Thursday, February 05, 2009

Life of K'inich Pacal I (the Great) of Lakam-Ha (Palenque)

Pacal's name in Glyphic form

603 - 683 C.E.

March 26, 603 C.E.

Pacal I was born on this date, during the reign of his great-grandmother Incal. his parents were Zak-Kuk the daughter of Incal's younger son Pacal and Kan-B'alam-Mo' a member of an important family that had served the dynasty for generations. Pacal I was named Pacal in honor of his grandfather Pacal. The circumstances of his birth were not auspicious.

Sculptured Head of Pacal has a young man

A few years earlier on April 21, 599 C.E.

The city is been sacked by Kalak'mul (Kan - meaning Snake) the leader of an enemy alliance that fought an alliance headed by Tikal (Mutul - meaning bundle of hair) that Palenque (Lakam-Ha - meaning big water) was a member of. His great-grandmother had came to throne in disastrous circumstances and had, had great difficulty in holding things together. Even the very fact of her accession was unusual and in the normal course of things Pacal I becoming king was not very likely given that his grandfather Pacal could have other sons and Ac-Kan, Incal's eldest son was also before him.

Map of the Mayan Area

November 7, 604 C.E.

Incal died on this date. This death marked the beginning of a period of crisis during which things went from bad to worst for the kingdom and dynasty.

January 4, 605 C.E.

Ac-Kan formally accedes to throne on this day. During this year or the next one Bonampak, an ally of Kalak'mul (Kan) successfully raids Lakam-Ha, (Palenque). Apparently Ac-Kan has far less success than his mother, Incal, in holding the kingdom together.

April 11, 611 C.E.

Kalak'mul (Kan) in alliance with various city states like Tonina and Pomona, sacks Lakam-Ha (Palenque) even more thoroughly than the last time on this date. Apparently several members of the royal family are killed and/or captured and sacrificed. Palenque (Lakam-Ha) is humiliated and forced to pay tribute. In subsequent years Lakam-Ha is raided and humiliated again and again.

March 9, 612 C.E.

Pacal, Pacal I's grandfather dies suddenly and probably violently on this date. Pacal has no surviving sons and his heir is probably his daughter Zak-Kuk. Pacal I now becomes a contender for the throne but only if his uncle Ac-Kan should die without children then the heir will be Pacal I's mother Zak-Kuk.

August 11, 612 C.E.

Ac-Kan dies on this date. again, like his brother Pacal, rather suddenly and possibly violently as Palenque's enemies close in to finish off the royal family.

October 12, 612 C.E.

Muwaan Mat accedes to the throne on this date. possibly actually Zak-Kuk, Pacal's mother who takes the throne like her grand mother Incal, or the person is an unknown male relative or entirely fictive. (To symbolize retrospectively a new beginning.) Whoever it is, accedes to the throne in difficult circumstances. Only in this case they may have been even more serious than before. The city is badly damaged. The royal family decimated so that Zak-Kuk was likely the only adult member left. The kingdom is weak, and her enemies many. It is uncertain but it appears that Zak-Kuk was the power behind the throne at this time if she was not reigning herself.

July 29, 615 C.E.

On this date Pacal was crowned, at the age of 12, by his mother Zak Kuk, K'inich, ruler of the kingdom of Bak, (meaning bone), in the city of Lakham-Ha (Palenque). Years later Pacal has carved a plaque commemorating the event. The plaque was fixed into a wall of the palace and all future rulers of Bak were crowned and enthroned underneath it. After possibly ruling alone for 2 1/2 years Zak-Kuk makes sure her son will rule by crowning him in her lifetime. At the same time she deliberately leaves her own position ambiguous. The kingdom is weak and Zak-Kuk makes sure her position remains ambiguous.

The Plaque of Zak-Kuk crowning Pacal I
615 - 640 C.E.

This period is what amounts to the joint reign of Pacal I and his mother Zak-Kuk. during this period Pacal erects no monuments and records no known wars. Inscriptions at Palenque, (Lakam-Ha) and other sites do not record any disasters happening to the kingdom of Bak. It seems safe to conclude that Zak-Kuk was successful in keeping things together and beginning the process of recovery of the kingdom. Pacal later in his reign records that his mother was unable to make the proper sacrifices because the gods were damaged.

?March 22, 626 C.E.

On this date Pacal marries lady Ahpo-Hel. Pacal is 22 years old and will turn 23 on March 26, 626 C.E., the marriage, at least politically, is a great success. Since Pacal would record this event has one of the 5 most significant events of his reign it seems safe to conclude that lady Ahpo-Hel came from a significant family and city.

January 27, 633 C.E.

On this date Zak-Kuk celebrates a katun, (twenty year) anniversary. This anniversary also probably celebrates the twenty, plus a few months since she took power.

May 23, 635 C.E.

On this date, Kan B'alam II was born to Pacal and lady Ahpo-Hel. This son would eventually follow Pacal as king of Palenque, (Lakam-Ha) in 683 C.E. It is possible that Pacal had sons born before Kan B'alam who did not survive their father. Pacal is 32 years old.

September 12, 640 C.E.

Pacal becomes sole ruler of Palenque, (Lakam-Ha) on this date, when his mother Zak-Kuk dies. Pacal is now well established as ruler because since his mother's possible accession to the throne there has been peace and stability and gradual recovery. However little if any building activity has been done, and Lakam-Ha still has many dangerous enemies. Pacal is 37 years old.

Map of Downtown Lakam-Ha (Palenque)

June 17, 641 C.E.

On this date Pacal holds a ritual and ceremony to officially designate his son, Kan B'alam II, age 6, his heir. This further solidifies Pacal's position and the security of the dynasty.

January 1, 643 C.E.

Kan-B'alam-Mo', Pacal's father dies, on this date. With his fathers death the last strings of parental control are removed.

644 C.E.

Pacal begins a war with the nearby city of Tortuguero. This is Pacal's first major war. Tortuguero is an ally of Kalak'mul (Kan) and a enemy of Palenque (Lakam-Ha) and Palenque's ally Tikal, (Mutul).

November 5, 644 C.E.

On this date, Kan-Xul II was born to Pacal and lady Ahpo-Hel. This son would eventually follow his older brother Kan B'alam II as king of Palenque, (Lakam-Ha) in 702 C.E. It is possible that Pacal had other sons who did not survive their father.

January 31, 645 C.E.

Pacal sacks a city, perhaps an ally of Tortuguero. This is Pacal's first great military achievement. The name of the city is unknown but Pacal extends his control into the east of his kingdom.

647 C.E.

Pacal dedicates his first great building project, the temple Olividado. This temple is of a radically different design from earlier ones, with a double-galleried hall, much thinner walls than usual, and many doors and vaults. This temple apparently celebrated the rival of the power and prestige of Palenque, (Lakam-Ha).

?November 18-25, 649 C.E.

Pacal takes and sacks Tortuguero.The eastern frontier of the kingdom is now stabilized. Pacal turn his attention to the western frontier of the kingdom.

April 19, 653 C.E.

Pacal performs a ritual dance to appease the gods and ensure the safety of Lakam-Ha, (Palenque).

November 654 C.E.

Dedication of the subterrean passages below house E in the Palace.

September 10, 655 C.E.

An event of some importance occurs involving Pacal's wars in the west. The exact nature of the event is not known.

650-658 C.E.

Pacal constructs the Temple of the Count, and houses, E, B, in the palace. The architecture continues to be innovative and continues to indicate the revival of Palenque (Lakam-Ha).

August 7, 659 C.E.

Pacal captures Nuun Ujol Chahk king of Santa Elena. Six days later this king and his lieutenants are presented at Palenque (Lakham-Ha).

August 16, 659 C.E.

Nun-Bak-Chak king of Tikal (Mutul) and ally of Pacal visits him in Lakam-Ha. Nun-Bak-Chak had been driven out of Mutul by an alliance of Kalak'mul and Dos Pilas. The visit was probably both a high level meeting to discuss strategy and an affirmation of Pacal's support for the alliance between Lakam-Ha and Mutul. The very fact that Pacal would thus defy Kalak'mul, which had twice taken Lakam-Ha in 60 years, indicates the significant revival of Lakam-Ha's fortunes. Also it indicates very clearly Pacal's continuation of the long-standing alliance with Mutul. This long-standing conflict was by now at least a century old. The conflict would carry on long after Pacal's death. This event was considered by Pacal one of the most important events in his life and he made sure it was prominently recorded. Pacal is 56 years old.

659 C.E.

Pacal dedicates house C in the palace. This is the last of Pacal's construction work until close to his death.

662 C.E.

Several unknown prisoners are displayed at this time by Pacal.

662 C.E.

Pacal appoints a nobelman Aj Sul to th position of Yajawk'ahk (Lord of Fire), probably a military position.

c.664 C.E.

Nun-Bak-Chak king of Tikal (Mutul) regains control of Mutul. Apparently Pacal has a hand in this. The reestablishment of Nun-Bak-Chak probably removes for the time being any worries about Kalak'mul

c.672 C.E.

Nun-Bak-Chak takes Dos-Pilas with the assistance of his allies including Lakam-Ha (Palenque). It is possible Pacal was there when the city was taken.

November 16, 672 C.E.

Lady Ahpo-Hel wife of Pacal and mother of two future kings, Kan B'alam II & Kan-Xul II, dies on this day. Ahpo-Hel and Pacal had been married 46 years. This event is also prominently recorded by Pacal. Pacal is now 69 years old and probably feeling his age.

October 20, 675 C.E.

Pacal performs a ritual associated with the creation of this universe and the mayan hero twins. This was a ritual to insure the safety of both the dynasty and the kingdom.

677 C.E.

Kalak'mul and the deposed king of Dos Pilas, Balah-Kan K'wail retake Dos Pilas. This a considerable set back for the alliance headed by Tikal (Mutul). Whether or not Pacal is involved in this defeat is not known.

679 C.E.

Nun-Bak-Chak king of Tikal, (Mutul) is captured and sacrificed by Balah-Kan K'wail king of Dos Pilas. This is a major disaster for the alliance. We do not know if Pacal was involved. It is very likely that this disaster involving a man that Pacal knew personally would have shaken Pacal. Also it would seem that this would create a serious threat to Pacal and his kingdom. Amazingly Pacal and his kingdom escape unscathed from the disaster. How? We do not know.

January 26, 679 C.E.

Pacal organizes and lays out the succession among his three sons.

c. 680-683 C.E.

Pacal builds the Temple of the Inscriptions to honor the gods and inside the temple, at its base, builds a truly remarkable tomb. Pacal records in the tomb two "king" lists and a third in the temple on the top of the pyramid. Pacal's son Chan Bahlam II finishes the temple and dedicates it on july 6, 690 C.E. The temple itself with its stucco carvings, stone sculpture, beautiful and architecture, is considered by many the most beautiful building ever built by the Mayans. The world would first see Pacal from the beautiful image of him on the incredible sarcophagus lid found in the tomb when it was opened by Ruz in 1952.

Temple of the Inscriptions
August 31, 683 C.E.

Pacal dies, apparently suddenly, at the age of 80. Pacal has reigned 68 years. Shortly after he dies he is buried in the Temple of the Inscriptions. His son Kan B'alam II formally succeeds him on January 10, 684 C.E. It is said that the emperor Augustus when he lay dying asked "have I conducted myself well in this farce called life?". The historian Suetonius said "yes". If Pacal had been asked this question, the reply would have been the same.
Sarcophagus of Pacal I

The Sources for this life are:

Schele, Linda, Wars of Pacal, on September 29th 1995 at the Palenque Round Table, Palenque Mexico. Notes from the talk Here.

Martin, Simon, Grube, Nikolai, Chronicle of the Mayan Kings and Queens, 2nd edition, Thames and Hudson, London 2008, pp. 155-175.

Schele, Linda, Mathews, Peter, The Code of Kings, Touchstone, New York, 1998, pp. 95-132.

Schele, Linda, Freidel, David, A Forest of Kings, William Morrow and Company Inc., New York, 1990. pp. 216-261.

Stuart, David & Stuart, George, Palenque, Thames and Hudson, London, 2008, pp. 147-184.

Mathews, Peter, Who’s Who in the Classic Maya World - K'inich Janab' Pakal I, From the FAMSI website Here.

Pierre Cloutier

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