Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Iconographic Corroboration of Quichean Texts

Many significant inter textual dependencies exist between precontact Quichean texts such as Popol Vuh, Title of Totonicapan, Kaqchikel Chronicles, and Rabinal Achi. The parallels are so precise and extensive that common originating environments for the various documents are undisputed. Historical references to events after ca. AD 1,300 in this literature have been widely verified by archaeological work done at post-classic sites in the Guatemalan highlands. The keystone text in the group, Popol Vuh, is further corroborated by many artistic representations found across millenia throughout the Maya world.

A major conference entitled "In the Realm of the Vision Serpent, Decipherments and Discoveries in Mesoamerica: A Symposium in Homage to Linda Schele" was held on the campus of California State University Los Angeles CSULA on April 10-11, 2015. Julia Guernsey, a former student of Linda Schele now on the faculty at UT Austin, gave a presentation entitled "Preclassic Sculpture and its Relationship to the Popol Vuh." Guernsey finds a significant continuity of themes and motifs from ca. 300 BC to European contact. She sees Popol Vuh affinities with:
  • Izapa Stela 25
  • Izapa Stela 2
  • Izapa Stela 4
  • Izapa Altar 3
  • Blowgunner Vase, Justin Kerr's catalog number K1226
  • Itzamna Tribute Vase, Justin Kerr's catalog number K3413
  • Kaminaljuyu Stela 11
  • La Mojarra Stela 1
  • San Bartolo Murals
The Izapan monument - Popol Vuh connection has been discussed since at least 1976 when V. Garth Norman analyzed it extensively in his Izapa Sculpture, Part 2: Text (Provo, Utah: BYU NWAF, Papers of the New World Archaeological Foundation, Number Thirty).

As the same CSULA conference, Gabrielle Vail (New College of Florida) and Allen Christenson (BYU) gave a presentation entitled "The Maize God and New World Renewal Rituals among the Postclassic to Contemporary Maya." They see Popol Vuh echoes in:
  • Dresden Codex (Yucatan)
  • Madrid Codex (Chichen Itza)
  • Paris Codex (Yucatan, perhaps Mayapan)
  • Book of Chilam Balam of Chumayel
  • Palenque Tablet of the Foliated Cross
with particularly striking parallels in the Madrid Codex.

Mary Miller (Yale) co-authored The Blood of Kings with Linda Schele. In Los Angeles, Miller chaired a panel about Maya figurines. She finds many Popol Vuh allusions in Jaina-style figurines from a number of Maya sites such as Palenque, Jonuta, and Comalcalco in addition to Jaina Island itself.

Not mentioned at the conference, but widely-known among Mayanists, are recently-discovered bas relief stucco panels at El Mirador portraying the same Maya creation myth described in the Popol Vuh.

Justin Kerr illustrates dozens of artifacts that show very arbitrary and precise correlations with the Popol Vuh.

This proliferation of similar themes and motifs across time and space is the reason the Popol Vuh is now regarded as the most important precontact Mayan text extant, an idea that would have been unthinkable in years past.

This map shows some of the locations of iconographic or textual echoes from the Popol Vuh.
Sites with Popol Vuh Themes or Motifs
When we find significant correspondences between precontact Quichean texts and the Book of Mormon (as we do in the blog articles Kaqchikel Chronicles, Rabinal Achi, and Titulo de Totonicapan) we are comparing Mormon's Codex with mainstream, well-attested Mesoamerican counterparts.