Tortuguero Box


This object, called the Tortuguero box because its inscriptions are comparable to those found in Tortuguero, Mexico, is a diminutive offering box, one of very few surviving Mayan personal objects made of wood. The full-length portrait of a Mayan lord on the cover of the box and the 44 hieroglyphic signs tell a story that yields important insights into the Mayan social system. The narrative begins with the image of the box’s owner, Aj K'ax B'ahlam, the holder of an important position under the patronage of the Tortuguero king, Ik' Muyil Muwaahn II. Many of the glyphs are eroded, thereby obscuring part of the story, but the legible areas show names and dates that have allowed for a partial translation of the Mayan text. The text continues on the left side, mentioning the death of a different ruler, B'ahlam Ajaw. The narrative continues by linking the death of B'ahlam Ajaw to the accession of his son, Ik' Muyil Muwaahn II, 41 days later. Other phrases identify Ik' Muyil Muwaahn II as the namesake of his grandfather and refer to the investiture of Aj K'ax B'ahlam into the "head bird office” on March 8, 680. The text concludes with the date the box was made, October 14, 681, and refers to it as the yotoot mayij, or "offering container," of Aj K'ax B'ahlam himself.

Last updated: July 8, 2014