Saturday, December 2, 2017

Lady K'abel -- A "Supreme Warrior"

Map of Guatemala, courtesy the CIA World Factbook.

Ix or Lady K'abel was a powerful woman whose life seems to have occurred during the later half of the 600s AD. (You may also find these names for her: Lady Snake Lord (actually a title) and Lady Waterlily Hand.) She became part of the royal family of El Perú-Waka' -- now in the northwest of Guatemala's Petén region -- and was a very large part of the power there, as her rank was the most powerful one you could have in the Classic Period: military governor/kaloomte'. (Her actual title was "ix kaloomte'," which you may see translated as "Lady Overlord" or "Lady Warlord.") Specifically with her, she was Calakmul's kaloomte'.

Royal Descent and Marriage Background
It seems that Lady K'abel's life is first connected to Calakmul. When she was alive, it was powerful -- in fact, it was the strongest lowlands power during the second half of the 600s AD. Do archaeologists know anything about her family? Possibly -- it could be that she was related to a man named Yuhknoom Ch'een II, a ruler of Calakmul. (His rule went from 636 AD to 686 AD.) Specifically, she may have been his granddaughter or she may have been his daughter.

As you might guess, Lady K'abel's marriage -- to K'inich Bahlam/B'alam II, the ruler of El Perú-Waka' -- was part of Calakmul's political decisions. At the time when Lady K'abel was alive, the city-state was doing things to get more power, and her marriage was one of those things. When they married, the two city-states formed an alliance. For someone from Calakmul, sharing power with your spouse wasn't unusual, and El Perú-Waka's history involves other women who were known to have had power as well. (It seems, though that there was actually an alliance that had been made may years beforehand in 656 AD. In this year, there is a record of K'inich Bahlam II being made king while Yuhknoom Ch'een II watched.)

Term as Kaloomte'
Like Lady Yohl Ik'nal, a ruling queen of Palenque, Lady K'abel stayed in her position as Calakmul's kaloomte' for a long time -- twenty years, if not more. Currently, her reign dates are known as 672 AD to 692 AD. She had or at least may have had -- more authority than her husband over the people of El Perú-Waka' because of her being in the kaloomte' rank. A social point that is notable is that art at Lady K'abel's new city became more like her "hometown."

No specific date has been found that tells us when Lady K'abel passed from this life. (K'inich Bahlam II is known to have still been alive in the 700s AD.) A burial found in 2012 seems like it could be hers.

This burial was in a building shaped like a pyramid that archaeologists call M21-35 or the Royal Couple's Building -- specifically, she was buried under a staircase on its north side. (It may sound unusual, but it wasn't odd for the ancient Maya at El Perú-Waka' to bury people under staircases, if the burial was an important one.) Archaeologists have found that though the site became abandoned, this building wasn't -- people went to it, using it as a temple. (Why were people still coming here? One possibility is because it really was Lady K'abel who was buried there.)

One item that was part of the burial was a bloodletter in the shape of the god Akan that was made from a stalactite. Another was a vase made out of alabaster that had an inscription on it (with Lady K'abel's name,) and was carved not only so that it looked like a conch shell, but also like both a woman's head and arm were moving away from the jar. Yet more items in the burial were ones made of shell (there was a spondylus shell too, a big one) as well as pieces of jade that had been carved. There were also, as far as could be told, about 21 ceramic dishes.

Here is a short and informative video on Lady K'abel and the tomb that is thought to be hers, done by the University of Washington at St. Louis.
Archaeologists have found multiple stela that show Lady K'abel. One is stela 34, now to be found at the Cleveland Museum of Art. This stela shows Lady K'abel during a Period Ending. On this stela, she is with her attendant, who is a person with dwarfism and is playing music. Meanwhile, Lady K'abel's head has a headdress connected to war on it, and a shield in fitted on her left hand. (A theory wonders if this attendant, Pah Tuun Ahk, was also a former citizen of Calakmul. This is due to the fact that El Perú-Waka' doesn't have any monuments that show people with dwarfism other than this one.)

Stela 34 is actually one of a pair, with K'inich Bahlam II getting his own, now called stela 33 and located at the Kimbell art Museum; both have the date 692 AD, and were connected to a Period Ending. These two are understood to have been set up on the Royal Couple's Building's north side. (There is also another set of stelae, called stela 11 and stela 12 -- these two's Period Ending date is 672 AD. Stela 11 is Lady K'abel's and stela 12 is K'inich Bahlam II's.) Both were also taken by looters, and eventually ended up in museums.

On a related note, another stela called stela 44 seems to have been part of Lady K'abel's life, if somewhat indirectly. It's possible that K'inich Bahlam II used it as an offering, part of the things being done in connection to Lady K'abel's funeral.

Google Books: "Fusion: Integrated Reading and Writing" book 2, second edition; Dave Kemper, Verne Meyer, John Van Rys, Pat Sebranek; 2016

Google Books: "Encylopedia of the Ancient Maya"; Walter R.T. Witschey; 2016

Google Books: "Archaeology at El Perú-Waka': Ancient Maya Performances of Ritual, Memory, and Power"; Olivia C. Navarro Farr, Michelle Rich (editors); 2014

Washington University in St. Louis: The Source: "Discovery of stone monument at El Perú-Waka’ adds new chapter to ancient Maya history"; July 16, 2013

University of Chicago Division of the Humanities: Visual Resources Center: "Tomb of Lady K’abel, Maya Queen, Found in Guatemala"; Bridgetm; October 18, 2012

Washington University in St. Lous: The Source: "Tomb of Maya queen K’abel discovered in Guatemala"; Jessica Daues; October 3, 2012

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