Stela 31, Tikal

It had been broken in two by burning and the upper half, seen here, placed within semi-demolished Str 5D 33 2nd during construction of 33 1st. This is why it is less weathered than most Tikal stelae. The rear face retains traces of red paint.

Originally it may have stood on the terrace in front of 33 2nd and may have been broken some time during the late 6th or early 7th centuries when Tikal suffered defeats at the hands of other centres (Caracol, Calakmul, and possibly Dos Pilas and Naranjo).

This top piece we see here may have been placed within 33 1st by Jasaw Chan K'awiil, either after his accession to power in 682, or after his defeat of Calakmul in 695. Possibly this could be seen as a type of cache.

. The ruler depicted here may have been named Siyaj Chan K'awiil according to a recent phonetic reading of his name glyphs (Simon Martin). These glyphs earlier yielded the name "Stormy Sky", based on their imagery. He was a particularly powerful and succesful ruler, possibly backed in some way by the might of Teotihuacan.

Siyaj Chan may have presided over a period of political supremacy for Tikal in the first half of the fifth century. This fragment of his stela may have been placed within the fabric of 33 1st as a kind of icon carrying power to accomplish the same thing in the 8th century.

photo: Loten

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