From the analysis of eleven glyphic cartouches inscribed on a ceramic vessel, discovered in October 2021 during archaeological salvage work on the Mayan Train route, researchers from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) identified the name of a character belonging to the elite of the ancient city of Oxkintok.
The sum of its archaeological and epigraphic study, as well as the conclusion of its restoration, allows researchers to unveil its narrative, hidden for more than a thousand years.
The vessel was found associated with a plate and is dedicated to a nobleman named Cholom, of whom there was already a record in other ceramic pieces that corroborate his belonging to Oxkintok and that he served as spokesman for the ruler.
According to the archaeologists of the INAH Yucatán Center and coordinators of the ceramic analysis of the Mayan Train Project, Iliana Ancona Aragón and Sylviane Boucher Le Landais, the piece in question was found near the town of Maxcanú, and stands out for having been located in its archaeological context of origin, inside a pre-Hispanic residential construction, identified as Structure T3_18518.
This vessel joins another similar one, which the specialists called the ‘Vaso del Sajal’, also discovered in Section 3 of the train project, which goes from Calkiní, Campeche, to Izamal, in Yucatán. However, unlike the previous one, where reference is made only to the position of the character to whom the container was dedicated, in the recently restored one its 11 glyphic cartouches allow even the name of an individual to be identified.
The translation of the archaeologist Ricardo Mateo Canul allows us to read: “The man says, on its surface, it has been carved, in its bowl or cajete, in its glass, for atole, from Cholom, el sajal.”
For researchers, Cholom’s nominal phrase can be translated as ‘one who unleashes’, since chol, in Mayan, means ‘to unleash’, and om refers to the person who performs said action.
The sajal is the one who transmits. They were not rulers, but nobles educated to be able to write and read the glyphs, as well as to communicate aloud the orders of the ajaw or ruler”, explains Ileana Ancona Aragón.
It should be noted that in the Regional Museum of Anthropology of Yucatán, Palacio Cantón, in Mérida, another vessel is preserved in which the nominal glyph of Cholom appears, with the difference that it is identified as uylul, that is to say ‘hearer’ , in Spanish.
Although it is still unknown whether the vessel and its plate had a ritual or daily use function, given that laboratory studies need to be combined with the contextual observations of archaeologists in the field, both elements reaffirm their belonging to the Chocholá style.
Such typology, the specialists explain, is characteristic of the north and west of the state of Yucatan, and includes ceramic works that present hieroglyphic text in bas-relief and may include iconographic scenes. They usually contain a dedicatory phrase that describes the object, mentions its owner and its possible content.
The two pieces discovered in Section 3 of the train date from the Mayan Late Classic period (600–800 AD). The newly restored vessel measures 8.5 cm in height by 21 cm in diameter at its mouth, while the plate measures 11 cm in height by 32 cm in diameter.
Already registered in the INAH databases, they join 40 complete objects and more than 80 thousand fragments of vessels recovered in that section of the Mayan Train. The investigation of the set of ceramic elements is in charge of a team made up of archaeologists and potters Sara Dzul Góngora, Mildred Martínez Garrido, Shirley Beltrán Chay, Mónica Camargo Tamayo, Alma Martínez Dávila and Fernando Alemán Toscano.
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