Link to enlarge Masculine head from Palenque Chiapas from photo by Michel Zabé WHO'S WHO IN THE CLASSIC MAYA WORLD
Peter Mathews
Ix Yol Ik'nal    An early ruler, a queen, of Palenque (ruled AD 583-604)PAL 008
Female rulers were very rare in the Classic Maya world, and usually they meant trouble. Trouble, that is, for the kingdom, because their presence foreshadowed a break in the patriline, and therefore a crisis in the legitimacy of the royal line. In the case of Ix Yol Ik'nal, we do not know the precise details surrounding the succession. We do not even know her birth date or her relationship with previous rulers. She was probably either the sister or daughter of Kan B'alam I—much more likely the latter. Whether Kan B'alam I had no living sons or younger brothers, or whether Ix Yol Ik'nal got rid of male rivals to Palenque's throne is not clear. I suspect the former, and that her ascension to the throne was a smooth one, because she was crowned within a year of Kan B'alam I's death, and also because later rulers included her in their "honor-rolls" of ancestors. She is named in due order in the East Tablet of the Temple of the Inscriptions, on the Sarcophagus below the same temple, and in the Tablet of the Cross. Ix Yol Ik'nal is also named in the "K'an Tok" Tablet from Group XVI, commissioned by the last great king of Palenque, K'inich K'uk' B'alam II, to record the accessions to office of a series of Palenque nobles under the supervison of various Palenque rulers.

Ix Yol Ik'nal's accession was in AD 583. Ten years later she celebrated the k'atun-ending date (AD 593), in the same way as her male predecessors, according to the East Tablet of the Temple of the Inscriptions. An AD 603 event recorded on Lintel 4 of Bonampak possibly involved Palenque. That text says that an individual simply named as "He of Lakamha" was "downed" (a euphemism for "defeated in war"). "Lakamha" of course is the name of Palenque—probably of the city itself, or its central precinct. It is not clear whether this text refers to Palenque or to some other Lakamha. In any case, since a queen was on the throne at Palenque it is a little puzzling that "He of Lakamha" would be used if the reference was to Ix Yol Ik'nal. The reference could be to one of her nobles, of course, but overall it is not at all certain that the Bonampak text is a reference to Palenque, much less to Ix Yol Ik'nal.

In October, AD 603, Ix Yol Ik'nal installed a noble in office, according to the "K'an Tok" Tablet. (It is noteworthy that this inauguration—unlike all the others on the K'an Tok Tablet—occurred at a place called Kius, apparently outside Palenque.) Ix Yol Ik'nal's death occurred in AD 604. Assuming that she was the daughter of Kan B'alam I, she was probably born ca. AD 545-555, and thus would have been about 50-60 years old when she died.

Ix Yol Ik'nal is portrayed not once, but twice on the Sarcophagus below the Temple of the Inscriptions—another indication that she was held in high esteem by her descendents, the later rulers of Palenque.

PAL: Temple of the Inscriptions,
Sarcophagus, West Side: B1-B2
Drawing by Merle Greene Robertson
(Greene Robertson 1983: Figure 199)

Complete List of Text References

What's in a Name?

Portraits - Ix Yol Ik'nal is portrayed twice on the Sarcophagus of K'inich Janab' Pakal I: East Figure 3 and West Figure 2.

Buildings Commissioned - No bulidings are definitively known to have been commissioned by Ix Yol Ik'nal, but Merle Greene Robertson (1983:6; 1985:4) believes that she built House E of the Palace.

Monuments Commissioned - None known.



PAL: Temple of the Inscriptions,
Sarcophagus, West Side, Figure 2
Drawing by Merle Greene Robertson
(Green Robertson 1983: Figure 199)

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