2000: 125; Stuart 2002: 493.

41 Ruud van Akkeren

technically could make him a Owl Chaak or Tlaloc, in other words a Xiuhteuctli priest.
Secondly, comes lintel 24, displaying the queen in the act of self-infliction, while her
husband Itzamnaaj Balam II, carries an enormous torch as a fire priest. One wonders if
the owl feathers of his headdress are a referrence to him being a Owl Chaak now. Lady
Kabal Xook wears a headdress of Tlaloc with a year sign, perhaps evoking Xiuhteuctli.
On the third, lintel 26, Lady Kabal Xook hands him a helmet or headdress of the Jaguar
God of the Underworld. He wears the same owl feathers, this time girdled by the Jester
God, an image of the hearth stone, and is holding a sacrificial knife in his hande, reas-
suring he is, in fact, a fire priest.

That Lady Kabal Xooks headdress indeed evokes the Xiuhteuctli fire priest, shows the
text of Copans Temple 26 on top of the Hieroglyphic Stairway165. The inscriptions rep-
resent a rare combination of Maya glyphs and Teotihuacan writing in alternating col-
umns166. Thus we have on the
one side Maya phrases paired
with Teotihuacan writing on the
other. In the central frieze of
the temple there is full figure
glyph of the Mayan och kak
or fire-entering glyph. It is
paired with a Tlaloc, identical to
the one in Lady Kabal Xooks
headdress; before him is a
xiuhmolpilli bundle of sticks with emerging flames, defining him as the Tlaloc of the
center, Xiuhteuctli.

165 Structure 10L-26.

166 Stuart 2002.

42 Ruud van Akkeren

The Wi Te Naah is again mentioned in
Machaquila. As clarified earlier, in Xibalba y el
nacimiento del nuevo sol I put forward the
arguments that this city harbored the historical
hearth described in the Xibalba myth of the
Popol Wuj, that is, the place where Jun Ajpu
and Xbalam Qe transformed into the Sun and
Full Moon of the new era. Machaquila is on
stela 8 of Ceibal defined as a Tullan or Pu. The
Wi Te Naah appears on stela 3 in a fascinating
nominal phrase of the portrayed ruler: Siyah
Kin Chaahk - Wi Te Naah Pitzil, that is, Sun-
Born Chaak Wi Te Naah Ballplayer167.

In this article the theme of the Ballgame is

hardly covered but it is as much a part of the
mercantile ideology as is the New Fire. The
concepts behind the ballgame, originally from
the Gulf Coast, form the essence of the
complementary mythological corpus of
Tzuywa, and its protagonist is the Maize God
in my book I have summarized both bodies of
mythology in the words fuego y juego168. It
should be recalled, for example, that the bas-
relieves of the Lower Temple of the Jaguar are
part of a ballcourt complex. Similarly, most of
the information on Spearthrower Owl comes
from a ballcourt marker, located in a
residencial group featuring various murals with
ballcourt scenes169. In Xibalba y el nacimiento
del nuevo sol I point out that it is very likely
that the cuadripartite plaza of Machaquila was
used as a ballcourt as well as a divine oven
the place is lacking a conventional ballcourt.
On stela 3 Siyah Kin Chaahk wears a headband with the three Jester Gods, the deified,
hearth stones. The stela is contemporaneous to Chichen Itza. Thus, it appears that this
Machaquilas lord is very much a product of its time, of the new mercantile ideology.

Lastly, we should mention Ceibal. Although no referrence to a Wi Te Naah was found,

its famous radial temple is a proper candidate. The radial temple was built to con-
memorate the beginning of the 10th Baktun in 830. It also initiated the arrival of a
group of merchant-colonists under the command of a lord called Watul, a fine example
of mixing calendrics with politics. Watul was sent to Ceibal by his liege of Ucanal, a Ka-

167 Estela 3: C1a-C1b y F5a-F5b (Lacadena, 2006: 111). Here again, we have the combination of the young Sun God

and old Fire God

168 An equally catchy summary would be the classic Maya terms Pu and Tzu/Su. It should be noticed that apart from

being a PU, the main sign of Machaquilas Emblem Glyph reads as SU.
169 Laporte 2003: 210-113.

43 Ruud van Akkeren

nek lord. This lord is probably depicted on stela 4 of Ucanal which features the same
date as those of the steles around the four stairways of the radial temple in Ceibal. I
have called attention to stela 4 because of the deceased ancestor depicted on the up-
perpart, as usual floating above the lord in question. I have suggested he represents a
Xiuhteuctli fire priest sporting the spearthrower in his hands and the torch in his head-

In Ceibal Watul is directing a fire ceremony, in

the presence of royal guests from the four di-
rections of the Maya area. On the stela 11
covers the
east, Watul
carries a
him as a
version of
Jun Ajpu,
just like the

contemporaneous image in the Lower Temple of

the Jaguar. On the steles 10 and 9, Watul sports
the nominal phrase Jun Ajkin followed by the glyph
that is a common part of the och kak or fire-
entering statements. Here it appears to be included
in his nominal phrase171. In colonial Yucatan Ajkin
was the title of the principal priest in charge of
litting a huge bonfire, a scene well described by
Landa, as I show in Xibalba y el nacimiento del
nuevo sol172 Jun Ajkin evokes the character of Jun
Ajaw or Jun Ajpu who launches himselve into the
fire to become the sun of the new era. This way, we
again witness in this title the close relation between
the old fire priest and the young sun.

On stela 8 Watul is dressed up as the jaguar God of

the Underworld. It is fascinating to note that he
wears some sort of Xiuhteuctli headband, with a
stylized diving bluebird or xiuhtototl. The central
monument, stela 21, again depicts Watul as the Jaguar God of the Underworld. One

170 Akkeren 2012: 205.

171 Akkeren 2012: 205.
172 Akkeren 2012: 182-183.

44 Ruud van Akkeren

may compare the bird in his headdress to the Xiuhteuctli warrior of folio 49 of the
Dresden Codex, which looks similar. Underneath stela 21 a cache was uncovered of
three unworked jade stones with burning signs, representing the three hearthstones or
tenamastes. Ceibal on the Pasin river was a merchant place, and the three hearth
stones, represented the central hearth, tlexicco, the residence of Xiuhteuctli173.

As for the reading of Wi Te Naah, Stuart

translated it as Tree-Root House and, by
extension, as Origin or Foundation
House174. There are two different spell-
ings of Wi Te Naah: wi/WI-TE-NAAH and
T600-TE-NAAH. Fash, Tokovinine and
Fash have shown that the latter,
featuring the T600 logogram of the
crossed bundles, is Late Classic and was
used in the times that Teotihuacans
power had expired. They doubt the
reading Tree-Root House, and suggest
that the compound may be an
underspelling. They further add: Given
that we are dealing with a potentially
non-Maya concept, the underspelled
word could be foreign175. One wonders
if this inderspelled term is xiuhteuctli,
which in Codex Dresden (folio 49) was
spelled as xi-u-TE-i or xi-wi-TE-i, in
which case the compound should simply
be red as Temple of Xiuhteuctli176.

The other institution introduced in Tikal together with the Wi Te Naah is the Kalomte
title. According to the narrative of stela 31 and the Marcador, it was employed by
Spearthrower Owl as well as Siyah Kak. From that time on, the Kalomte title was used
by an exclusive number of Maya lords: scholars think it was the highest grade a mon-

173 A short note. Many other scholars have commented on the foreign influences in Ceibal, including ceramics and
iconography from the Gulf Coast, from all the way up to El Tajn. Foreign influences are even present in the texts.
Perhaps it also left its traces in the original name of Ceibal, hidden in its Emblem Glyph. T174 seems to be made of
a configuration of three hearthstones with the logogram for stone in the middle. Epigraphers have found that T174
starts with the phonetic complement tu. According to a colonial Huastec dictionary the word for tenamaste was tut
(Lacadena, 2005: 257; Tapia Zentena, 1767: folio 77). This corresponds with ethnohistoric and ethnographic sources:
in colonial times the Itza of this area were called the Ajtut. In modern days the last name Tut is still common in the
area, all the way to Salinas de los Nueve Cerros, where the same Emblem Glyph has been found on its monuments.
174 Stuart 2002.
175 Fash et al. 2009: 212.
176 Taube 1992; Boot 2004: 235.

45 Ruud van Akkeren

arch could acquire. It was a title related to Teotihuacan, especially when it was pre-
ceded by the cualification ochkin or west, as in Kalomte of the West177.

To epigraphers the meaning of the title is

still uncertain. The TE logogram reads as
tree, not unusual in Maya social hierar-
chies where there are other titles ending
in tree, like Bate or Yajawte. A head-
variant of the Kalomte title sports the
head of the god Chaak wielding an axe,
as the main sign, hence its reading as
Chaakte178. Chaak was the Maya version
of Tlaloc and we know that the Tlaloc of the center was Xiuhteuctli. As may be recalled,
one of the most prominent images of Xiuhteuctli in Teotihuacan was the Tree of Tlalo-
can. Accordingly, I have suggested that this may be the original Kalomte179.

Now that we know that the tree

may be a personification of
Xiuhteuctli, we may venture the
idea that the Kalomte titles with
additions like Ochkin or Xaman
Kalomte, Kalomte of the West or
North, refer to directional trees. In
mind comes the initial page of the
Codex Fejrvry-Mayer, displaying
a young Xiuhteuctli brandishing his
spearthrower, and around him, the
four cardinal trees. He himself
must be the tree of the center, the
tree which led us to identify his
name, the Tree of Tlalocan,
whereas the other trees may be
related to the four fire priests that
are present in the New Fire ritual,
as in the Codex Borbonicus180.

This proposal still needs additional research. Why did Teotihuacan lords often carried
the title Ochkin Kalomte, Kalomte of the West in Maya text? Was it simply because it
lay to west of the Maya area as has been suggested, or are there also cosmovisional
reasons at stake. I show in Xibalba y el nacimiento del nuevo sol that to northern Yu-
catan, and probably also to Chichen Itza, the area of the Pasin river, Salinas de los
Nueve Cerros and the Candelaria Caves was considered the west, where they located
the underworld of Xibalba, and the sacred hearth where the sun was born. Maybe Teo-

177 Stuart 2002: 486-487; Martin & Grube 2000: 17; Tokovinine 2010: 20.
178 Although Erik Boot suggest that the root for the expression may be kal- to open; kalomte, as an agentive, may
thus mean opener of trees (Boot 2005: 275-276 Note 19).
179 Akkeren 2012: 218.
180 They were also present as the four Fire Serpents on the outer columns of the Lower Temple of Jaguar.

46 Ruud van Akkeren

tihuacan was the place of the Kalomte of the West because it was the place of the di-
vine oven.

What was the role of the priests of the four cardinal Kalomtes? Did they also have a
function in the mercantile network? Surely, one of the two guilds was called after a
prominent tree, the pochotl or ceiba, from which the Pochteca took their name. The
other guild, the Oztomeca, also had their sacred tree, the acxoyatl or pine tree. In
Tenochtitlan the head of the Oztomeca was called Acxotecatl, their seat was called
Acxotlan, and they were also known as the Acxoteca181.

It is even possible that the merchants, as I have suggested, apart from the serpent
road, conceived their route as a trip along the axis mundi or tree of the center. The fa-
mous four cardinal akante with their footsteps may be an expression of that concept.
They are an intrinsical part of the New Year pages of the Codex Dresden. Xiuhteuctli, of
course, is also the deity of time and the year. There is linguistic support for that in high-
land Maya languages. In the Rabinal Achi the term for the axis mundi is raqanibal sutz
raqanibal mayul, column of
clouds, column of mist. It certainly
stands for the tree of the center, in
modern Achi cosmovision, it is tree
where the souls of the dead ances-
tors dwell. When Maya priest are
celebrating a ceremony in honor of
them they are asked to come down
from the raqanibal sutz mayul. Yet,
the term raqanibal derived from
aqan, cognate of akan is also
used in expressions of travels
where it refers to a round trip,
very appropriate to a merchant. It
further has a temporal aspect, as in
the kaqchikel expression xukul raqanibal juna, one year has passed. It al befits the
mercantile ideology.

If, like the term Wi Te Naah, Kalomte has a Nahuatl origin, it may account for the varia-
tion in cognates in different Maya languages. Given its origin and its calendrical context
there is good reason to believe that the term is related to the Yucatecan festival called
X Kolom Ch, a bundle of songs and dance-dramas, published under the title Cantares
de Dzitbalche. The event describes a period-ending festival which includes a song for
the God of Fire and an arrow-sacrifice of a victim tied a the column, placed in the cen-
ter of the town182. Barrera Vsquez transcribed the title as xkolomche, deriving it from
the yucatec stem kol lastimar, golpear, herir, desollar, suggesting a translation as
tree of wounding183.

181 Zantwijk 1977: 119-128; Dykerhoff 2002/2003: 182.

182 Arrow-sacrifice was already practiced in Teotihuacan. Fash and Lpez Lujan uncovered a victim with arrows on
his body in the Xalla complex.
183 Barrera Vsquez 1965: 26-7; XX; 411; Akkeren 1999, 2000: 344.

47 Ruud van Akkeren

In the Popol Wuj, there is a similar tree, called colche in the original manuscript, which
served as the post where arrow-sacrifices took place, as a penalty for towns that failed
to pay tribute. The text says that the transgressors humbled themselves before the
colche, also called retal tinamit, mark of the city; the flying arrows are compared to
thunderbolts with an earth-splitting power184. In the Popol Wuj this is only a short frag-
ment but the Ttulo de Totonicapan dedicate three pages to the event, which I have
identified as a festival marking the beginning of a new Calendar Round. As explained,
according to Central-Mexican codices the last trecena of a tonalpoalli and thus of a
Calendar Round was presided by Xiuhteuctli, in the company of Iztapal Totec or Xipe
Totec, the personified Sacrificial Knife and the God of Flaying. These are the ingredients
mentioned in the Ttulo de Totonicapan: the festival is celebrated in honor of the Lord of
Fire, Tojil, the sacrificial knife is called uqab tojil or hand of Tojil, we have a flaying of
victims and an arrow-sacrifice in which the arrows are compared to thunderbolts, shoot-
ing stars and fiery flying knifes185. It also includes the bundling of arrows, probably a
version of the bundling of year sticks and it all takes place in the month in which the
Actec used to celebrated their New Fire ceremony186.

Following Barrera Vsquez, I have transcribed

colche as kolche and translated it as a tree
of sacrifice, likening it to the Classic Pax
tree187. As known, the head of the patron god
of the month Pax, with his lower jaw missing,
vomiting blood and a jaguar claw above his
ear, was used in Classic Maya iconography as
the trunk of a tree, that way qualifying it as a
tree of sacrifice188. In modern Maya Deer
Dance texts, it represents the place the deer
is caught and is called kutam, trunk; it is also the name of one of the characters in the
dance, one of the many aspects of Lord Mountain-Valley 189. I think that the Classic im-
age is a pretty close version of Kik Re Kik Rixkaq, Bloody its Teeth, Bloody its Claw,
one of the names of the Lords of Xibalba. Interestingly, epigraphic analysis of the term
Kalomte shows that the logogram KAL is associated with a crianiomorphic version of
the head of the Pax God190.

In Xibalba y el nacimiento del nuevo sol I prove that this Pax Tree is actually the
equivalent of the Okte, the tree of which Bolon Okte Ku is made, the afore-mentioned
tzite or palo de pito. It is the same wood of which the supreme gods of Xibalba are
shaped. Recall that when the Hero Twins enter the court of Xibalba, the first pair of
lords sitting on a throne, is not One and Seven Death, but two wooden effigies. They

184 The original document has colche, but that is a transcription of Ximnez (folio 52v). Some translators think it is
kiche and transcribe it as qolche, gum or resin tree (Edmonson, Tedlock, Christenson).
185 Akkeren 2000: 325-335.
186 Much like the Jaguar Warrior of Cacaxtla is showing.
187 Akkeren 2000: 326.
188 Taube 1988: 335-7. In Postclassic versions the Pax trunk could be replaced by a tun sign.
189 Janssens & Van Akkeren 2003: 86-89; Akkeren 2012: 149-150.
190 Boot 2006:8.

48 Ruud van Akkeren

are made of the tzite wood. This pair of wooden effigies is very common in Classic
Maya iconography especially in the Codex Style vases and one of the two has the
head of the Pax God. In this line of reasoning it follows that the Pax God, which is the
Kalomte, is actually another personification of Bolon Okte Ku or Xiuhteuctli. This way
we come back at our first suggestion that Xiuhteuctli was the Tree of Tlalocan191.

As a final re-
mark, the tree
of sacrifice in
the Rabinal Achi
stands chuxmut
kaj, chuxmut
ulew, in the
center of the
sky, in the
center of the
earth. The
modern town of
is surrounded by altars linked to day-numbers, the altar of the center, the Six Place, is a
hearth, and is called Pa Klom which seems a corruption of Pa Kolom192. They all coin-
cide in referring to a post or tree of the center, likely similar to the Classic Kalomte.

Dynamics of Emblem Glyphs

In this article I have proposed a historical origin for the Emblem Glyph of Tikal. I have
proposed that the bended knot of hair is not only a rebus-reading of the Maya toponym
Mutal, but also of the Central-Mexican calpulli Tzonmolco. In that sense, the Emblem
Glyph of Tikal seems to refer to a patronym, the name of a noble dynasty with ramifica-
tions throughout Mesoamerica.

There has been quite some words devoted to the significance of Emblem Glyphs, ever
since their identification by Heinrich Berlin: whether Emblem Glyphs represent the
name of the city itself, or of the patron deity or ruling dynasty of the city 193. Stuart
and Houston were the first to show that Emblem Glyphs were not the only toponymic
references in Classic texts. Others could exist, even within a polity already defined by
an Emblem Glyph. They were recognized for a certain place name formula194.

Maya are not the only people in the world who employed onomastics, a field which in-
cludes studies like toponymy and anthroponomy, thus it is appropriate to consult these
areas when discussing Emblem Glyphs. Toponomists can explain that toponyms are
derived from landscape features, settlements and its function like farm, market, fort,

191 Akkeren 2012: 150.

192 Tedlock 1992: 71.
193 Mathews 1991 cited in Helmke 2011: 3.
194 The formula was composed of the intransitive verb uhti/uhtiiy, it happened, followed by the toponym and often

finished with the expression chan o kab - chen, sky or earth - cave, a Classic difrasismo, defining it as a toponymic
expression (Stuart & Houston 1994).

49 Ruud van Akkeren

bridge tribal or personal names, that is, ethnohyms and patronyms, or, what I would
call, cosmovisional expressions. And indeed, epigraphers have found Emblem Glyphs
referring to geographical phenomena most of all rivers or lakes, leading to a main sign
involving the logogram HA, water. There are references to settlemens, like towns,
temples or pyramids, as in the use of the logogram WITZ, mountain, a term which
everywhere in Mesoamerica has served as indication for town. But Emblem Glyphs
may also arise from cosmovisional concepts like Baakel-Matawil for Palenque or
Pachan for Yaxchilan195.

Nonetheless, once established, these Emblem Glyphs may begin to define a dynasty,
that is, becoming a patronym a common process in the field of anthroponomy.
Simon Martin tentatively concluded that in essence, these emblem names seem to
label royal houses whose connections to specific territories are less intrinsic than habit-
ual196. Peter Br took a similar stand in his recent article197:

I present a hypothesis about emblem glyph main signs where I argue that they are places of ori-
gin for all titled individuals who claimed descent from a given family and they reflect real or fictive
blood connections. Their reference to territory was not that important and they were shifting on
the political land-scape with the migrations of the families who used them198.

Thus Emblem Glyphs got attached as titles to persons who took them to other places,
as shows the Emblem Glyph of Tikal used in the Dos Pilas area or the Baakel Emblem
Glyph of Palenque also used in Tortuguero and at the end of the Classic, in Comal-

In our case the Emblem Glyph alluding to Mutal/Tzonmolco seemed to have started as
a personal name, a patronym referring to a calpulli. Again, these are not unusual dy-
namics in the field of toponomy. There are many other toponyms that developed from
patronyms. It would be helpfull if epigraphers extended their view beyond the Classic
Maya. In the Postclassic, Mayas kept founding towns and naming them, and we have a
score of indigenous manuscripts documenting these historical dynamics. To name a
few examples, we mentioned in this article Kanek Wits as another name for Salinas de
los Nueve Cerros; Chama originally derived from Chamak, Fox, probably the name of a
warrior caste turned patronym; Cotzumalguapa, known in Kaqchikel as Saqbinya, both
referring to the patronym Saqbin, Weasel; Kooja, a Mam patronym and the name of a
rich Mam town in the Quetzaltenango area of which I have suggested that they were
originally from Takalik Abaj and which provided the brides for the supreme Kiche lord
(ajpop); or, for that matter, Tenochtitlan, founded by Aztec ancestor Tenoch.

195 Br 2011: 58-59; Helmke 2011.

196 Simon Martin 2005: 12.
197 Peter Br: 2011: 33.
198 Peter Br 2011: 33.
199 Helmke 2011: 4.

50 Ruud van Akkeren


Thus the bended knot of hair, the Tikal Emblem Glyph, seems a rebus spelling of the
Mesoamerican calpulli Mutal-Tzonmolco. It must have had its origin in a custom prac-
tised by high priests of Xiuhteuctli or Bolon Okte Ku, to bind their hair into a knot on
their forehead. This routine subsequently lent its name to a calpulli of the highest nobil-
ity that would find itself dispersed over Mesoamerica, due to its involvement in trade
and the trade-network.
Our hypothesis is sustained by the identification of Spearthrower Owl as the high priest
of the Xiuhteuctli cult in charge of the New Fire ceremony and likely also as the Teoti-
huacan minister in charge of investing aspirant lords. These services may have taken
place in the compound of the Pyramid of the Sun. He further was the head of the su-
preme sanctuary of the merchant guilds, perhaps the building we have come to know
as the Temple of Quetzalcoatl in the Ciudadela. The identification of Spearthrower Owl is
further supported by the introduction of two other institutions in Tikal, the Wi Te Naah
temple and the Kalomte title, which both seemed to have been part of the merchant
It might come as a revelation to some, but as said, other studies show that there was
surprisingly more interculturality in prehispanic Mesoamerica than until now has been
recognized. I have been investigating Mesoamericas history at the lineage level, or bet-
ter, from the point of view of that typically Mesoamerican mixed corporate and kinship
group, the calpulli. As remarked, another study is about to see the light, in which I
show that the Highland Maya lineage of the Toj, who introduced the Tojil cult into the
Highlands, is originally a Central-Mexican calpulli called Atonal in Nahuatl. I have been
able to trace the calpulli Atonal all the way back to Tula and Cuauhtitlan. They appear in
Mesoamerica in places which when lined together neatly form the trade-route from
Central-Mexico to Soconusco and beyond. Hence, it is fascinating to realize that Tojil,
being a Fire God, is but another exponent of the mercantile ideology 200.
Accordingly, the calpulli Mutal-Tzonmolco seems, just like the Toj-Atonal, an illustration
of the dynamics of interculturality during the Classic and Postclassic: merchant families
driven by trade and spreading along the trade network of Mesoamerica, while marrying
into local social networks. Future research should concentrate more on these mecha-
nisms and its actors, because they seemed to have shaped a considerate part of Meso-
american culture

This is not yet the final version of the article.
There are various people I would like to thank for their help and the use of the images.
However the final acknowledgements will have to wait.

200As explained, Xiuhteuctli is the patron of the day Atl, its Highland version is Toj. I have shown that the modern
image of San Pablo, patron saint of Rabinal, has his cloak covered with Mexican Atl signs (Akkeren 2000: 174-184).
In this study I mention other calpultin and lineages which follow a similar process (Akkeren in press).

51 Ruud van Akkeren

For those who are interested in obtaining a copy of

Xibalba y el nacimiento del nuevo sol

Una visin posclsica del colapso maya

published by Editorial Piedra Santa Guatemala (2012)

There is an e-book version of the book which you can order at:




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