Tikal, Temple of the Inscriptions

Tikal: Temple of the Inscriptions

Temple VI is known as the Temple of the Inscriptions because the central panel on the rear of its roof comb contains one of the longest inscriptions at the site. This text is extremely important for reconstructing the history of Tikal.

"The recorded dates included in the massive inscription extend over a period of 1905 years, reaching back into what must have been mythological time for the Maya who carved the text. Further dates concern later historical events that remained in the oral tradition or were contemporary."

Peter Harrison, The Lords of Tikal, p. 160-161


Tikal, Temple of  the Inscriptions

The extremely eroded text of the inscription

"The back and sides of the roof crest as well as the top molding of the temple are decorated with enormous glyphs, at least 186 of them.

This roof crest, instead of carrying masks of gods and similar religious symbols, had a hieroglyphic inscription, but each glyph block is three feet wide and two feet high. The outline of the glyph was carved in stone, but the detail characterizing each was worked in the stucco with which the stone outline was covered, and finally the stucco was painted red.

Unfortunately, the passing years, although they were the subject of the text, have dealt unkindly with it; much of the stuccoed detail has gone and the stone below is weathered."

J. Eric S. Thompson, Maya Archaeologist, 1963, p.197


Tikal, Temple VI

"The second from last date on the roof comb of Temple VI is connected to an event which has a particularly relevant reading made by Schele and Grube. The date is 12 February AD 766 and the reading says: "Smoke entered the waybil shrine taken by the 28th king in the succession."

Two points are important: smoke entering a shrine describes a ritual found to be associated with death in other contexts, and Yik'in was the 27th ruler in the succession, not the 28th. The 28th ruler was his successor for a brief time and we do not know who he was, perhaps Yik'in's first son.

The implication here is that the whole inscription on the roof comb was added by the 28th successor who recorded the life of Yik'in and only alluded to himself in this last phrase which deals with a death ritual connected to Yik'in's burial.

The mystery of the location of Yik'in's burial remains, but beneath Temple VI is the most favored location. Like Temple I, Temple VI faces west, toward the direction of death and the underworld.

Yik'in is known to have emulated his father in many respects, including the formation of a new and spatially expanded cosmos for the city. For these reasons, Temple VI is the better candidate for the location of his burial"

Peter Harrison, The Lords of Tikal, p. 164


Tikal, Temple VI

Temple VI is quite distinct from the other great temples at Tikal. For example, Temple I and Temple II, built by Yik'in's father, Hasaw Chan K'awil, have a single door and squarish proportions, while this temple has three doors and squat rectangular proportions. Temple VI faces west into a large walled courtyard.

The Mendez Causeways [see map] leads from Temple VI down a long incline past Group G, a palace complex associated with Yik'in, and ends up at Temple IV, perhaps the greatest of Yik'in's architectural achievements.

Peter Harrison states: "Yik'in's monumental architectural projects were prodigious, exceeding even his father's work in sheer quantity. The construction of Temple VI on the east and Temple IV on the extreme west of the city created a new, expanded cosmos for the city. Temples VI and IV face each other in the manner of Temples I and II."

Peter Harrison, The Lords of Tikal, p. 161


Tikal, Stela 21 Tikal, Stela 21

Tikal: Stela 21

Stela placed before major structures usually include a dedication date. Stela 21 records that Yik'in dedicated this temple on 22 July AD 736. By association, this date is also assumed to be the date of construction of the Temple, but not necessarily of the roof comb.

Peter Harrison, The Lords of Tikal, p. 148


Tikal, Stela 21

Tikal: Stela 21

The intricate carving on Stela 21 is well preserved, but only a part of the stela survives. The inscription records the accession date of Yik'in Chan K'awil in AD 734 as well as his dedication of Temple VI on July 22 in AD 736.

Peter Harrison, The Lords of Tikal, p. 148


Tikal, Temple VI