A Fresh Breeze in the Palace: The Courtly Function of the Yok Waal

Research Note 14

DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.20376/IDIOM-23665556.20.rn014.en

Sven Gronemeyer1, 2

1 Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität, Bonn
2 La Trobe University, Melbourne

The present note is about a very rare lexeme in the epigraphic record: waal ‘fan’ (cf. Boot 2009:197, Kaufman 2003:933). Among the handful of examples, a unique context on the polychrome ceramic vessel K2914, the famous Denver Art Museum vase (Figure 1), allows identification of a hitherto unrecognized courtly function: yok waal as the ‘fan-bearer’ or ‘fan-wielder’.

Figure 1. Roll-out photograph of polychrome ceramic vessel K2914, Denver Art Museum (object no. 2003.1) Photo by and courtesy of Justin Kerr, digitally enhanced.

Linguistic and Epigraphic Evidence

Classic Mayan waal is mostly written as wa-li (Boot 2009:197), occurring only one time as wa-la (Helmke, Hoggarth, and Awe 2018:61). Cognates can be found in a number of Western Mayan languages, as well as in the Poqom-Q’eqchi’ branch (Table 1).

pM *wel ~ *wal (Kaufman 2003:933)
WM wel (Kaufman 2003:933)
LL *wal (Kaufman 2003:933)
LL+ *wahl (Kaufman 2003:933)
EpM wal fan (Boot 2009:197)
pCh *wehl-ä abanicar // fan (Kaufman and Norman 1984:136)
CHT Vaalh abanico (Morán 1695:81)1)Only the manuscript copy at the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia provides the correct entry that corresponds with the other cognates. The publication by William Gates (1935) contains a transcription error, turning the entry into <u calh>. This error is reproduced in later editions of the manuscript (Boot 2004:6, Robertson, Law and Haertel 2010:293).
CHR wahr fanning, winnowing, fan, fly-brush (Wisdom 1950:752)
CHR wajri abanicar, splar, ventilar. blow, fan (Hull 2016:476)
CHR wahri u ut fan one’s face (Wisdom 1950:752)
CHR wahri e k’ahk‘ fan a fire (Wisdom 1950:752)
CHR wahrnib fan, bellows (Wisdom 1950:752)
CHR wajrnib’ soplador, ventilador. fan (Hull 2016:476)
CHN welän soplar (con algo) (Keller and Luciano 1997:281)
CHN weli soplé (Pérez González and de la Cruz 1998:78)
CHL welel tendido, plano (Aulie and de Aulie 1978:129)
CHL wejlan soplar (con abanico) (Aulie and de Aulie 1978:129)
CHL wejl-an /wejl-ö abanicar (Schumann Gálvez 1973:98)
CHL wejl-ö-ji’ abanico, soplador (Schumann Gálvez 1973:98)
YUK wal mosqueador, abanillo [nombre antiguo de abanico], aventador, abanico (Barrera Vásquez 1980:909)
YUK wal walt, fan; leaf through (Bricker et al. 1998:299)
YUK wal mosquear o hacer aire con el mosqueador a ventable (Barrera Vásquez 1980:910)
YUK waltah abanicar, hacer aire (Barrera Vásquez 1980:910)
YUK wal hoja de arbol, de yerba, de libro o de papel, de tabaco, platanos y de cosas así (Barrera Vásquez 1980:909)
YUK wáal page [folio]; leaf (Bricker et al. 1998:299)
YUK chimal wal abanillo [abanico] grande que hace sombra, mosquedor [sic!] [abanico] (Barrera Vásquez 1980:100)
YUK k’inil wal abanico grande que hace sombra (Barrera Vásquez 1980:403)
YUK yok wal cabo o palo de mosqueador (Barrera Vásquez 1980:595)
YUK wal nok’ figurita de trapo, muñeca de niñas para jugar (Barrera Vásquez 1980:912)
ITZ waal palma, soplador. palm frond, fan of feathers for fire (Hofling and Tesucún 1997:661)
ITZ waläl extenderse, tenderse, colgarse, mecerse (con aire). extend, spread out, hang out, sway (in wind) (Holfing and Tesucún 1997:657)
MOP waal soplador, abanico (Ulrich and Ulrich 1976:234)
MOP waal soplador (Schumann Gálvez 1997:247)
MOP waal hoja de palma de tierra. young palm frond (Hofling 2011:454)
MOP waal soplador, abanico. fan (Hofling 2011:454)
MOP ajwaal soplador. fanner (Hofling 2011:112)
TZE uelvioghib aventador, mosqueador (de Ara 1986:405)
TZE wel- abanicar (Robles Uribe 1962:77)
TZE wehluyel abanicar, aventar (Slocum and Gerdel 1965:199)
TZO veluy fan, winnow. aventar (Laughlin 1988:327)
TZO velulan brandish or shake (lance). blandear, sacudir como lanza (Laughlin 1988:327)
TZO veluyab pech’ fan, flyswatter. aventador o mosqueador (Laughlin 1988:327)
TZO vel cut /weeds underbrush/, fan, lop off /branches/ (Laughlin 1975:367)
TOJ wejl soplar, abanicar (Kaufman 2003:933)
CHJ wel (te’) Plant name. < Spanish ”barrumba.” Cecropia sp. (Hopkins 2012:380)
QAN wel Arbol [sic!] de madera suave y hojas brillosas (de Diego Antonio et al. 2001:338)
QAN Welb’al Objeto que se usa para soplar fuego (Com. Ling. Q’anjob’al 2003:162)
POP Welnhe’ Abanicar. Ventilar (Ramírez Pérez et al. 1996:309)
QEQ Uaal 1- soplador 2- hoja, sello, alas de mariposa (Haeserijn 1979:356)
QEQ Uaaluunc 1- soplar, avivar el fuego con soplador 2- volar (como la mariposa) (Haeserijn 1979:357)
PQM valeh aviar de Abanillo (Feldman 2000:430)
PCH wahlanik abanicar (de Sedat 2001:812)
PCH wahb’al abanico (de Sedat 2001:812)
PCH wahloom soplador (Dobbels 2003:766)

Table 1. Linguistic evidence for waal.

While the Western Ch’olan languages feature wel, Eastern Ch’olan languages, the predominant and more conservative daughter languages associated with Classic Mayan (cf. Houston, Robertson and Stuart 2000: 327, fig. 1) feature wal, as attested in the epigraphic records. Cognates in Eastern Mayan languages are restricted to the Poqom-Q’eqchi’ branch. While the occurrence in Q’eqchi’ could easily be explained by contact and diffusion, the presence in its direct sister languages is more difficult to elucidate. In Colonial times, Poqomchi’ and Poqomam were also likely adjacent to the Eastern Ch’olan area (cf. MacLeod 1987:225); otherwise, they may have preserved a proto-Mayan substrate.

When grouping together the meanings of wal ~ wel in the different languages, three partially overlapping semantic domains can be identified:

  • Floral: A variety of trees und underbrush, especially their leaves, e.g., palm fronds;
  • Flat: Anything with a level surface, e.g., leaves, sheets or feathers;
  • Movement: Anything moving up/down or left/right, especially when swirling the air, e.g., leaves, wings and their artificial counterparts such as fans or fronds; and the action of moving in this way.

Of special interest is the Chuj entry that identifies wel as the genus Cecropia, the trumpet tree. Its fan-like, circular, lobed leaves and candelabrum-like branches resemble the large, rounded fans and parasols on long shafts that are known from Maya iconography (Figure 2). With this information, the less specific entry from Q’anjobal also might refer to the same species. Furthermore, it is possible that the name of this tree was extended to cultural artifacts of similar shape and movement patterns, including Classic Maya fans depicted as either flat (e.g., on K2914, Figures 1 and 6) or with a bent profile (e.g., on K5763, Figure 2b). A third type seems to be more like a parasol, with a circular or conical outline attached to a handle with a flexible joint (e.g., on Site R Lintel 3, Figure 2c; note the almost three-dimensional rendering of the braid).2)Such parasols could also be used as fans at the same time. Also compare the Mayan cognates with the Yukatek entries chimal wal (literally “shield fan”), which includes an Aztec loan [Kartunnen 1983:52]), and k’inil wal (literally “sunny fan”) from the Vienna Dictionary, both defined as a ‘large fan that provides shade’ (Barrera Vásquez 1980:100, 403). The question of whether fly-whisks made of feathers or strips of paper or palm, which are frequently represented in iconography (Figure 3), were also named waal in Classic Mayan cannot be answered based on present linguistic evidence, e.g., from Ch’orti’, Yukatek, Itzaj, or Tzotzil.

a
b c

Figure 2. Comparison between the Cecropia tree and large fans or parasols in Maya art. a) Cecropia sp. Photo by Andreas Kay under CC BY-NC-SA (http://www.flickr.com/andreaskay/albums), b) Depiction on vessel K5763. Photo by and courtesy of Justin Kerr, digitally enhanced, c) Depiction on Site R Lnt. 3. Photo by Anonymous and courtesy of Justin Kerr, digitally enhanced.

Nonetheless, there are apparently alternate genus attributions for wal ~ wel in different languages (possibly because of different habitats), in addition to the identification of Cecropia sp. in Chuj that has already been mentioned. In combination with other, more specific modifiers, Yukatek especially distinguishes between different species, e.g., X-holom-ual (Tillandsia streptophylla) (Roys 1932:245) and X-ual-canil (Pteridium caudatum)3)Roys further explains that this species is “[a] large bushy fern with pale yellow fronds. The Indians are said to make fly-whisks of them. This may be the ceremonial ‘caanil ual’ mentioned in the ancient Maya prophecies (Chilam Balam of Chumayel, p. 13)”. (Roys 1932:291). But all these plants have in common long, swirling leaves.

Figure 3. Polychrome ceramic vessel K1453. Note the fly-whisks held by the seated ruler and the courtier sitting below. Photo by and courtesy of Justin Kerr, digitally enhanced.

Apart from the courtly function to be discussed shortly, the lexeme waal only appears in two other contexts. The first is the designation of a person as Aj Pach’ Waal on the hieroglyphic stairway of Structure GZ1 of the Guzmán Group to the north of the site centre of El Palmar, Campeche, Mexico (Tsukamoto and Esparza Olguín 2014). The phrase appears twice in the inscription (Step II, E-F; Step IV, R-S) (Figure 4). Epigraphic analysis of the monument suggests that Aj Pach’ Waal was a lakam official and that he dedicated the stairway in AD 726 in the presence of the El Palmar ruler and possibly Yuhknoom Took’ K’awiil of Calakmul as well (Tsukamoto and Esparza Olguín 2014:38, 45, 52).

Figure 4. The name of Aj Pach’ Waal, El Palmar Structure GZ1 Hieroglyphic Stairway, Step II, blocks E-F. Drawing by Octavio Quetzalcoatl Esparza Olguín, from Tsukamoto and Esparza Olguín (2014:fig.8).

The lexeme pach’ is predominantly attested in Western Mayan languages with the meaning ‘(make) flat’, ‘crush’, ‘press’ or the like.4)See CHR: pach’ ‘crushing, pressing, trapping’ (Wisdom 1950:562), pach’i ‘squish, smash, flatten, crush, step on, step, in’ (Hull 2016:317); CHL: pach’al ‘ancho y largo (el pie y la mano)’ (Aulie and de Aulie 1978:91); TZO: pač’al ‘flat (land, stone, board, floor, roof)’, pač’alubtas ‘level /ground/, plane /log/’. Ch’orti has some very intriguing compounds with nouns following to describe certain, more specific actions (Wisdom 1950:562): pach’ k’uhtz ‘tobacco-pressing’, pach’mut ‘bird trapping’, or pach’i e ich ‘crush chilli (in a bowl)’. Like other actions, these can also be prefixed by an agentive to derive a profession, e.g., ah pach’mut ‘bird trapper’. Therefore, it seems less likely that Aj Pach’ Waal from El Palmar is a personal name (also considering an agentive prefix). As a lakam or an official in charge of collecting tributes for the royal court (Lacadena 2008), he probably received emissaries for audience at Structure GZ1, as the text on the stairway lists his predecessors in office (Tsukamoto and Esparza Olguín 2014:39). In addition, he might have carried out the profession of a fan and/or basket maker there.

Figure 5. The toponym aj waal te’ on the “Komkom Vase”, block E8. Drawing by Sven Gronemeyer.

The second known context for waal in Classic Maya inscriptions is on the so-called Komkom Vase, where it is synharmonically written wa-la und used within the toponymic title Aj Wal-te’ (Figure 5). It is the only mention of this locality in the corpus (Helmke, Hoggarth, and Awe 2018:61). Like the authors of the study of this ceramic vessel, I consider the Chuj entry for wal cited previously as a likely etymology for this designation, or alternatively any larger palm species that once may also have been named wal te’ (see also the study of the generic xan, Prager and Wagner 2016).

The Yok Waal on Vessel K2914

Let us now return to the topic of the present note, the mention of yok waal on the polychrome ceramic vessel K2914. The caption, written in two hieroglyphic blocks as yo-ko wa-li (blocks P-Q), is attached to the forehead of the leftmost figure (“Individual 1”) seated on an elevated platform in the courtly scene depicted on the vessel (Figure 6). The vessel itself has recently been subject of an extensive discussion (Looper and Polyukhovych 2019). The authors were not sure about the identification of the sign 82 li5)Closer inspection confirmed the identification of sign 82, although it is more bulbous than normal. The internal lines are apparent, although they are painted with more wash. and considered the caption to be name of Individual 1 (Looper and Polyukhovych 2019:5, 7). I would like to propose an alternative interpretation of this phrase as indicating a courtly function.

Figure 6. Detail of vessel K2914 with “Individual 1” sitting on a platform, with the caption yok waal in front and two large fans next to the platform. Drawing by Elisabeth Wagner with additions by Sven Gronemeyer.

The Diccionario de Motul provides yok wal as ‘cabo o palo de mosqueador’ (end or pole of a fly-whisk) (Barrera Vásquez 1980:595). Constructions with (u-)y-ok + noun are frequently deployed in Mayan languages to describe one, specific end of an object, or the bottom part of an object or natural or artificial feature (Table 2).

The construction is most prominent in the epigraphic record within the theonym Balun Yok-te’ K’uh (Eberl and Prager 2005), which may be translated as ‘Nine / Many are the Steps / Pedestals of the God’ (cf. Grofe 2009:8). Another well-known instance appears on Yaxchilan Lintel 25, where the Wil-te’ Naah is referred to as the u-y-ok-te’-[e]l (note the inalienable possession suffix -Vl [Zender 2004]) of Lady K’abal Xook within the centre of Yaxchilan (blocks G1-H3). In a similar way, a supernatural is referred to as the u-y ok-te’ chan u-y-ok-te’ kab ‘the support of the heaven, the support of the earth’ of K’ahk’ Tiliw Chan Yopaat on Quirigua Stela J, C9-C13. Only recently, another intriguing context was discovered on Tonina Monument 183 (B4-B7), a statue with the ruler sculpted in the round (Figure 7a). The monument is called u-y-ok-te’-[e]l baah u-lakam-tuun-[i]l k’inich baak-nal chahk ‘the image-pedestal, the stela of K’inich Baaknal Chahk’ (Sánchez Gamboa, Sheseña and Krempel 2019:55).6)Alternatively, it may be interpreted as the ‘the tenon of the image’, referring to the actual cone at the base of the monument that secured its position in the ground. There is also a caption yo-OK-ki, y-ok ‘(it is) its base’ on K1645, just above a stand with a sacrificial bowl where the baby jaguar is being burnt (Figure 7b).

CHT yoc noc estambre (Morán 1695:114)
CHT uiocincucte estambre (Morán 1695:114)
CHR uyok te’ upright pole (as that on which maguey leaves are rasped) (Wisdom 1950:550)
CHR uyok e nar maize stalk, full-grown maize (Wisdom 1950:550)
CHR -ok e ak hebra de zacate. blade of grass (Hull 2016:313)
CHR uyok e buur bean stalk (Wisdom 1950:550)
CHR -ok e chor milpa. cornfield, agricultural field (Hull 2016:313)
CHR -ok e ja’ zanja, toma de agua, sanjo de agua. ditch, brook, irrigation ditch (Hull 2016:313)
CHR -ok e jijk’ib’ cabo de pala. shovel handle (Hull 2016:313)
CHR -ok e k’ajn pata de banco. bench leg, stool leg, chair leg (Hull 2016:313)
CHR uyok e machit handle of machete (Wisdom 1950:550)
CHR -ok e patna’r contenido, solución. scope, contents, solution (Hull 2016:313)
CHR uyok e xa’n palm frond (Wisdom 1950:550)
CHN yocja’ corriente de agua (Keller and Luciano 1997:298)
CHN u yoc mäsc’äb cordel, hilo para anzuelo (Keller and Luciano 1997:298)
CHN u yoc otot horcón de casa (Keller and Luciano 1997:298)
CHL yoc ja’ zanja (Aulie and de Aulie 1978:101)
CHL yoc ja’lel zanja (Aulie and de Aulie 1978:142)
YUK ok cabo de hacha, azuela, cuchillo y de otra herramienta (Barrera Vásquez 1980:595)
YUK yok wal cabo o palo de mosqueador (Barrera Vásquez 1980:595)
YUK yok u tsub;
yok kampana
asa de campana, asiento de alguna vasija con que se tiene enhiesta que le sirve de pies (Barrera Vásquez 1980:595)
YUK u yok bat [el astil del hacha] (Barrera Vásquez 1980:595)
LAK ‘ook pie, corriente cabo, pata. foot, current, handle, leg (Hofling 2014:245)
LAK ‘ook b’aat mango de hacha. axe handle (Hofling 2014:245)
LAK ‘ook ja’ fuente de agua, corriente de agua. spring, current (Hofling 2014:245)
LAK yokman pilar (Bruce 1968:144)
LAK ‘ook much’ pie de hongo. mushroom stem (Hofling 2014:245)
ITZ ok pie, pata, cabo, mango. leg, foot, handle (Hofling and Tesucún 1997:484)
ITZ uy-ok im-b’aat cabo de mi hacha. the handle of my axe (Hofling and Tesucún 1997:484)
ITZ ok ja’ corriente de agua. water current, river (Hofling and Tesucún 1997:484)
ITZ ok witz pie de cerro. foot of hill, bottom of hill (Hofling and Tesucún 1997:484)
MOP oc pie, culata, pata, caña, mango de algo, cabo (Ulrich and Ulrich 1976:145)
MOP ok pie, culata, pata, caña, cabo, tronco de palo, mata. foot, paw, leg, tree trunk, plant (Hofling 2011:334)
MOP ocja’il lecho de río (Ulrich and Ulrich 1976:145)
MOP ok ja’ corriente, río. current, river (Hofling 2011:334)
MOP ok le’ tronquito de hoja. stem of leaf (Hofling 2011:334)
MOP ok maaska’ cabo de machete. handle of machete (Hofling 2011:334)
MOP ok näl caña de maíz. cornstalk (Hofling 2011:334)

Table 2. Linguistic examples for constructions of the form (u-)y-ok + noun from Ch’olan and Yukatekan languages.

There is a group of Emblem Glyphs that also feature the structure y-ok + noun and which may deserve a reconsideration under the present discussion. The emblem yo-ko-MAN-AJAW, y-ok man ajaw (e.g., on Lintel 3 of Tikal Temple IV, H6; Figure 7c) is the most overt in its structure but cannot be explained etymologically. The reading of sign 566 MAN can only be inferred by phonetic complements and its substitution with sign 505,7)There is xa-ma-566-na, xaman ‘north’ on the Palenque Temple XIV Tablet, F4. Additionally, we have IX-na-505-ni-AJAW (e.g., Piedras Negras Stela 3, D3), which substitutes elsewhere with IX-566-ni-AJAW (e.g., Piedras Negras Stela 1, I1) for ix namaan ajaw ‘Lady from Namaan’. but its meaning is not understood, although the graph icon represents a snake body segment (cf. Kettunen and Davis 2004:4, 10, Jørgensen and Krempel 2014:97). Boot (2009:211) proposed ‘pillar’ as an interpretation, probably based on the Lakantun entry yokman ‘pilar’ (Bruce 1968:144). The presence of just this single attestation in a colonial-period Yukatekan language8)Though cf. YUK: okom ‘columna de madera’, ‘pilar o poste u horcón de madera sobre que fundan las casas pajizas’ and okom tun ‘pilar de piedra o mármol, columna a mármol redondo de piedra’ (Barrera Vásquez 1980:599). and the lack of a similar auto-referential term on pilasters or columns in Northwestern Yucatan makes this doubtful. The emblem (K’UH-)yo-ke-AJAW-wa (Figure 7d) appears thrice in the corpus (Grube & Nahm 1994:690-691) and may refer to a site somewhere in the vicinity of Motul de San Jose. It may possibly be analysed in favour of y-ok e[j] ajaw, but there is no linguistic evidence that *yok ej could denote something like ‘root of the tooth’.

Last but not least, there is the emblem of Piedras Negras, written K’UH-yo-ki-bi-AJAW (Figure 7e). It is usually transcribed as yokib, for which Stuart and Houston (1994:31) first proposed the meaning ‘entrance’, based on TZE ochib’al ‘(la) entrada’ (Slocum & Gerdel 1965:168). Similar translations like ‘valley’ (Harris and Stearns 1997:71) or ‘gourge’ [sic!] (Boot 2009:211) have been proposed since, always in reference to the Usumacinta river valley or the rapids in the vicinity. But the word for ‘entrance’ or ‘entry’ in Classic Mayan is y-och-el (cf. yo-che-le, TIK MT. 176 [K8008], T2). An instrumental with a locative function (cf. Wichmann 2002:6) cannot be derived from the nominal ok ‘foot’ in Ch’olan languages. Finally, if *okib were the base stem, y- would be a possessive prefix without a possessor explicitly stated.9)Similar forms are otherwise restricted to some Eastern Mayan languages (cf. Kaufman 2003:1320). Likewise, a root ib ‘lower part, foundation’ (for a possible *y-ok ib), which may account for the etymology favoured in the past, is only found in some Eastern Mayan languages, in Q’anjobalan languages, and in Wastek and Tzotzil, e.g., pM: *i:b’, ‘root; vine’ (Fox 1978:197); TZO: ˀibel ‘root /tooth, plant, vine, tree/, wall, side, foot of wall /house, cave/, foot of /rock, mountain/’ (Laughlin 1975:53); TOJ: ib’el ‘debajo de’ (Lenkersdorff 1979:125). Alternatively, the Emblem could also be read as y-ok ib ‘lima bean stalk’ (cf. Tokovinine 2014, Prager 2018), comparable to CHR uyok e buur ‘bean stalk’ (Wisdom 1950:550).

Most intriguingly, there seems to be another case where a supposed personal name may actually denote a courtly or ritual function, as Christian Prager (personal communication, March 9, 2020) has brought to my attention. In the texts of Temple XIX at Palenque, we find yok kuk-ch’ajan? (Figure 7f), written either yo-OK-2KUK-CH’AJAN? or yo-ko-2KUK-CH’AJAN? (cf. Stuart 2005:31-32).10) This could be translated as ‘the base / fringe of clothing’ or as ‘the person who helps into vesture’. In a caption on the sculptured pier of Temple XIX, this individual is further identified as a y-ajaw k’ahk’, a priestly office (Zender 2004:195-210). And in fact, we see how he supports K’inich Ahkul Mo’ Nahb III in the scene by grasping the king’s left hand while the other attendant holds the maw of the back rack.


a
c
d
e
f
b

Figure 7. Examples of y-ok + noun constructions. a) Tonina, Monument 183, B4-C5, preliminary drawing by and courtesy of Guido Krempel, b) K1645, drawing by and courtesy of Guido Krempel, c) Tikal Temple IV Lintel 3, H6, d) Naj Tunich Drawing 82, H1, e) Piedras Negras Panel 3, N2, f) Palenque Temple XIX Pier, B1. Drawings c-f by Sven Gronemeyer.

Since the caption yok waal on K2914 is placed in front of Individual 1, it seems unlikely that it refers to the two large fans placed at the base of the platform (also possibly as tribute).10)Note the caption cha-chi, chaach ‘basket’ (block S) right on top of the basket in front of Individual 1 (Figure 1). Objects like fans (cf. Kurbjuhn 1976, 1977) or parasols were certainly signs of wealth and above all authority. Mallory Matsumoto (written communication, March 18, 2020) referred to various K’ichee’ Títulos, in which baldachins and their number are used as status symbols and rank signs.11)For example in the Título de Totonicapán: “Entonces juntaron para Balam C’onaché el palio de plumas de quetzal, el palio verde, el trono de león, el trono de jaguar, la flauta, el tambor, las piedras negras y amarillas, la cabeza y las patas de venado, los huesos de falange de águila y jaguar, el caracol, la red de tabaco, las plumas de garza, la cola de buitre, el brazalete, las trenzas, la piedra de hongo, (todas) las señales del señorío fueron juntadas y traídas por los (que se fueron) de donde sale el sol. ‘Que sean elegidos nuestros señores, como una señal’, les fue dicho a los mensajeros. El señor Ajpop tiene cuatro palios sobre su trono, plumas verdes, una flauta y un tambor. El Ajpop C’amjá tiene tres palios sobre él. El Nimá Rajpop Achij, dos palios, y el Ch’utí Rajpop Achij, sólo uno.” (f. 15v-16, Carmack and Mondloch 1983:183, fn.148). The word muj used in the texts for this is used for both shade and the object providing shadow (see muɧ ‘el palio, o sombra’, Dürr and Sachse 2017:125). Here, it appears that the material designation “fan handle” is transferred to a person to mark his function at the court. As a “fan-wielder,” the individual is seen as a human prolongation of the object which he brings it into movement to provide breeze and ventilation.

The context of the scene provides further support for interpreting yok waal as the name of a function or office. As Elisabeth Wagner (personal communication, February 28, 2020) pointed out, only the main protagonist of the courtly scene, Nahbnal K’inich (“Individual 3”, blocks T3-T4) and his wife (?) Lady Chan Ahk (“Individual 8”, blocks X-Y) are designated by their personal names. All other persons are simply referred to by their office or relationship to the lord: baah ajaw ‘First Lord’ (“Individual 2”, block R; possibly a priestly rank, Zender 2004:223-224) and u-saku’un ‘his elder siblings’ (“Individuals 4-7”, block W5). The second female (“Individual 9”) and the seated courtier at the platform base (“Individual 10”) are not named at all.

Thus far, this scene provides the only attestation of yok waal, and no person actually holding a fan, parasol, or fan-bearer is named as such in any pictorial representation. However, the compositional proximity of the two large fans in reach of Individual 1, coupled with etymological evidence and iconographic context, supports the proposed interpretation of yok waal. Together with yok kuk ch’ajan? (Prager 2020), this title provides evidence for an entirely new ontological class of courtiers: the “human inventory.”

Final Considerations

Although unique in its written attestation, the caption on vessel K2914 indicates that fan-bearers played an important role as courtiers in a “noble” household, although it remains unclear whether the office of lakam was part of the “native” nobility or, more likely, simply belonged to some sort of “money nobility” (cf. Lacadena 2008:33-36). As collectors and distributors of tribute for the royal court, lakam officials likely wielded both political and economic power. Nahbnal K’inich, who was a lakam for Yuhknoom K’awiil of Río Azul, was wealthy and important enough to own a polychrome drinking vessel that can be safely called an artistic masterpiece. In addition to bearing a number of titles of political and religious significance, he himself claims to have a connection to the ruler of Río Azul (u-kiit ‘his patron’, block O2, Polyukhovych and Looper 2019:1-2). Likewise, the circumstance that Aj Pach’ Waal of El Palmar was not only able to build a hieroglyphic stairway to his supposed audience room, but also have its dedication witnessed by the ruler of Calakmul, suggests that individual’s significant political authority even at a regional level.

The vessel K2914 was a surface for projecting the status that Nahbnal K’inich ascribed to himself, a material manifestation and accentuation of his grandeur. In this light, perhaps, one can also explain why the scene explicitly points out that he has a fan bearer in his service, with two fans. Whether he commissioned the vessel himself or received it as a gift, it may be only thanks to this lakam’s desire for prestige that we have an attestation of the Classic Maya office of yok waal.

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Daniel Graña-Behrens, Nikolai Grube, Guido Krempel, Mallory Matsumoto, Christian Prager and Elisabeth Wagner for comments and suggestions on earlier drafts of this note. Mallory Matsumoto kindly corrected the English.

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Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Only the manuscript copy at the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia provides the correct entry that corresponds with the other cognates. The publication by William Gates (1935) contains a transcription error, turning the entry into <u calh>. This error is reproduced in later editions of the manuscript (Boot 2004:6, Robertson, Law and Haertel 2010:293).
2. Such parasols could also be used as fans at the same time. Also compare the Mayan cognates with the Yukatek entries chimal wal (literally “shield fan”), which includes an Aztec loan [Kartunnen 1983:52]), and k’inil wal (literally “sunny fan”) from the Vienna Dictionary, both defined as a ‘large fan that provides shade’ (Barrera Vásquez 1980:100, 403).
3. Roys further explains that this species is “[a] large bushy fern with pale yellow fronds. The Indians are said to make fly-whisks of them. This may be the ceremonial ‘caanil ual’ mentioned in the ancient Maya prophecies (Chilam Balam of Chumayel, p. 13)”.
4. See CHR: pach’ ‘crushing, pressing, trapping’ (Wisdom 1950:562), pach’i ‘squish, smash, flatten, crush, step on, step, in’ (Hull 2016:317); CHL: pach’al ‘ancho y largo (el pie y la mano)’ (Aulie and de Aulie 1978:91); TZO: pač’al ‘flat (land, stone, board, floor, roof)’, pač’alubtas ‘level /ground/, plane /log/’.
5. Closer inspection confirmed the identification of sign 82, although it is more bulbous than normal. The internal lines are apparent, although they are painted with more wash.
6. Alternatively, it may be interpreted as the ‘the tenon of the image’, referring to the actual cone at the base of the monument that secured its position in the ground.
7. There is xa-ma-566-na, xaman ‘north’ on the Palenque Temple XIV Tablet, F4. Additionally, we have IX-na-505-ni-AJAW (e.g., Piedras Negras Stela 3, D3), which substitutes elsewhere with IX-566-ni-AJAW (e.g., Piedras Negras Stela 1, I1) for ix namaan ajaw ‘Lady from Namaan’.
8. Though cf. YUK: okom ‘columna de madera’, ‘pilar o poste u horcón de madera sobre que fundan las casas pajizas’ and okom tun ‘pilar de piedra o mármol, columna a mármol redondo de piedra’ (Barrera Vásquez 1980:599).
9. Similar forms are otherwise restricted to some Eastern Mayan languages (cf. Kaufman 2003:1320). Likewise, a root ib ‘lower part, foundation’ (for a possible *y-ok ib), which may account for the etymology favoured in the past, is only found in some Eastern Mayan languages, in Q’anjobalan languages, and in Wastek and Tzotzil, e.g., pM: *i:b’, ‘root; vine’ (Fox 1978:197); TZO: ˀibel ‘root /tooth, plant, vine, tree/, wall, side, foot of wall /house, cave/, foot of /rock, mountain/’ (Laughlin 1975:53); TOJ: ib’el ‘debajo de’ (Lenkersdorff 1979:125).
10. Note the caption cha-chi, chaach ‘basket’ (block S) right on top of the basket in front of Individual 1 (Figure 1).
11. For example in the Título de Totonicapán: “Entonces juntaron para Balam C’onaché el palio de plumas de quetzal, el palio verde, el trono de león, el trono de jaguar, la flauta, el tambor, las piedras negras y amarillas, la cabeza y las patas de venado, los huesos de falange de águila y jaguar, el caracol, la red de tabaco, las plumas de garza, la cola de buitre, el brazalete, las trenzas, la piedra de hongo, (todas) las señales del señorío fueron juntadas y traídas por los (que se fueron) de donde sale el sol. ‘Que sean elegidos nuestros señores, como una señal’, les fue dicho a los mensajeros. El señor Ajpop tiene cuatro palios sobre su trono, plumas verdes, una flauta y un tambor. El Ajpop C’amjá tiene tres palios sobre él. El Nimá Rajpop Achij, dos palios, y el Ch’utí Rajpop Achij, sólo uno.” (f. 15v-16, Carmack and Mondloch 1983:183, fn.148).