Thursday, October 19, 2017

Ix Wak Chan Ajaw (Lady Six Sky)

Author's note: The names of places refer to specific cities that are now archaeological sites, but they also refer to city-states that existed at the time.

Guatemala colored in blue.
From the CIA World Factbook.

When you see her name in English, it's Lady Six Sky or Lady Six Sky Queen. When written down in its original form you'll see Ix Wak Chan Ajaw or Ix Wac Chanil Ahau -- and there's also the mixture of English and Mayan, Lady Wac-Kan Ahaw. A child of Lady B'ulu' and a ruler named B'alaj Chan K'awiil, she became part of Calakmul's desire to keep a hold on Naranjo.

How she helped achieve this goal makes her and the politics of the time something of a mystery. Though it seems she always kept her connection to her home, this royal lady is known for being one of Naranjo's rulers, her reign taking place in the Late Classic (around 600 AD to 800 AD.) Which wasn't that common for when she lived.

Ix Wak Chan Ajaw came from the family that ruled Dos Pilas, located in the south of the Peten region, in Guatemala. Calakmul controlled Dos Pilas and B'alaj Chan K'awiil -- Ix Wak Chan Ajaw's father -- seems to have been completely fine with this.

Meanwhile, Naranjo wasn't. It had also been under Calakmul's power, but two rulers (the 36th and 37th) had tried to rebel. However, neither of these two rulers won their wars.

Because of their actions, Ix Wak Chan Ajaw was sent all the nearly 94 miles to Naranjo. She was to bring it properly back into Calakmul's hands. This is the mystery of Ix Wak Chan Ajaw, because from what archaeologists understand, ancient Maya rulers following tradition wouldn't have sent her. They would have ordered their second sons to go, not their daughters.

To achieve the goal of making Naranjo's acceptance of Calakmul's authority permanent, Ix Wak Chan Ajaw may have married someone who belonged to a different branch of Naranjo's royalty. This would have made that branch more impressive -- and whoever agreed to marry her would, of course, be agreeing to do what Calakmul wanted. Either that or her status was enough to start a royal line with whoever she married.

Yet it wasn't simply as a wife that she went. Ix Wak Chan Ajaw ruled.

Though you won't find her name in Naranjo's list of rulers, Ix Wak Chan Ajaw's reign began in 682 AD. From what this author can tell, this date is thought to be the start of her reign because of an inscription that says she arrived at her destination that year, on August 27th. This record may or may not be literally true, due to nuances around the word "arrive." (Apparently, there's a nuance connected to this word about starting royal lines.) At any rate, five years after she "arrived" at Naranjo, the future ruler of Naranjo was born.

The name of this future ruler name was K'ahk' Tiliw Chan Chaak, and he became Naranjo's ruler officially in 693 AD, even though he was five years old. K'ahk' Tiliw Chan Chaak (who is also known today by a number of names including Smoking Squirrel) may or may not have been Ix Wak Chan Ajaw's son -- the likelihood of this depends on who you talk to. But just because Naranjo had a new "real" ruler, it doesn't mean that Ix Wak Chan Ajaw's power ended.

(On a side note, one possible piece of evidence that she was his mother involves monuments. K'ahk' Tiliw Chan Chaak would always have a monument made for her each year -- each time he had a yearly monument made to mark his becoming Naranjo's ruler. These monuments seem to have been made to say that her lineage was the reason he deserved to be the ruler, which could mean he was her son.)

For instance, a stela at Naranjo called Stela 22 lists eight war-related events, starting in 693 AD -- these events seem like they must have been brought about through the orders of Ix Wak Chan Ajaw. (Though K'ahk' Tiliw Chan Chaak was ruler in title and was the one given the credit, he would seem to be far too young, at five years old.) K'ahk' Tiliw Chan Chaak seems to have eventually started ordering his own military actions, though.

Why did Ix Wak Chan Ajaw go to war so much? Some actions may have been for the sake of Calakmul. Others may have been because other nearby city-states thought they'd try their luck warring against Naranjo when a woman was ruler.

Death and Considerations
Ix Wak Chan Ajaw may have passed on in 741 AD, possibly on either February 11th or February 10th.  (A record of her passing was found at Dos Pilas.) No one knows whether or not K'ahk' Tiliw Chan Chaak ruled Naranjo after that, because he may have died before she did.

If she did live longer than K'ahk' Tiliw Chan Chaak, then she may have kept his successor from taking his place, continuing to rule Naranjo until she died too. You may even see 741 AD as the year listed for the end of her reign. However, since the death dates aren't nailed down, nothing is for sure. (On a related note, the successor, Yax Mayuy Chan Chaak, was taken in a war started by Tikal in 744 AD.)


Mesoweb Encyclopedia: Lady Six Sky

Mesoweb Encyclopedia: K'ahk' Tiliw Chan Chaak

"Encyclopedia of the Ancient Maya"; Walter R.T. Witschey (editor); 2016

"Ancient Maya Women"; Traci Arden (editor); 2002

"The Maya Tropical Forest: People, Parks, and Ancient Cities"; James D. Nation; 2006

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