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Lightning Warrior

Matthew G. Looper
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    Lightning Warrior
    Book Description:

    The ancient Maya city of Quirigua occupied a crossroads between Copan in the southeastern Maya highlands and the major centers of the Peten heartland. Though always a relatively small city, Quirigua stands out because of its public monuments, which were some of the greatest achievements of Classic Maya civilization. Impressive not only for their colossal size, high sculptural quality, and eloquent hieroglyphic texts, the sculptures of Quirigua are also one of the few complete,in situseries of Maya monuments anywhere, which makes them a crucial source of information about ancient Maya spirituality and political practice within a specific historical context.

    Using epigraphic, iconographic, and stylistic analyses, this study explores the integrated political-religious meanings of Quirigua's monumental sculptures during the eighth-century A.D. reign of the city's most famous ruler, K'ak' Tiliw. In particular, Matthew Looper focuses on the role of stelae and other sculpture in representing the persona of the ruler not only as a political authority but also as a manifestation of various supernatural entities with whom he was associated through ritual performance. By tracing this sculptural program from its Early Classic beginnings through the reigns of K'ak' Tiliw and his successors, and also by linking it to practices at Copan, Looper offers important new insights into the politico-religious history of Quirigua and its ties to other Classic Maya centers, the role of kingship in Maya society, and the development of Maya art.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79864-9
    Subjects: Archaeology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. 1-34)

    When the first European and American explorers penetrated the dense jungles surrounding Quirigua more than 150 years ago, the ruins of this ancient Maya ceremonial center fired the Romantic imagination in search of “lost” civilizations. To the pioneer archaeologist of the ancient Maya, Alfred P. Maudslay, the extraordinary carved monuments at Quirigua were an important inspiration. Today we remain impressed by the grandeur and artistic excellence of Quirigua’s sculptures, many of which are justifiably considered masterpieces of Maya art. Carved with stone tools, the sandstone monoliths are varied in form and proportion, from short and squat to extremely tall and...

  6. 1 LIFE AT THE CROSSROADS Quirigua before K’ak’ Tiliw
    (pp. 35-56)

    When k’ak’ tiliw assumed the throne as ruler of Quirigua in A.D. 725, the site over which he ruled bore little resemblance to the ruins we see today. Penetrations of the acropolis undertaken by the University of Pennsylvania Quirigua Project revealed that the complex was very small prior to the eighth century. In fact, before his accession, few architectural groups existed in the vicinity of the site core. Nevertheless, several monuments from the period before K’ak’ Tiliw have been discovered, including two stelae dating to the late fifth century. Together with a circular mid-seventh-century monument, Altar L, the inscriptions, iconography,...

  7. 2 A RESTIVE VASSAL The Early Reign of K’ak’ Tiliw
    (pp. 57-75)

    Today an astonishing array of late-eighth- and early-ninth-century stone sculptures dominates the site of Quirigua. These were erected by rulers during an era in which economic conditions favored lavish patronage of the arts. The monuments of K’ak’ Tiliw stand tallest in this group and were all carved after the approximate midpoint of his reign, several years after the site achieved independence in 738. The early years of this king’s reign were also marked by significant art projects. And while they cannot equal the later monuments in scale or elaboration, they are nevertheless a testament to the political ambitions of the...

  8. 3 REBELLION AND REVIVAL The First Stelae of K’ak’ Tiliw
    (pp. 76-121)

    The inhabitants of Quirigua in the late 730s had reason to praise the ancestors. The population was expanding, and the surplus from agriculture and trade was being transformed into monumental architecture and sculpture in the site core. Presiding over this time of plenty was the ruler K’ak’ Tiliw, whose monumental commissions simultaneously expressed the cultural bond with Copan and asserted the eminence of the local ruler. Monumental art and architecture during the first ten years of his reign boldly negotiated the line between subordination and independence. Finally, in 738, tensions between the two centers reached a critical point, resulting in...

  9. 4 DREAMS OF POWER Stelae F, D, and E
    (pp. 122-157)

    Of central importance in the promulgation of the divine personae of K’ak’ Tiliw during the last twenty years of his sixty-year reign was a program of six colossal stone sculptures, including five stelae and one zoomorphic throne. Continuing the tradition of monument dedications every hotun, these monuments were arranged in a rectangular pattern, marking off twenty-five tuns of history and defining a grand ritual space. Conceived as a unified program, this group of monuments represents an elaborate manipulation of the central concepts of Classic Maya elite lore and serves as both a memorial and a political statement. Part of the...

  10. 5 FOUNDATION OF THE COSMIC HOUSE Stelae C and A and Zoomorph B
    (pp. 158-185)

    The three monuments erected for the last twohotuncelebrations of K’ak’ Tiliw’s reign constitute the climax of the Platform 1A-1 program. They also stand as one of the most remarkable statements of the divinity of a Maya ruler known from the Classic period. Although Stelae C and A were dedicated as a pair on and Zoomorph B fivetunslater, these three sculptures constitute a single symbolic unit, a program within a program, which I refer to as the “A-B-C program.” In addition, the monuments were clearly designed to be “read” in a sequence, beginning with the easternmost...

  11. 6 IN HONOR OF A GREAT WARRIOR The Legacy of K’ak’ Tiliw
    (pp. 186-204)

    The dedication of Zoomorph B in the year 780 saw Quirigua at its apogee. Over the course of the eighth century the regional population had reached its peak, and extensive building projects both within the site core and in the surrounding valley attest to a robust economy. Zoomorph B and the other monuments of Platform 1A-1 seem to express this climate of growth and prosperity through their erection at a distance of almost a halfkilometer from the heart of the kingdom, the acropolis court. As a conceptual map of the realm, the widely distributed monuments suggest the expansive policies adopted...

  12. Appendix A Rulers of Quirigua
    (pp. 205-206)
  13. Appendix B Historical Events Recorded in the Texts of Quirigua
    (pp. 207-210)
  14. Appendix C Selected Historical Events from the Texts of Copan
    (pp. 211-212)
  15. Appendix D Transcriptions and Translations of the Monumental Inscriptions Commissioned by K’ak’ Tiliw
    (pp. 213-230)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 231-238)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 239-254)
  18. Index
    (pp. 255-266)