Thursday, February 10, 2011

Itzamnaaj B'alam II - Yaxchilan Dynasty 681 - 742

Bloodletting ritual - October 28, 709
The ruler, Shield Jaguar, holds a torch while his consort, Lady Xoc, pulls a rope studded with what are now believed to be obsidian shards through her tongue in order to conjure a vision serpent.

Itzamnaaj B'alam II was a Maya king who ruled in Yaxchilan from 681 until he died in the year 742. He is also called Shield Jaguar II by modern writers and commonly referred to simply as Shield Jaguar based on his name glyph before the phonetic name was deciphered. He was born in 647 to Lady Pacal and 6-Tun-Bird-Jaguar and later had a son named Yaxun B'alam IV who ascended to the throne after Itzamnaaj B'alam's death. Little is known of Itzamnaaj B'alam's early life except that when he was eleven years old one of his siblings participated in a war that involved Pacal the famous king of Palenque.
In order to become king, Itzamnaaj B'alam defeated Ah-Ahaual (a Mayan noble) in war and took him captive to Yaxchilan. At the age of 34 around October 23, 681, he became king of Yaxchilan. He was married to Lady Xoc and she held a great amount of power.
Vision Serpent bloodletting rite - March 24, 755
One of the wives of Bird Jaguar IV invoking the Vision Serpent in a bloodletting rite. She communes with a spirit called up from the otherworld. This entity is an aspect of the waterlily serpent, itself the nagual of the lightning deity, K'awiil. She is carrying a basket with the paraphernalia used for auto-sacrifice: a stingray spine, a rope and bloodied paper. The Vision Serpent appears before her, springing from a bowl, which also contains strips of bark-paper.

One of Itzamnaaj B'alam's greatest accomplishments was the construction of what is now called Temple 23. At Temple 23, Lady Xoc is shown performing a bloodletting ritual for three different occasions: Itz'amná B'alam's accession to the throne, the birth of Yaxun B'alam, and the dedication of Temple 23.
Rise to Supremacy - 681 ad
Temple 23 was one of the first buildings to be constructed, and was dedicated to Shield Jaguar II's wife, Lady K'ab'al Xook. The carved lintels inside the temple commemorate Shield Jaguar II's rise to the throne. Lady Xook holds a bowl containing bloodletting apparatus consisting of a stingray spine and bloodstained paper. The Vision Serpent rising before her has two heads, one at each extreme, from the mouth of one emerges a warrior, from the other emerges the head of central Mexican deity Tlaloc, the war god of the distant metropolis of Teotihuacan in the Valley of Mexico. The previous century had been one of constant warfare between Yaxchilan and her neighbors, and the new king showed prowess for war. For forty years Shield Jaguar II led his people to dominate the conflict. The situation finally calmed in 723. Shield Jaguar II showed skill as a peacetime ruler as well, and launched a massive rebuilding campaign.

Itzamnaaj B'alam married a second wife named Lady Eveningstar of Calakmul with whom he had his son Yaxun B'alam. He chose Yaxun B'alam to be his successor despite the fact that Lady Xoc, his other wife, had a strategically important bloodline. It is believed by Linda Schele and David Freidel that Itzamnaaj B'alam had Temple 23 in Yaxchilan constructed to honor Lady Xoc while also gaining public support for his son to become king. The majority of the buildings constructed during Itzamnaaj B'alam's reign occurred in the last third of his life. As well, he was still leading his troops to battle in his eighties. Itzamnaaj B'alam II died at the age of 95.