A king brings many neighboring cities under his control with an array of complex political maneuvers, defeats a rival by joining forces with smaller cities and uses a wedding as a strategic tool. This sounds like it’s right out of “Game of Thrones” but it’s actually right off of a Mayan altar found in Guatemala whose hieroglyphic carvings and writings depict this real scenario from the ancient Serpent Kingdom. Does it reveal how the series will end?
“This altar shows us a part of Guatemala’s history and in this case, around 1,500 years ago, I would call this the historical Mayan version of Game of Thrones. It’s a high quality work of art that shows us they were rulers entering into a period of great power and who were allying themselves with others to compete, in this case, with Tikal.”
Tomas Barrientos, co-director of excavations and investigations at the La Corona archeological site in northern Guatemala near the borders with Mexico and Belize, described the discovery of the historical altar to AFP (the Agence France-Presse news agency). The 1.46-meter by 1.2-meter (4.8 feet by 3.9 feet), one-ton limestone slab (see photos here) found in a temple was easily dated to May 12, 544, because it contains a hieroglyphic Mayan inscription that translates “May 12, 544.” That puts it in the reign of King Chak Took Ich’aak, ruler of La Corona. And that is where the “Game of Thrones” comparisons begin.
“The discovery of this altar allows us to identify an entirely new king of La Corona who apparently had close political ties with the capital of the Kaanul kingdom, Dzibanche, and with the nearby city of El Peru-Waka.”
Archaeologist Marcello A. Canuto, director of the Middle American Research Institute at Tulane and co-director of the La Corona Regional Archaeological Project (PRALC), laid out the real-life plot in a Tulane University press release. The altar shows an image of King Chak Took Ich’aak holding a double-headed serpent effigy showing the emergence of La Corona’s two patron gods. The altar predates the king’s rule over the nearby city of El Peru-Waka, which joined La Corona to form the Kaanul dynasty, more popularly known by the TV-ready name — “Serpent Kingdom.” This puts King Chak Took Ich’aak as the kingpin who built political alliances with smaller cities around its rival, Tikal, that expanded the Serpent Kingdom into a Mesoamerican powerhouse. Those deals depicted on the altar included a wedding between a princess from the Serpent Kingdom and a King of La Corona.
The Serpent Kingdom defeated Tikal in 562 CE and ruled the Maya lowlands for the next 200 years … until the Tikal defeated it and reclaimed the area. While there are similarities between the formation of the Serpent Kingdom and the Game of Throne’s Seven Kingdoms, this doesn’t really give any clues as to what will happen in Season 8. However, that doesn’t seem to bother Tomas Barrientos.
“Having information about what happened next, how they were plotting a political strategy here, teaches us a lot about politics in those times and the fight for territory.”
It’s truly an interesting story … but a dragon or two would help.