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Yaxchilan: Step 3
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Yaxchilan, Hieroglyphic Stairway 3

NOMENCLATURE The hieroglyphic stairway is made up of pairs of inscribed steps giving access to each of the three doorways of Structure 44. The six blocks are numbered here in Roman numerals I to VI, passing from upper to lower step and from southeastern to northwestern doorway, i.e., from the doorway of Lintel 44 to that of Lintel 46. Individual hieroglyphs may be referred to in this form: YAX:HS.3-VI,Al. See the note below for concordance between Morley's designation of glyphblocks and that employed here.

LOCATION Block III was discovered in 1900 by Maler, although it was not recognized by him as a step. Its true nature became clear in 1931 when Karl Ruppert of the Carnegie Institution cleared the doorways and discovered the other five blocks of the stairway. All of them were in place, whereas Block III had at some time in the past been pulled out and left lying upside down near the edge of the terrace.

All three upper steps are considerably wider than the doorways in front of which they were set: Block I has a sculptured tread 1.53 m wide, whereas the doorway is only 1.06 m wide. At some time after the steps had been put in place, and perhaps in response to fears for the stability of the building, a reinforcing wall 30 cm thick was built along the front wall of the building, with openings corresponding exactly with the original doorways. This wall obscured nearly half the width of those parts of the sculptured area of each upper step that extended beyond the doorjambs on either side. I am much indebted to Roberto Garcia Moll for consenting in 1979 to have the relevant portions of the wall dismantled in order to reveal the hidden areas of sculpture. In passing, it may be mentioned that Morley was mistaken in stating that these areas were covered when the doorway was narrowed (Morley . 1937-38, vol. 2, pp. 448, 452). It is noteworthy that this wall remains intact on both sides of the central doorway; this means that Block III had already been removed from its presumed original setting when this wall was built.

The five steps found in situ by Ruppert remain where found, but not Block III; it has disappeared. Perhaps it was removed in 1964 when other pieces were being taken to the Museo Nacional de Antropologia and was lost during the journey upstream to Agua Azul, or at some other stage. Most unfortunately no photograph seems to exist of the riser, which Maler mentions as having been carved with eight double glyph-blocks.

CONDITION All six blocks were intact when found. The treads of the upper steps were in good condition; the risers still extant have suffered significant loss through erosion and fracture and are obscured in places by deposits of lime. Of the lower steps, Block IV is well preserved; the other two are badly weathered.

DIMENSIONS Treads: I II III IV V V1
Ht 1.65 1.46 1.98 over 1.80 1.61 1.43
MW 0.72 0.75 0.75 0.70 0.71 0.78
HSc 1.53 1.29   1.20 1.52 1.34
WSc 0.60 0.61   0.58 0.60 0.70
Rel 1.0cm 1.5 cm   0.9 cm 1.0 cm 1.5 cm
Risers:
Ht 0.30 0.30 0.32
HSc 0.22   0.18
WSc 1.49   1.47

MATERIAL Limestone.

SHAPE The upper steps were worked into impressive rectangularity; the lower, which were to be set into the plaster floor of the terrace, are less regular in outline.

CARVED AREAS Blocks I, III, V: tread and riser. Blocks II, IV, VI: tread only.

PHOTOGRAPHS Graham, 1976 and 1979, except for the photograph of Block III, which is Maler's (printed from a copy negative, the original being lost).

DRAWINGS Graham, based on field drawings corrected by artificial light, except for the drawing of Block III, which is based on Maler's and Morley's photographs.

NOTES Calculation indicates a uinal coefficient of 2 in the Distance Number at A5 on Block I but one dot and two fillers are shown. However, the relief of the crescent fillers is shallower than in the rest of the inscription, and the dot is scarcely perceptible. This suggests the possibility of an attempt having been made to correct the mistake, with the crescents perhaps being filled in with plaster.

 

 

 

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