12 Pages
English
Gain access to the library to view online
Learn more

A quetzal feather dance at Bonampak, Chiapas, Mexico - article ; n°1 ; vol.70, pg 127-137

-

Gain access to the library to view online
Learn more
12 Pages
English

Description

Journal de la Société des Américanistes - Année 1984 - Volume 70 - Numéro 1 - Pages 127-137
Stephen D. HOUSTON. A quetzal feather dance at Bonampak, Chiapas, Mexico. The author offers an interpretation of some of the figures of the paintings of Bonampak as representing a dance in which quetzal feathers were used. This interpretation is based on a reading of certain glyphs and it supports Mathews' hypothesis concerning the verb glyphs in the inscriptions of Yaxchilan, Chiapas.
Una danza con plumas de quetzal en Bonampak, Chiapas, Mexico. El autor propone una interpretación de una de las imágenes de los murales de Bonampak. Se trataria de una danza en la que se utilizan plumas de quetzal. Esta interpretación se apoya en la lectura de ciertos glifos y confirma la hipótesis de Mathews sobre verbos glificos de las inscripciones de Yaxchilan, Chiapas.
Une danse avec des plumes de quetzal à Bonampak, Chiapas, Mexique. L'auteur propose une interprétation de l'une des images des peintures de Bonampak : une danse où l'on utilisait des plumes de quetzal. La lecture de certains glyphes vient à l'appui de cette interprétation et confirme en outre l'hypothèse de Mathews relative aux glyphes-verbes dans les inscriptions de Yaxchilan.
11 pages
Source : Persée ; Ministère de la jeunesse, de l’éducation nationale et de la recherche, Direction de l’enseignement supérieur, Sous-direction des bibliothèques et de la documentation.

Subjects

Informations

Published by
Published 01 January 1984
Reads 23
Language English

Exrait

Stephen D. Houston
A quetzal feather dance at Bonampak, Chiapas, Mexico
In: Journal de la Société des Américanistes. Tome 70, 1984. pp. 127-137.
Abstract
Stephen D. HOUSTON. A quetzal feather dance at Bonampak, Chiapas, Mexico. The author offers an interpretation of some of
the figures of the paintings of Bonampak as representing a dance in which quetzal feathers were used. This interpretation is
based on a reading of certain glyphs and it supports Mathews' hypothesis concerning the verb glyphs in the inscriptions of
Yaxchilan, Chiapas.
Resumen
Una danza con plumas de quetzal en Bonampak, Chiapas, Mexico. El autor propone una interpretación de una de las imágenes
de los murales de Bonampak. Se trataria de una danza en la que se utilizan plumas de quetzal. Esta interpretación se apoya en
la lectura de ciertos glifos y confirma la hipótesis de Mathews sobre verbos glificos de las inscripciones de Yaxchilan, Chiapas.
Résumé
Une danse avec des plumes de quetzal à Bonampak, Chiapas, Mexique. L'auteur propose une interprétation de l'une des images
des peintures de Bonampak : une danse où l'on utilisait des plumes de quetzal. La lecture de certains glyphes vient à l'appui de
cette interprétation et confirme en outre l'hypothèse de Mathews relative aux glyphes-verbes dans les inscriptions de Yaxchilan.
Citer ce document / Cite this document :
Houston Stephen D. A quetzal feather dance at Bonampak, Chiapas, Mexico. In: Journal de la Société des Américanistes.
Tome 70, 1984. pp. 127-137.
doi : 10.3406/jsa.1984.2241
http://www.persee.fr/web/revues/home/prescript/article/jsa_0037-9174_1984_num_70_1_2241A QUETZAL FEATHER DANCE AT BONAMPAK,
CHIAPAS, MEXICO
Stephen D. HOUSTON *
Since the discovery of the spectacular Bonampak murals in 1946, there has
been much interest in the imagery of the paintings, with rather less attention
being paid to its accompanying hieroglyphic texts (Arai, 1960 ; Ruppert et al.,
1955 ; Villagra, 1949). Two recent studies, one by Adams and Aldrich (1980),
the other by Miller (1981), go far in redressing this imbalance, with the former
providing a very useful numbering of the mural texts and the latter offering a
convincing interpretation of the Initial Series text as well as of the events depict
ed in the paintings. The present paper examines a small number of hieroglyphs
in the murals, specifically those captioning the robing and dance scenes in
Room 1. The names of some of the participants in these scenes are discussed,
and conjectures are made about their status. Evidence is also adduced that ver
bal glyphs accompanying the dance scene refer to an event involving
feathers. This evidence substantiates an interpretation by Mathews of similar
verbal expressions at the site of Yaxchilan.
The paintings in Room 1, the northwestern chamber in the structure contain
ing the murals, display two distinct scenes. The first is one of heir-designation
(Miller, 1981 : 17), in which a royal child is presented to an assembly of richly
if uniformly dressed lords (cf. Yaxchilan Stelae 4 and 7, on which kneeling
figures wear the same garb) ; the Initial Series text of Room 1 in part refers to this
event (Miller, 1981 : 265). The second scene comprises two consecutive events,
the first of which involves the robing of three lords with, among other things,
quetzal feather backracks and jaguar pelts ; the second event is the dance itself,
where the three lords, now dressed, dance to music provided by a large band.
At present, the relationship between the first and second scenes is unclear.
Very possibly both are coincident, although it seems more likely, given the pat
tern in Room 2 (Miller, 1981 : 171), that the scene on the upper northeastern
wall — the preparation for the dance — follows the one on the upper south
western wall — the heir designation.
As mentioned above, three persons dance in the murals of Room 1. The
attire of these persons is rich, suggesting that the dancers are members of the
elite. Several glyphic clues corroborate this. First, the dancers are dressed by
individuals using the ah na be(y) title (Miller, 1981 : 91), this being an honor
unlikely to be accorded those of low rank. Second, all dancers employ Emblem
* Yale University, Yale Station, New Haven, Conn, 06520 U.S.A.
J.S.A. 1984, LXX : p. 127 à 13Š. SOCIÉTÉ DES AMÉRICANISTES 128
Illustration non autorisée à la diffusion
Fie 1. — Shortest Figure in Dance Scene (after Ruppert et al., 1955 : Figure 27). FEATHER DANCE AT BONAMPAK 129
glyphs, compounds marking elite status. Third and last, the dancer being
dressed while in full frontal pose (a feature in itself suggesting high rank)
appears in Room 2 above a group of bleeding and mutilated prisoners ; there,
he wears battle dress and stands to the right of the presiding lord, Chaan-Muan
(Mathews, 1980 : 61). On present evidence it is uncertain whether this dancer
is a member of the Bonampak dynasty or a representative of an allied family.
Of particular interest here is the shortest of the three figures (Figure 1).
His name glyphs appear in at least two places on the murals, once in the robing
scene and once in the dance scene. The first version of his name (Figure 2)
ABC
Illustration non autorisée à la diffusion
Fig. Miller). 2. — Phonetic Version of Dancer's Name (after photographs supplied by Mary E.
comprises the following elements : (a) T12 [Ala], which demonstrably substitutes
for T229, the a or ah in Bishop Landa's " alphabet " (Figure 3) ; (b) T501
[Alb], read ba, ma, imix, or naab (Kelley, 1976 : 211 ; Schele, 1982 : 73) ; (с) а
cursive T178 [Alb], read la or al : 201) ; (d) a cursive and partly
effaced T74 read ma (Kelley, 1976 : 152) ; (e) a jawbone with T110 [Bl]
and finally (f) 758a : 110 [Cl]. It can be shown that in every respect these el
ements are equivalent to the components of the second version of the name
(Figure 4). The first glyph of this version [Cla], which is more clearly depicted
in a rendering by Tejeda (Ruppert et al., 1955 : Figure 27 ; the copy here is
taken from photographs of a later date supplied by Mary Miller), represents
T229. The second glyph is an iconic representation of a jaguar head [Clb],
and, as might be expected, the phonetic elements in the first version of the
name (items b through d) compose a Mayan word for jaguar, ba-la-m(a).
There is ample evidence of T74's use as a phonetic complement to jaguar glyphs
(Figure 5) as well as the possible appearance on an unprovenanced stela of a full
phonetic spelling of jaguar (Figure 6). The penultimate element [Dl], a skull,
substitutes with the jawbone of the first version, a pattern of alternation present
in the Palenque Emblem glyph (Figure 7). The final element [C2], T758a : 110,
is the same in both versions.
With the name phrase of the individual thus identified, it is possible to iso
late the verbal glyphs in the text captioning the dance scene (Figure 4, B1-B2).
Figure 8 illustrates four verbs from Yaxchilan that resemble the example at
Bonampak. The initial glyphs in these verbs are "general" or "auxiliary"
verbs (Schele, 1982 : 63). The final glyphs are variable elements of uncertain
meaning. 130 SOCIÉTÉ DES AMÉRICANISTES
Illustration non autorisée à la diffusion
I
Fig. 3. — Substitution of T12 A for T229 (after photographs В supplied by Mary E. Miller).
А В CD
Illustration non autorisée à la diffusion
Fig. Miller). 4. — Second Version of Dancer's Name (after photographs supplied by Mary E.
,•• ;"P ■p
Illustration non autorisée à la diffusion G
в A
Fig. after and 5. after — Graham Phonetic an unpublished (1982 Complement : 179), drawing Yaxchilan to Jaguar by Peter Hieroglyphic Glyphs Mathews, ; (a) Stairway after Poco Palacios Uinic 5, 127. Stela (1928 3, : Figure C19 ; 90) (b) FEATHER DANCE AT BONAMPAK 131
A
Illustration non autorisée à la diffusion
В
Fig. Ф) 6. J9-I10. — Jaguar Glyphs on Unprovenanced Stela (Mayer, 1980 : Plate 61) ; (a) El-Fl ;
A
Illustration non autorisée à la diffusion
В
С
Fig. 96 Mathews Sarcophagus, 7. glyphs, — Some (1979 F5 North ; Substitutions : (c) 81), after End. glyph Robertson A3 in : Palenque (b) (1983 after : Schele Emblem Figure (1982 174), Glyphs : Temple frontispiece), ; (a) of after the Tablet Inscriptions, Schele of and the SOCIÉTÉ DES AMÉRICANISTES 132
verbal phrase name
A
В Illustration non autorisée à la diffusion
С
D
Fig. Yaxchilan Lintel 8. — 9, Verbal A4-B4 Lintel Phrases ; 2, (c) C1-J2 Graham from ; ф) Yaxchilan (1979 after : 75), Graham ; (a) Yaxchilan after and Graham von Lintel Euw and 33, (1977 C1-A7 von Euw : ; 29), (d) (1977 after Yaxchilan : Gra15),
ham and von Euw (1977 : 23), Yaxchilan Lintel 6, B1-B7.
Peter Mathews (personal communication 1983) has recently suggested that
the final glyphs represent objects being manipulated in the accompanying
images. However, his suggestion is difficult to verify without decipherments of
the variable elements '. The importance of the Bonampak verb lies in the fact
that its variable element can be deciphered, and that this decipherment supports
Mathews' interpretation. The variable glyph at is T604, which has
been read by Knorosov as k'u (Knorosov, 1967 : 102), a reading accepted by
many epigraphers. Epigraphic studies by Lounsbury (1974 : 16 ; personal com
munication 1981) at the sites of Palenque (Figure 9) and Copán (Figure 10) indi
cate that, on occasion, a single T604 glyph may in fact represent two, particu
larly when substituting for an iconic quetzal, k'uk' in virtually all Mayan
languages. Such is also the case in the dance text at Bonampak, where the
single T604 glyph probably represents a doubled form, read k'u-k'(u). This is
not only a word for " quetzal ", or more generally for any long-tailed member
of the Trogon genus (Nicholas Hopkins, personal communication 1983), but a
widely distributed word for '* feather " (Table 1) 2. Thus, the verbal construe- DANCE AT BONAMPAK 133 FEATHER
Illustration non autorisée à la diffusion
A В
Fig. Temple Sarcophagus, 9. — T604 of the and Cover Inscriptions, Quetzal Edge, Glyphs 54. Sarcophagus, at Palenque North ; (a) End after ; (b) Robertson Temple (1983 of the : Inscriptions, Figure 174),
A
Illustration non autorisée à la diffusion
В
С
Fig. Altar South 10. — R, Panel T604 C1-C2 ; (c) and ; after (b) Quetzal after Maudslay Riese Glyphs (1974 and at Riese Copán : Plate (1983 ; 93), (a) : after Altar 59), Maudslay Temple Q, A3. 11, (1974 West : Plate Doorway, 94), 134 SOCIÉTÉ DES AMÉRICANISTES
Language Mayan Word Gloss
Ch'ol k'uk'mal plumage
tojolabal k'uk'mil feather
TZOTZIL k'uk'umal
k'uk'toh feather-pine
(toh =' pine)
YUCATEC k'uk'um feather
Sources : Ch'ol, Aulie and de Aulie 1978 : 174 ; Tojolabal, Lenkersdorf, 1981 : 562 ;
Tzotzil, Laughlin, 1975 : 137 ; Yucatec, Barrera Vásquez, 1980 : 420.
Table 1. — Some Mayan Words for " Feather ".
tion can be interpreted in one of two ways : 1) as a rite of quetzal impersonat
ion or quetzal costure mummery 3 ; or 2) as a rite involving the manipulation
of feathers, or more precisely, of quetzal feather backracks. The latter expla
nation is more compelling, as it conforms to glyphic usage at Yaxchilan, where
such animal impersonation verbs do not seem a possibility.
In summary, the present paper has identified the names of two of the
dancers in the Room 1 murals at Bonampak as well as inferred their high rank.
It has interpreted the verb accompanying the dance as an event involving the use
of feathers, that is, of quetzal feathered backracks. This interpretation sup
ports Mathews' analysis of similar verbal constructions in the inscriptions of
Yaxchilan.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
I thank Mary Ellen Miller for allowing me to read her Ph. D. dissertation
(soon to appear as a book by Princeton University Press) and for giving me the
opportunity to draw the mural texts. This report relies upon her overall inter
pretation of the mural program at Bonampak. I also thank Floyd Lounsbury
for sharing his Copán data and for mentioning that k'uk' also means
" feather ". Nicholas Hopkins and John Justeson contributed valuable sugges
tions on matters of content and citation.
NOTES
1. The reader should be aware that the grammatical classification of these variable elements is
controversial. Hopkins (1983 : 4) views the elements as verbal nouns " derived from a verb which
indicates the action being performed ". This interpretation contrasts with one advanced by Juste
son and Norman (1983), who instead regard the elements as " direct objects " and translate the FEATHER DANCE AT BON AMP AK 135
accompanying verb as meaning " to set down, to let go " (1983 : 3). The reading presented here
favors Justeson and Norman's general interpretation but fails to support their translation, which
makes little sense as a caption to the dance scene.
2. In Yucatec Maya there is a word for " sons " or " descendants " that is homophonous with
the word for " quetzal " k'uk' (Barrera, 1980 : 420). The Bonampak lords may have been aware
of this homophony, making use of it in a rite confirming a child as legitimate heir to the throne.
3. The rim band text of an unprovenanced vessel (Сое, 1978, Plate 20) may support this inter
pretation, although the evidence is equivocal because of extensive (and inept) repainting on the
pot. It appears that the verbs in the vessel text resemble the examples from Yaxchilan and Bonamp
ak, the main difference being in the " variable element ", which in this case seems to have been a
jaguar head. Since most of the human figures in the scene below the text wear jaguar costumes
(with some fantastic embellishments), the vessel text may refer to jaguar impersonation rather than
to the manipulation of objects. Nonetheless, the jaguar head may simply allude to jaguar pelts
being worn in the scene below.
REFERENCES CITED
Adams, R. E. W. and Robert C. Aldrich, 1980. A Réévaluation of the Bonampak
murals. A preliminary statement on the paintings and texts. In Third Palenque Round
Table, 1978, Part 2, Merle Greene Robertson (éd.), pp. 45-49. University of Texas
Press, Austin.
Arai, Alberto, 1960. La Arquitectura de Bonampak : Viaje a las Ruinas de Bonampak.
Instituto Nacionál de Bellas Artes, Mexico, D. F.
Aulie, Wilbur and Evelyn de Aulie, 1978. Diccionario Ch'ol-Espanol,
Espanol-Ch'ol. Instituto Linguistico de Verano, Mexico, D. F.
Barrera, Alfredo (éd.), 1980. Diccionario Maya Cordemex : Maya-Espaňol, Espaňol-
Maya. Ediciones Cordemex, Mérida.
Сое, Michael D., 1978. Lords of the Underworld : Masterpieces of Classic Maya Cera
mics. Princeton University Press, Princeton.
Graham, Ian, 1979. Corpus of maya hieroglyphic inscriptions, vol. 3, part 2. Peabody
Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, Cambridge.
— 1982. Corpus of maya hieroglyphic inscriptions, vol. 3, part 3. Peabody Museum of
Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, Cambridge.
Graham, Ian and Eric von Euw, 1977. Corpus of maya hieroglyphic inscriptions, vol. 3,
part 1. Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, Camb
ridge.
Hopkins, Nicholas, 1983. Comments on a reinterpretation of some "Auxiliary Verb "
constructions in mayan hieroglyphic writing. Ms. in possession of author.
Justeson, John and William Norman, 1983. A reinterpretation of some "Auxiliary
Verb " constructions in mayan hieroglyphic writing. Paper presented at the Quinta
Mesa Redonda de Palenque.
Kelley, David, 1976. Deciphering the maya script. University of Texas Press, Austin.
Knorosov, Yuri, 1967. Selected chapters from the writing of the maya indians (1965).
Russian Translation Series of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology,
Harvard University, vol. 4. CA.