“It was the doing of the ‘6-Sky’ lord” : an investigation of the origins and meaning of the three stones of creation in ancient Mesoamerica



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The following work presents a hypothesis which identifies the origins and meaning of an ancient Mesoamerican concept known as the three stones of creation. Previous interpretations have tended to apply astronomical, spatial, or geographical models, while many conclusions have been made on the basis of one Classic Maya monument, Stela C of Quirigua. This thesis builds an argument for the temporal nature of these “stones,” used to metaphorically represent a sequence of separate units of time, referred to as eras, ages, or creations. A primary goal is to demonstrate that Quirigua Stela C provides in brief, summary form a chronology which is better defined through inscriptions in the Cross Group at Palenque, and in a sequence of panels at Yaxchilan containing beliefs about the origins of the ballgame. In constructing an argument for the temporal nature of the three stones of creation, every available context from a set of hieroglyphs mentioned in the Quirigua Stela C “creation” text—including Na Ho Chan (“First 5-Sky”) and “6-Sky”—is discussed in Chapter 2. In Chapter 3, these glyphs are shown to aid in the organization of the deeper past within the Palenque and Yaxchilan mythologies. When compared chronologically and thematically, these sites seem to point to the 24th century B.C.E. as the important termination of a time period (i.e., the planting of a creation stone) related to a mythic complex involving the death and underworld journey of the Maize Lord, followed by his resurrection, emergence, and/or accession to power. Key questions addressed include the antiquity of these beliefs and where the metaphors used to arrange time observed among the Classic Maya originate. In Chapter 4, earlier expressions of this time ideology are interpreted through iconographic conventions, ritual deposits, and monumental architecture at the Olmec site of La Venta. Similarly, Chapter 5 proposes that the Humboldt Celt, the earliest known example of the three stones of creation, arranges units of time into a sequence. These and other interpretations suggest the existence of an ancestral, Mesoamerican era-based time model to which later Postclassic, colonial, and contemporary beliefs, such as those expressed in the K’iche’-Mayan Popol Vuh, are fundamentally related.