Little Bits of History

May 3

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 3, 2017

752: Yaxun B’alam IV or Bird Jaguar IV becomes king of Yaxchilan. The Mayans are a Mesoamerican civilization with a large portion of the region under their control. Their lands spread from southeastern Mexico through Guatemala and Belize and also the western portion of Honduras and El Salvador. Their story began prior to 2000 BC and their hieroglyphic steles throughout the region tell the tale of their rise. The classical period of Mayan civilization lasted from 250 AD to 900 AD and the postclassic period lasted until 1539. The Maya kings were centers of power and each Maya city-state had their own dynastic line of royalty. Kings were considered to be godlike and having a royal bloodline allowed for the smooth change of power.

Itzamnaaj B’alam II ruled Yaxchilan from 681, taking the throne at the age of 34. He had to defeat Ah Ahuaal, another contender to the throne before rising to power. He married his aunt, Lady Xoc, a women of great power. Because of her status, she was Itzamnaaj’s principal wife but she did not produce any sons. Itzamnaaj, also called Shield Jaguar II because of the glyphs found long before the phonetic name could be deciphered, also married Lady Eveningstar. They did have a son, Yaxun. Itzamnaaj built Temple 23 during his long reign and depicted both Lady Xoc and his son together on it, in order to help give support to Yaxun’s claim to the throne after he was gone. He died in 742 at the age of 95.

Since there is a ten year period before the son claimed the throne, it is believed there was a contest over who would actually be seated there. Yaxchilan did come under his rule on this day and Yaxun strove to continue the building and prosperity his father had begun during his long reign. In order to help with the task of legitimizing his rule, he created a series of steles and pictured himself and his father together, pointing out his claim. However, because Lady Xoc was not his mother, his complete claim to royalty was something to be contended. His father had a third wife who had even less status than Lady Eveningstar.

Yaxun carried out several other building projects. He built Temple 33 and Temple 21 and while he lived, he captured at least 21 people, as is proclaimed on Yaxchilan Stela 11. He reigned for a much shorter time than his father, only holding the throne for 17 years. Although he had four wives and left a son to take over the rule, within a generation of his death, the building projects of the region had stopped. The region ruled by the family was located on the Usumacinta River in what is now the state of Chiapas, Mexico and was one of the most powerful Late Classic Period Mayan states.

Ruins, for me, are the beginning. With the debris, you can construct new ideas. They are symbols of a beginning. – Anselm Kiefer

Our works decay and disappear but God gentlest works stay looking down on the ruins we toil to rear. – Walter Smith

Culture is roughly anything we do and the monkeys don’t. – Lord Raglan

Every civilization is, among other things, an arrangement for domesticating the passions and setting them to do useful work. – Aldous Huxley

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