Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

Reassessment of the Maya Verb Root, K’al

Reassessment of the Maya Verb Root, K’al

Claudia Voit

This article examines past and present interpretations of the Maya verb root known as k’al. The verb root is depicted in Classic and Post Classic Period monuments, codices, stelae, altars and ceramics. Scholars including Floyd Lounsbury, Eric Forstemann, Eduard Seler, Eric Thompson, Linda Schele, Jeff Miller, and David Stuart, have given us a general reading of k’al. Some of these scholars suggest the prevailing interpretation of k’al is ‘to tie,’ ‘tying,’ or ‘wrapping,’ while others suggest that the verb means ‘to bind.’ Schele’s interpretation of k’al in some instances is ‘the end’ or ‘to make.’ When one examines the astronomical and ritual treatments of k’al, there appear to be more than one interpretation of the verb root.

Other scholars, like Gerardo Aldana, suggest that current interpretations of the Venus Pages (a major astronomical guide) within the Dresden Codex, and a hieroglyphic panel found in Copan reveal that we may use the same treatment of k’al in astronomical texts as those found in ritual texts. Aldana suggests that when using the textual data, such as hieroglyphic texts found in Temple-11 (in Copan), we can support the theory that the interpretations of the verb root within the Dresden Codex actually refers to a ritual ‘enclosing’ or ‘loop-tracing’ in space and time and this interpretation may also be used when deciphering ritual events.

This article will revisit past and current interpretations of the verb root which have appeared in various forms and in many different texts. It will also review the compounds involving the verb root. The goal of this paper is to present the data on k’al and to open up discussions of which meaning of the verb root should be employed when examining astronomical and ritual events. In each example of k’al presented in this paper, this work will include the hieroglyphic reading(s) of the verb root. It will also include past and present dictionary examples (including all Eric Thompson versions) of the verb root along with their examples of k’al used alone, or involving compounds. Additionally, it will include examples of k’al that are found on various monuments, stelae, and temples. Further, it will examine Gerardo Aldana’s suggestion that when k’al occurs in codices, like the Dresden Codex, or in the readings within Temple 11 (both of these texts referring to astronomical events), we may want to examine which meaning of k’al is appropriate.


April 23, 2010 - Posted by | abstract

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