Panel 12 (also known as Lintel 12) sheds light on the history of rulership in early Classic-Period Piedras Negras and power struggles in the Usumacinta drainage area. Piedras Negras is located in what is today the northwestern corner of Guatemala, on the Usumacinta River, downstream from Yaxchilan, and reaching northeast toward the Río San Pedro. A FAMSI map identifies in green the area that includes Piedras Negras.
This rubbing was made from Panel 12 sometime around the 1960s. It was made by Joan W. Patten, who circulated through Maya sites making various rubbings in that period. The Patten rubbing captures the outlines of detailed carvings of figures and glyphs in fairly clear detail. This stone monument shows a major crack just to the left of center, and also suffers from some erosion of areas once carved with glyphs. The stone was apparently re-used in the Late Classic temple dubbed O-13 by archaeologists. So, it is not in its original setting, nor in its original condition, but some glyphs are very readable.
According to Simon Martin and Nikolai Grube, Panel 12 includes information about the accesssion of "Ruler C" in Piedras Negras on or about 30 June 514. Other, previous rulers are known to have held power in Piedras Negras from at least the mid-fifth century forward.
The name of Ruler C has yet to be determined. In Panel 12, he shares company with four captured lords. The first of the three facing him is Knot-Eye Jaguar I, who was the ruler of Yaxchilan. Behind him may be the lord of the "Wa-Bird" site (so identified by its emblem glyph), which David Stuart suggests is Santa Elena Balancan, on the Río San Pedro. The other two captives remain unidentified.
Panel 12 is more than just about Ruler C and his captives. It also commemorates a celebration associated with the dedication of a temple in 518. In this celebration, some local deities were honored.
The ending of a K'atun period (126.96.36.199.0.), in 514, appears on the monument, as does a "scattering ritual" performed by a vassal of a high-ranking king -- perhaps the king of Piedras Negras and an "over-king" at another site.
Power struggles in this region were not limited to the period recorded on Panel 12. Rivalry with Yaxchilan stretched over a much longer, period, for instance. Yaxchilan was founded in the fourth century and experienced military strife.
Dr. David Stuart at the University of Texas at Austin has recently posted a study of Panel 12 to his weblog about Maya Decipherment. He identifies the front captive as "Knot-Eye Jaguar," Yaxchilan lord, echoing Linda Schele. He believes this is the ninth king of Yachilan who ruled from the Period Ending 188.8.131.52.0. and forward another ten years, succeeded by K'inich Tatbu Jol, who took the throne on 184.108.40.206.16. Stuart also suggests the middle captive is from the setttlement currently called Santa Elena. He finds the third prisoner (farthest on the left) may be the lord of Lakamtuun, a political region that was located on the Río Lacantun, a tributary that feeds into the upper Usumacinta, possibly near the settlement that is currently known as El Palma. Lakamtuun seems to have been an important kingdom in the Classic Period, and was named in monuments at Yaxchilan, Seibal, Itzan, and possibly also on this stone from Piedras Negras.
Stuart concludes that Panel 12 features a king from Piedras Negras who had power over three subordinate, neighboring kingdoms on the major rivers of the western lowlands. He does not believe that we should interpret the symbolism of captivity literally, but rather see it as political dominance.
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For further information, please see:
Martin, Simon, and Nikolai Grube, Chronicle of the Maya Kings and Queens: Deciphering the Dynasties of the Ancient Maya (London: Thames & Hudson, 2000), 140-141.
"Piedras Negras," "Santa Elena," and "Yaxchilan," in the Mesoweb Encyclopedia <http://www.precolumbia.com/encyc/>
Skidmore, Joel. "The Rulers of Palenque,"
Stuart, David. "Maya Decipherment: The Captives on Piedras Negras, Panel 12," August 18, 2007, <http://decipherment.wordpress.com/2007/08/18/the-captives-on-piedras-negras-panel-12/>