This page describes the Mayan Rulers of Copán
All pictures are © Dr. Günther Eichhorn, unless otherwise noted.
There was a time when archaeologists believed the portraits depicted on the stelae of Maya sites were of astronomers and priests, of a totally impersonal nature and that the glyphs contained in the stelae were only information on sacred dates. Later on, the notion that these had been actual rulers became more obvious and archaeologists started elaborating on the subject and piecing the puzzle together. The following sequence of the Copán Dynastic Rulers is the product of different scientists' work, professionals who have dedicated many years of their lives to the study of glyphs and logographic and phonetic symbols found in Maya writing.
When the actual sound of a grapheme was not known, the logographs were interpreted as its name in English by archaeologists. Say, if a glyph depicted a rabbit's head with the numeral 18, the ruler would then be named 18 Rabbit. He was later named 18 Jog (Gopher) and now known as Waxaklajuun Ub'aah K'awiil. Hence names such as Mat Head, Stone Jaguar Hand and so on were given to the Rulers of Copán by archaeologists. As epigraphers advance in their quest to decipher Maya glyphs, the names given to the rulers change to reflect the knowledge gained, until a consensus is reached or there is certainty on the proper reading of the particular glyphs involved.
The following table shows Copán's Dynastic lineage, founded by K'inich Yax K'uk' Mo', his name as deciphered translates to Great Sun First Quetzal Macaw. We don't know who preceded him and on what dates they reigned in Copán, but there are references to previous rulers of the valley before Yax K'uk' Mo'. The first date given for this Ruler's reign of Copán is on 435 CE and the last ruler was in power on 822 CE, his name was Ukit Took'. It seems that he never officially took the throne, the Maya empire deteriorated rapidly at that time.
|Name of Ruler||Long Count Date|
Acceded to the Throne & Date of Death
All of the 16 rulers we have names for and starting with Yax K'uk' Mo appear on Altar Q
|K'inich Yax K'uk' Mo' or First Quetzal Macaw (Ruler 1)||426 - 437 CE||Founder of the lineage at Copán|
|K'inich Popol Hol (Ruler 2, Son of Yax K'uk' Mo')||ca. 437 CE||Stelae 18 & 63, Motmot capstone, Xukpi Stone|
|Mat Head? (Ruler 3)||ca. 455 CE||There is no information on this ruler|
|K'u Ix (Ruler 4)||ca. 465 CE||Stele 34, Papagayo Step, CPN 584|
|Ruler 5||ca. 475 CE||There is no information on this ruler|
|Ruler 6 (Muyal Jol?)||ca. 485 CE||There is no information on this ruler|
|B'alam Nan or Waterlily Jaguar (Ruler 7)||ca. 504 CE - 524 CE||Stele 15, Ante Step, Caracol Stele 16 (possibly), Quirigua Stele E.|
|Head on Earth (Ruler 8)||9.5.13(or 8).?.?||ca. 551 CE|
|Ruler 9 (Sak-lu?)||184.108.40.206.7 2 Manik' 0 Muwan'||30 December 551 CE - 553 CE||A step of the Hieroglyphic Stairway|
|Moon Jaguar (Ruler 10)||- 220.127.116.11.4 10 K'an 2 Keh||553 CE - 26 October 578 CE||Stelae 9 & 17; Rosalila Step|
|Butz' Chan or Smoke Serpent (Ruler 11)||18.104.22.168.8 8 Lamat 6 Mak||15 November 578 CE - 628 CE||Stelae 7 & P; Altars Y? & X?|
|Chan Imix K'awiil or Smoke Imix God K or Smoke Jaguar (Ruler 12)||22.214.171.124.5 to 126.96.36.199.7 12 Manik' 0 Yaxk'in'||8 February 628 CE - 18 June 695 CE||Stelae 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 10, 12, 13, 19, 23 & E; Altars H', I', K & 5 (buried under Temple 26)|
|Waxaklajuun Ub'aah K'awiil or 18 Rabbit (Ruler 13)||188.8.131.52.7 12 Manik' 0 Yaxk'in' to 184.108.40.206.6 6 Kimi 4 Sek||18 June 695 CE - 3 May 738 CE||Stelae A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, J & 4; Altar S; Lower Hieroglyphic Stairway of Temple 26; Step of Temple 22, Ballcourt AIIb markers, Ballcourt A-III text & markers|
|K'ak' Joplaj Chan K'awiil or Smoke Monkey (Ruler 14)||220.127.116.11.5 6 Chikchan 18 K'ayab||11 June 738 CE - 749 CE|
|K'ak' Yipyaj Chan K'awiil or Smoke Shell (Ruler 15)||18.104.22.168.10 11 Ok 13 Pop||18 February 749 CE - ca. 761 CE||Stelae M & N; Upper Hieroglyphic Stairway of Temple 26; Temple 26 text. Presumed to be buried in Temple 11|
|Yax Pasaj Chan Yoaat or Yax Pac or Rising Sun (Ruler 16)||22.214.171.124.17 6 Kab'an 10 Mol||2 July 763 CE - ca. 810 CE||Stelae 8 & 29; Altars G, G2, G3, Q, R, T, U, V, Z, B', C', D', F', G', W', J''?, 41; CPN 19119, CPN 19222, CPN 19469, CPN 23748, CPN 2843; Temple 22a Stone, Temple 11 Wall Panels, Step & Reviewing Stand, Temple 18 Door jamb and Wall Texts, Temple 21a Bench, 9N-82 Bench, Harvard Bench, Tegucigalpa Bench, CPN 157, 244, 26300; House Models from Structures 29 & 33; various incense burners. Buried in Temple 18|
|Ukit Took' (never officially took the throne)||126.96.36.199.5||10 February 822 CE||Altar L, of the known Copán rulers he is the only one that does not appear on Altar Q|
There were 16 rulers of Copán during the main Maya rule. They were symbolically depicted on the sides of Altar Q, sitting on the glyphs of their names. Only ruler 12 is shown sitting on a glyph representing "5 k'atun" (about 98 years), signifying his longevity. With 79 years of age he had reached the beginning of the 5th k'atun of his life at about 78. Getting into the 5th k'atun of ones life was pretty unusual in those times.
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