Rubbings of Mayan Stone Stelae

ALTAR 5 - AD 711
40" X 40"

Tikal Altar 5
© James A. McBride II

   This altar stood in front of Stela 16 within the one-roomed structure. Due to the poor lighting it is doubtful that any Maya could see the detail visible in this rubbing. Two priests kneel on either side of the altar on which rest a fleshless jawbone and, above it, what may be the skull of some animal. There are four dates on the periphery of the altar. The last date, just before the dedicatory date of Stela 16, is exactly twenty years of 364 days after the first.

   To honor this monument and the passage of the twenty-year period (katun) it commemorates, the people of Tikal built a special complex consisting of a court approximately 225 x 250 Ft. On the east and west sides squat pyramids with stairways on all four sides were set, a very rare feature. In front of the east pyramid a line of four plain stelae was placed, each with its own round aItar in front of it. On the south side of the court was a structure with nine doorways; on the north the carved stela and its altar were placed inside a large one-roomed structure with thatched roof. The altar marks the end of fourteen katuns corresponding to December 3, AD 711, when presumably the whole complex was dedicated.