With more than 2,000 years of age, the stela that depicts the Divine Lords of Tonina Creating the Universe, one of the most emblematic pieces at Maya Hall of the National Museum of Anthropology (MNA) will appear complete once the missing part that corresponds to a hand is reintegrated.
When entering the Maya Hall, one of the pieces that welcome visitors is the stela found in Tonina, Chiapas where the divine twins mentioned in Popol Vuh are represented by the rulers of the city.
After archaeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History
(INAH) found the missing fragment and it underwent cleaning and restoration, it was sent to the INAH Direction of Archaeological Studies, from where it will be moved to MNA to be reintegrated to the monument that dates from 727 AD.
Archaeologist Juan Yadeun Angulo mentioned that the stela was found in 2002 at Witz Palace, in Tonina, where it was used as a lintel by Tzeltal groups that reoccupied the Acropolis centuries after it was deserted.
According to Yadeun, in charge of the INAH Tonina Archaeological Project, the limestone stela was part of the throne of ruler Jaguar Claw, located on the side of Shells Palace (Palacio de los Caracoles). The bas-relief remained at the foot of the throne for 100 years, until 840 AD, when Tonina declined.
Near 1400 AD a Tzeltal group reoccupied the ruins altering contexts like tombs and offerings. The stela fragmented and they covered it with a mud wall, closing off the door.
Central glyphs of the stele narrate that in October 28th 727, a ballgame began in the underworld between solar lord Jaguar Claw, the one at the left, and Kinich Baknal Chaak, to the right. Both appear wearing the ritual ballgame garments.
We found the stela in 37 fragments; it was restored and exhibited at the MNA. In a subsequent field season we searched for the missing piece. We assumed it was ripped off at Palacio de los Caracoles, where we finally found it, explained Yadeun.
As the archaeologist said, in contexts at Tonina altered by the Tzeltal group settled hundreds of years later, it is noticeable that in one way or other the symbolism of the hand is at play.
Members of the Tzeltal group refer to themselves as the Lords of the Mighty Hand and it is possible that this symbolic link had caused that Tzeltales left the piece with the hand just where it was.
Divine Lords of Tonina Creating the Universe
Jaguar Claw ordered the creation of the stela 4 years after his enthronement and 20 after the passing away of Kinich Baknal Chaak, his ancestor. Jaguar Claw is to the left, the side of life, wearing the Ixbalanque deity attire, while his ancestor is located on the side where the Sun dies, the east, wearing the underworld deity attire.
The stela represents the third creation of the universe, when one of the divine twins (whose deeds are narrated in Popol Vuh) defeated the lords of the underworld to free humanity of cold and darkness.
The tableau was dedicated to Ruler 4 of Tonina. It might have been a commemorative monument of his victory at the ritual ballgame, as it narrates how rulers 2 and 3, already dead, testified his triumph.