The Xcalumk’in Vase, K8017
By:  Nikolai Grube, Stephen Houston, Justin Kerr, Simon Martin,
John Montgomery, Dicey Taylor, and Mark Zender
Vea este artículo en Español.

Vase K8017

I wish to thank all the scholars that participated in the exploration of the text and imagery of the Xcalumk’in Vase. Dicey Taylor is to be particularly commended for her interpretations, organization and compilation of the text that follows.

Click here for David Stuart’s translation.

The following transcription of K8017 is based on the epigraphic work of Stephen Houston, Nikolai Grube, Simon Martin, John Montgomery, Dicey Taylor, and Justin Kerr. The vase presents a difficult text that incorporates unusual glyphs and Yucatecan conventions not yet well understood. It has a rim inscription of 14 compounds and depicts a seated figure and an enthroned lord, framed by two columns of glyphs, labeled AB1-5 and CD1-6.

A possible interpretation of the vessel is that it presents a young lord as the son of the enthroned ruler, who was also the artist that made the vase. The same scribal signature appears on Lintel 1 from the Inscriptions Series Building at Xcalumk’in. Alternatively, the scribe may be a third person but the nominal compounds on the rim and wall of the vessel are very similar (#11 in the rim text and A2-B3 in the left column), suggesting that the enthroned lord was both the king and scribe.


  1. a-AL?-ya, "here, now, then," deictic marker.
  1. UH-ti-ya, "it happened".
  1. yu-?-lu-IL, "the carving of," a version of yu-xul. The IL looks like le but the curves run backwards and there is no indentation on the left part of the sign; hence, IL.
  1. u-ja-yi, "his vessel."
  1. CHAK-ka, the ch’ak  "great" title.
  1. ah-ma-t’zu [T203], "name of the vessel’s owner". (Houston notes: the glyph is rare, perhaps unique-but are sometimes doubled). The doubled version of tz’u, pi and ch’a behave this way, in that they tend to be single.
  1. u-K’AB’A-a, "his name".
  1. ko-’o-ka-b’a, "?-earth". This compound somehow refers to the date 14 tuns that follows and occurs again at A2B2.
  1. 14-TUUN-ni, 14 tuns, part of the dedicatory date at A2B2.
  1. yu-?-ne, "child of?" The central cartouche is a seated figure with outstretched leg and arm, the position of the enthroned figure on the vase. Houston reads this as yu-?-? but agrees the compound expresses some kind of relationship between the two protagonists named in the text.
  1. aj-sa-wa -?  "name," of the enthroned ruler.
  1. Maize God-na  "number 8" with ajaw headband, part of the name.
  1. u-K’AB’A-a  "his name".
  1. AH-lu-ku, another title.

Column AB:

A1B1: k’a-la-ja u-wo-jo-IL, "it is wrapped, dedicated his writing". K’al’aj  means "completed, closed, tied, wrapped", and wojiil  refers to "letters, writing". This verbal phrase occurs in other Maya inscriptions, including Panel 3 from Xcalumk’in.

A2B2: 14 tu-TUUN-ni ta-,13 ajaw-wa, "in the 14th tun in k’atun 13 ajaw".  This is the Yucatec way of writing (February 20, 765).

A3B3: che-ta-K’IN-ni, che-ta-H’AB-b’a, "count of days, count of years".

A4B4: tu-ba-hi b’o-he?-a-b’i, "his portrait, the lord". The b’o-he?-a-b’i’  title occurs in other Xcalumk’in texts as well as at the Yucatecan center of Xkombek.

A5B5: tu-ba-hi ba-ka-b’a, "his portrait, the ruler".

Column CD:

C1D1: yu-?-lu-IL, "the carver".

C2D3: aj-pa-sa-hi-na, or aj-pashiin, "name of the carver," the king.

C4D4: u-K’AB’A- o-ko-ta-il?, "his name," followed by another title.

C5D5: 3-?(HIX)-la i-tz’a’ti, "three..?..owl, its’at, sage/scribe". The compound at C5 is closely related to a common formula at Xcalumk’in of 4-HIX-?-la.

C6D6: AH-u-?-lu, "he of the carving".

Further Comments by Marc Zender

Two tiny little points of interest, though. First, I agree with Steve that the strange sign in the Rim Text at 6b is likely just a doubled version of T203 tz’u  (much in the way that pi  and ch’a, among a few other signs, are occasionally doubled without any change in reading), though he’s right to point out that it could be a unique sign. That said, the reading order isn’t really straightforward, especially given the propensity of T74 ma  to form compounds with other syllabic-signs but to be read last. Thus, AJ-tz’u-ma > aj-tz’um-a(l)  "he of hides, skins" is just as likely a reading of the compound as AJ-ma-tz’u > aj-matz’  "he of new corn".

Second, regarding the A1-B1 collocation, I’ve been wondering recently whether the verb-root k’al, often glossed by epigraphers as "to wrap", may not also occasionally carry the meanings "to hold" (cf. Ch’orti k’ar-i   "hold, hold onto, keep", Wisdom 1950: 501) and "to build (house)" (cf. Ch’ol k’äl  "construir (casa)", Aulie and Aulie 1978: 23). One isn’t hard-pressed to think of contexts where one or the other of these three possibilities work substantially better than others, though it may be of some significance that the iconic referent of the K’AL  sign itself surely refers to something like Ch’orti’  "hold, hold onto, keep". As such, I’d suggest the following reading of glyphs A1-B2:

k’a-la-ja u-wo-jo-li 14 tu-TUUN-ni ta-13-AJAW-wa, k’a[hl]-aj-ø ’u-woj-il 14-tuun ta 13-ajaw

"the writing of the 14th tuun in k’atun 13 Ajaw is held (perhaps in the form of the vessel itself)."

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