CHAPER THREE

SCULPTURE

Description of the Monuments

Fifteen of Polol's sixteen monuments were discovered in Plaza I during Cyrus Lundell's 1933 cartographic and photographic investigation of the site. Stela 9, a plain monument located in the east steps of the Sunken Court on Structure 5, was discovered during the clearing of that structure in 1980 (Figure 56). (See section on Stela 9 below. Stela 9 was actually discovered by Edwin Shook in 1936.) (August 2008)

Sometime between 1963 and 1979, the carved monuments from Polol were moved to an area behind the Administration Building  at FYDEP (Figure 20). Monuments from Itsimte (Fragments of Altar 1, Stela 1, Stela 4), along with an unidentified stela with stucco and red pigment in an area of plain glyph blocks, have been mixed with those of Polol. Morley established chronological parameters for the monuments at Polol and a hypothetical Lake Peten Itza / area chronology based on monument Initial Series dates.

As of 2007, the Polol monuments had been moved to the Bodega de Estelas del Parque Nacional Tikal. Area de Arqueologia, CUDEP-USAC. The Polol monuments, along with other sites in the Peten, were documented by Edy Alejandro Barrios in 2007 and his 2008 paper is available here in PDF format. Barrios PDF.

It has been suggested that Itsimte with the oldest dated monument (9.15.0.0.0) and the greatest number of unsculpted stelae (12) may well have become a monument- erecting center as early as the beginning of the Middle Period though it does not seem to have erected sculptured monuments until the beginning of the Great Period or perhaps slightly before (9.14.10.0.0). By, 9.17.10.0.0 the monumental story at Itsimte seems to have ended, and the cer4onial center shifted 16 km to the south to Polol, to remain until the next to last or last lahuntun of Baktun 9. The first sculpted monument here may go back to 9.17.0.0.0 (Morley 1937-38, Vol. 3:446).

Morley's dates for Polol are questionable, since the only surely dated monument was Stela 1 (Figures 21 & 22), and Stela 4 (Figures 34-50) was dated at 9.19 or 10.0 using dates from both the front and back of the monument. The dedicatory date of Stela 4 is discussed further in the list of carved monuments below.

Proskouriakoff (1950:194) dated the Polol monuments stylistically as follows:

Altar 1, Early Classic, possibly Cycle 8
Stela 2, 9.18.0.0. 0 +-2 katuns
Stela 3, 9.19.0.0.0 +-2 katuns
Stela 4, 9.13.10.0.0 +-2 katuns
Stela 1, too eroded to date stylistically.

Her references to the Polol monuments are limited to a short paragraph on Altar 1 and a general comment about Late Classic Sculpture in the Peten: "There are many sculptures in the Peten that may be attributed to this phase, but most of them are in such poor state of preservation that they do not merit detailed description. There are evidences of late Sculpture at Nakum, Naachtun, El Palmar, and Polol" (Ibid. 142).

I have adopted the monument nomenclatures of Shook and Morley (Morley 1937-38, Vol. 3:413)-except where data obtained during the 1980 excavation required that a monument be renamed. For example, a cache [an eccentric flint on a piece of burnt stucco (Figure 58) was discovered under a large plain block in Plaza I on the NS axis of Structure 5 in 1980. Lundell (1934:181) thought the block was "the base of buried stela" and called it "Stela A9" (Lundell 1934:181). Morley (utilizing Shook's field notes) considered it to be a building block and dropped the monument designation altogether (Morley 1937-38, Vol. 3:413). With the evidence of the monument cache we considered the block to be a monument fragment, and called it "Stela 11". Two other monuments, Stelae 6 and 7, although not renamed, are depicted in the illustrations and referred to in the text as wall panels in view of their shape (rectangular with flat front and beveled back) and provenience (Figures 54, 54a & 55).

The Carved Monuments

Stela 1

Location: Approximately  5 m E of Structure 2. Presently located at FYDEP.
Associations: Altar of Stela 1. No cache found.
Dedicatory Date: 9.18.0.0.0 11 Ahau 18 Mac ??? (Morley 1937-38, Vol. 3:407) Oct. 9, 790 A.D.
Condition: Only left side of original monument remains. Weathered.
Illusrations: Lundell 1934; Figure 2. Morley 1937-38, Vol. 3; Figure 133. This paper; Figures 21 and 22
Publications: Lundell, 1934. Morley 1937-38: Vol. 3.
Carved areas: Morley's Class 3. Front was sculpted with figure in high relief. Weatherworn when found by Lundell. Right side plain. Left side has two columns of glyphs with I.S.I.G.
Depth of relief varies from 2 to 12mm.
Material: Limestone
Shape: Rectangular
Dimensions: Maximum width: 1.52 m Maximum thickness: 41 cm Original height: 2.5 m
1980 measurements: 1.42 m high by 38 cm wide

Miscellaneous Remarks

Whatever was depicted on the deeply carved face, is now lost. Lundell photographed the left side of the monument with the initial series date. One can see on that photograph (Figure 22) faint signs of the face carved on the front of the monument. During the 1980 season, Stela 1 was flipped to measure and check for carved areas and was photographed in daylight and raking light. No previously unreported carved areas were found.

Stela 2

 Location: Approximately 5 meters E of the E face of Structure 1. The remaining fragment is located in the Officers' Mess at FYDEP.
Associations: Altar of Stela 2. (Lundell's Stela A2; Morley's Altar of Stela 2). No cache was found in 1980.
Dedicatory date: 9.19.0.0.0 9 Ahau 18 Mol ??? (Morley 1937-38, Vol. 3: 407) 810 A.D.
Condition: The original shape of the monument was a rectangular slab. Figures 32 and 33 show four fragments. Only the largest is extant.
Illustrations: Lundell 1934; pls. 2b, c and d. Morley, 1937-38, Vol. 3; Figure 134a. Greene, Rands and Graham, 1972, Plate 151. This paper; Figures 23-30
Unfortunately, the glyph blocks on the back of Stela 2 were not photographed by Lundell. Shook photographed the back but the image is out of focus. The heavily eroded back (Fragment B) was photographed by Edy Barrios (Barrios 2008) and is shown here in Figure 25a.
Publications: Lundell 1934:179. Morley 1937-38: Vol. 3: 407-409. Greene, Rands and Graham 1972:150-151.
Carved areas: Morley's class 4. Front carved with human figure facing the observer's left in low relief. Back carved with glyphs but was inaccessible in 1980 as it was mounted against the wall in the officers mess at FYDEP.

Material: Limestone
Shape: Rectangular. Presently the left side is in its original for, as is the remaining portion of the front. All other sides are missing.
Dimensions: Maximum width: 1 m Maximum thickness: 43 cm 1980 measurements: 75 cm wide and 1.25 m high

Miscellaneous Remarks:

Stylistically, Lundell says nothing of the figure on the front except that it is carved in low relief (Lundell 1934:179). Morley (1937-38, Vol. 3:407) mentions the figure's facing the right, the elaborate paraphernalia, stiff posture, faulty anatomical proportions, and low, flat relief. Proskouriakoff (1950) does not go into detail on any of the Polol monuments and merely mentions that, with the exception of Altar 1, they all appear to be of the Late Classic Period or the Dynamic Phase, i.e., 9.16 to 9.19. Merle Greene (Greene, Rands and Graham 1972:18, Plate 151) describes the monument as being late and the features of the figure as being non-Maya in nature. She also mentions stylistic similarities to Itsimté, Bonampak, and Seibal.

Stela 2 has a predominance of design motifs and carving techniques typical of the Pasion and Usumancinta drainages. Sites with stylistic ties are Itsimté, Motul de San Jose, Seibal, Machaquila, Cancuen, Yaxchilan, Piedras Negras, Calakmul, La Florida, and Bonampak. Bonampak Stela 2, which dates to 9.17, has a headdress that is practically identical. At Seibal, a number of monuments carved during the last quarter of the 9th baktun resemble Stela 2 from Polol.

Lundell's and Shook's photographs of the monument provide the best representation of the entire monument as it existed in the 1930s. The figure is complete from the waist area up. The right hand holds a staff, while the left hand holds a Pasion‑style shield or medallion with a symbol that appears to be Mexican in style (Pahl: pers. comm). The glyph texts were photographed in part by Lundell and then rephotographed by Shook. A large text was on the back of Stela 2. The only photograph of that badly eroded text is out of focus. The glyphic text was lying face down when discovered and is presently at FYDEP, close to a wall and inaccessible for photographic purposes.

Stela 3

Location: East end of the northernmost row of monuments in front of, or south of Structure 3. Present whereabouts unknown.
Associations: Altar of Stela 3 (Lundell's Stela A6, Morley's Altar of Stela 3). No cache has been found.
Dedicatory date: 9.17.0.0.0 13 Ahau 18 Cumcu ??? (Morley 1937-38, Vol. 3: 407) Jan. 22, 771 A.D. Condition: Missing.
Illustrations: Lundell 1934; pl. 4d. This paper, Figures 31, 32 & 33.
Publications: Lundell 1934:179-181. Morley 1937-38: Vol. 3:403-405.
Carved areas: The monument was carved on the front and right side.
Material: Limestone
Shape: Probably rectangular. The monument was found broken in three large pieces.. The top of the monument was never located.
Dimensions: Lundell's measurements: 78cm wide, 48cm thick and 1.25 meters high. Morley's measurements (after Shook): 69cm wide, 41cm thick and 1.44 meters high.

Miscellaneous Remarks:

At the time of its discovery, Stela 3 (Lundell's Stela 5) was located on the east end of the northeastern row of monuments in front of Structure 3. Lundell described it as a "small sculpted monument, 78 cm wide, 48 cm thick with a height of about 1.25 meters. It is a broken into three large pieces." (Lundell 1934:179). The monument had a scene in bas relief on one side and a glyphic text on the other. He describes the text as being so weatherworn as to be illegible (Ibid.). Morley's measurements are 69 cm wide, 41 cm thick, and 1.44 m high. Morley says the monument was composed of four large fragments. He describes the front or face as being carved with a figure facing to the right and carrying a small rounded shield in his left hand. There are no monuments remaining on the site or at FYDEP which fit either Lundell's or Morley's descriptions. Shook’s photographs provided enough information for Morley to date the monument at 9.17.0.0.0 ??? Morley based the date on two glyphs at A2al.h and A2bl.h. Proskouriakoff dates the monument at 9.19.0.0.0 +- 2 katuns (Proskouriakoff 1950:194), apparently from Shook's photographs.

Stela 4

Location: Formerly located at the western end of the northernmost row of monuments south of Structure 3. Presently located at FYDEP.
Associations: Altar of Stela 4 (Lundell's Stela A5, Morley's Altar of Stela 4). No cache was found.
Dedicatory date: 9.19.0.0.0 8 Ahau 8 Xul ??? (Morley 1937-38, Vol. 3: 407) June 26, 810 A.D. 10.0.0.0.0 7 Ahau 18 Zip ??? (Morley 1937-38, Vol. 3: 407) March 13, 830 A.D.
Condition: Presently in four or more fragments at FYDEP. Monument has been further destroyed by movement, as evidenced by a comparison of Lundell's and Shook's photographs and the photographs taken in 1980.
Illustrations: Lundell 1934; pls. 3, 4a, b and c. Morley 1937-38; Vol. 3: Figures 134b & 135. Greene, Rands and Graham 1972;152. This paper, Figures 8, 9, 34-50
Publications: Lundell 1934:179-181. Morley 1937-38: Vol. 3:409-13. Greene, Rands and Graham 1972:320
Carved areas: Morley's Class 4 or figures on front and back with glyphs on sides.
Material: Limestone
Shape: Rounded rectangular with eratic corners. Taller than it is wide.
Dimensions: Original: 3.6 to 3.7 m high, 2.26 m wide and 84 cm thick. Present fragments (back side): (height x width x thickness)

A - 64 cm x 1.22 m x 36 cm (Figure 44)
B - 72 cm x 1.95 m x 67 cm (Figure 45)
C - 79 cm x 1.48 m x 36 cm (Figure 46)
D - 69 cm x 1.18 m x 59 cm (Figure 47)
E - Stela butt not measured in 1980 (Figure 48)

Miscellaneous Remarks:

Stela 4 was discovered by Lundell at the western end of the northernmost row of monuments in front of Structure 3. Lundell's measurements were 2.26 m in width, 84 cm thick and approximately 3.67 m high. Morley's measurements are exactly the same.

Morley's dating of this monument is somewhat involved and a thorough explanation of the two possible dates 9.19.10.0.0 8 Ahau 8 Xul (???) (June 26, 810 A.D.) and' 10.0.0.0.0 7 Ahau 18 Zip (???) (March 13, 830 A.D.) can be found in his Inscriptions of Peten, Volume III. Briefly however, the above dates are based on the fact that the Initial Series date (9.17.7.0.4 2 Kan 7 Kayab) on the left side of the monument

... is not the contemporaneous date of Stela 4. This latter is much more likely to have been a later hotun-ending, perhaps the next lahuntun-ending after 9.19.0.0.0, i.e. 9.19.10.0.0 8 Ahau 8 Xul, or the next katun-ending, 10.0.0.0.0 7 Ahau 18 Zip, both of which are suggested for the dedicatory date of this monument ... (1937-38:3, 41).

The glyphs on the sides of the monument (Al-D3) were illustrated by Morley (Ibid:Vol. 3, 411) and are not duplicated in this thesis. They are present in Lundell's photography, specifically Figure 43 and 43a. On the left side of Stela 4, the small disjointed fragment of the katun period glyph A2 was read as 17 by Morley, as he read a "non-numerical crescentic element" (Ibid:Vol. 3, 410) between the top and bottom dots.

The stylistic difference in the front and back of the monument poses some interesting questions. Was the back carved at the same time as the front? Do the Initial and Supplemental Series on the sides refer to the front or the back, or both? Does the Calendar Round date given in El-E3 have anything to do with the other dates on the monument? I offer the explanation that the back was carved later than the front based on the stylistic differences in the figures, i.e., the figures' costumes, headdresses and other paraphernalia, the Chichen-type glyphs (Greene, pers. comm.) present in the Calendar Round date, and the assumption that the back side bore no long count date. If my interpretation is correct, then Morley's reference to the Calendar Round date on the back to support his preferred monument erection date of 10.0.0.0.0 7 Ahau 18 Zip is unwarranted and the date for at least the front of the monument is 9.19.10.0.0 8 Ahau 8 Xul, which is more in keeping with contemporaneous monuments in the Pasion Drainage. Also, Morley's reading of 3 Ben 1 Yaxkin (1937-38, Vol. 3:412) for the Calendar Round date is probably wrong, and should be 3 Ben 1 Zip based on the 1933 photograph of the back of the stela butt by Lundell (Figure 48). Morley's crossband element in the month element appears to be the sign for the month Zip. The glyph at E3 is probably an accession glyph and the Calendar Round date of 3 Ben 1 Zip would refer to the accession of the figure on the back, as it could not apply to both sides, or all three figures on the monument. The Long Count date for the accession of this back figure would have been either 10.1.6.5.13 3 Ben 1 Zip (18 Feb 856) or 10.3.19.0.13 3 Ben 1 Zip (6 Feb 908).

This monument has never been reassembled due to its tremendous size and weight, and there is no photograph of either side in its entirety. It was only after obtaining the photographs of Lundell and Shook that I was able to piece together the monument and illustrate the fragments as part of a whole monument. There are still fragments missing and those are evident in the 1980 drawings, photographs and rubbing (Figures 8, 9, 39, 50 & 50a).

From Shook's photographs it is possible to reconstruct a scene of two figures facing each other on the front of Stela 4 (Figures 36 and 37). A taller figure on the observer's right is facing a shorter figure on the left. The double figure arrangement is on contemporary monuments at Motul de San Jose, Ixlu, and Ixkun. In the available photographs (Figures 34-39) the outlines of each figure are obvious and some details in the headdress, pectoral, arm or wrist shields, and belt, can be seen. The manikin sceptor in the hand of the left figure is discernible, while the presence of a manikin sceptor next to the larger figure is more tentative. The elements of the triadic sign (crossed bands, shell, and plant) (Kubler 1969), double-scroll pectoral, long-nosed nose bead ornament, water lily and fish, and long-nosed badge on the helmet are practically duplicated (with variations in configuration) on Stela 3 (9.19.5.0.0.0), Stela 4 (9.19.0.0.0) and Stela 7 (10.0.0.0.0) at Machaquila and Stela 7 at Aquateca (Green, Rands and Graham 1972: Plates 80-117; Kubler 1969: Figures 81-83). The 9.13.0.0.0 stylistic date given by Proskouriakoff (1950:194) seems early, based on the above comparisons. However, there are monuments with manikin scepters, wrist shields, water lillies, square-scrolls, and similar elements in the headdress and pectoral from Dos Pilas, Aguateca, and Machaquila that date between 9.13 and 9.18. Dos Pilas Stela 1 (9.13.15.0.0) has a similar squared scroll in the headdress.

After photographic reconstruction (Figure 50), the figure on the back of Stela 4 appears to be dancing on a prostrate figure, or perhaps a jaguar, although only a portion of that image is visible above the eroded glyph blocks in the lower center. Also, a mask can be seen to project from the headdress, but details have been scaled away, so the exact configuration is not known. Given the figure's jaguar paws and tail, however, the mask may have been a jaguar face. If the large serpent/hand element in his headdress and the jaguar mask, gloves, and tail are any indication, the figure's name may have been Jaguar Serpent or Jaguar Serpent Hand. The two eroded wall glyphs in Room 7 (Figure 17c) of the Palace Complex may be name glyphs and refer to this figure. The left gylph can be read as a jaguar while the second glyph is a more tentative serpent.

The back side of Polol Stela 4 is similar to Stela 1 at La Amelia, (Greene, Rands & Graham 1972:178, Plate 82) (which Proskouriakoff stylistically dated to 10.0.0.0.0 + or 2 katuns) on which a figure is also attired in only a necklace, waistband, loincloth, headdress, and backrack, is dancing on a jaguar in the lower register. Other similarities include the non-Maya face, sloping shoulders, asymmetrical composition and dancing pose, elaborate featherwork on the backrack, and glyphs arranged to fit into the composition at the upper right, lower left and lower right. Stela 4 has other late features such as the large projecting scrolls on the apron, the sun god pectoral in the necklace, two flint blades, one on the upper portion of the staff and one in the left paw of the figure. The following statement by Richard Adams on the foreign intrusion into the Pasion drainage seems particularly relevant in regard to the stylistic disparity of the front and back of Stela 4.

Moreover, the influences observable on the stelae do not simply represent minor stylistic changes through time, but instead reflect significant cultural changes in the realms of the glyphic system, physical features, clothing and accessories, and the whole conception of the monuments (Adams 1973:133).

Altar 1

Location: Formerly located at the bottom of the stairway to Structure 3, between Structure 3 and Stela 5. Presently located at FYDEP.
Dedicatory date: 7.9? (19?).9?(14?). (Pahl 1982:29)
Early Period (Morley 1937-38, Vol. 3: 402-403)
Early Classic (Proskouriakoff 1950)
Condition: Eroded. Bottom half missing. Surface superficially cracked. Central glyph text practically illegible except for the I.S.I.G., baktun bar, and dot notation. Possible 9 or 19 katun position.
Illustrations: Morley 1937-38, Vol. 3; Figure 132. Proskouriakoff 1950; Figure 36d. Pahl 1982; Figures la, lb, 2a, 2b. This paper, Figures 51, 52, 53.
Publications: Lundell 1934:179-81. Morley 1937-38, Vol. 3:402-403. Proskouriakoff 1950:110. Graham 1972:115-119. Pahl 1982:23-31. Hammond 1986:115
Carved areas: Front
Material: Limestone
Shape: Original shape of monument is a matter of controversy. Present shape is that of half-circle.
Dimensions: 28 x 66 x 25 cm

 Miscellaneous Remarks:

Lundell (1934:181) found Altar 1 between the south face of Structure 3 and Stela 5. He does not mention its configuration when found, but it can be seen in the background of a photograph of Stela 4, sitting upright and facing the plaza, at the bottom of the structural fall of Structure 3 (Figure 42). This may or may not have been its location during Terminal Late Classic or Early Postclassic times, since the photograph was taken after a considerable period of 20th century agricultural activity at the site (Lundell 1934:177). Lundell's measurements of 66 cm wide, 28cm high, and 25cm thick are the same as those taken in 1980.

The monument is roughly a half circle containing two figures facing a central glyph text. Motifs common to both figures are earspools hanging in a chain from the upper stage of the headdress and three sets of repeating antlers or omega flaps (Pahl, pers. comm.) descending the from deer heads atop the headdress. On both figures, the entire headdress becomes an open jaw or mouth form from which the head is emerging.

The headdress of the left figure (observer's left) is composed of a deer's head with omega flaps repeating down the back. The deer's cheek is used also by the saurian. monster figure to the front and below.. A beaked or saurian creature is situated beneath the deer head, and the saurian jaw encompasses the human face in profile. To the rear of the profile are three drilled earplugs in a chain hanging from the headdress. Bounty head pendants may have been included in this figure's dress in the original configuration of the monument.

The right figure is more eroded and, therefore, more difficult to interpret. The deer's head is less distinct and may possibly be another creature altogether or perhaps incorporated into the dragon head with curling snout. The glyph text in the center of the monument is eroded practically beyond recognition. Morley (1937-38, Vol. 3: Figure 132) published a rough drawing that included an I.S.I.G. Pahl (1982:25) feels that there is a possible baktun date for the monument in the bar and dot notation. Under optimal lighting conditions, one dot is obvious above the horizontal bar to the right of center, with a dot fragment positioned left of center (Figures 52-54). The dots are of such size as to preclude the presence of four dots, and the positioning does not allow for three dots, since one of the dots would have to be centered. Seven would seem to be a logical reading. Under the baktun notation is a less obvious 9 or 19 depending on the number of horizontal bars perceived. Pahl (1982:29) offers a date of 7.9? (19?).9?(14?).? or A.D.. 22. Although Morley (1937-38,.Vol. 3:413-414) offered no exact or probable date, he went into considerable detail in regards to the stylistic or "esthetic evidence" and possible original provenience of Altar 1:

Whether Altar 1 at Polol could have been executed at a nearby site and at some later time, perhaps in the Great Period, brought to Polol, or whether it represents an Early Period occupation of Polol from which no other early sculptures have yet been found, or whether indeed the writer has wrongly appraised the esthetic evidence in assigning this sculpture to the Early Period and it may date from much later, it is now impossible to say. Proskouriakoff (1950:110) offered a date of Cycle 8, based on stylistic elements shared with other Cycle 8 monuments.

In terms of the evolution of rendering calendric material, Polol's Altar 1 is similar to other Cycle 7 monuments (Table 4). The bar and dot pattern is horizontal, and there are no cycle or paired glyphs. The horizontal bar and dot notation is present on Chiapa de Corzo Stela 2 (7.16), El Baul Stela 1 (7.19), Abaj Takalik Stela 2 (7.16), and Tres Zapotes Stela C (7.16). Paired glyphs first appear at 7.19, on Stela 1 at El Baul. The Tuxtla Statuette has a horizontal bar and dot notation, paired glyphs, and no cycle glyphs, and it dates to 8.6. Cycle glyphs do not occur until Tikal's Stela 29 (8.12.14.8.15 or A.D. 292) (Coe 1976:107-122). Polol's monument then would most likely date between 7.16 and 7.19, or contemporary with other monuments displaying similar configurations of calendric material, or bar and dot patterns without cycle and paired glyphs.

Norman Hammond (1992:143), further supporting a Late Preclassic date for Polol's Altar 1, wrote in 1987: Several carved stelae are known, bearing figures of rulers and sometimes inscriptions, but lacking dates in the Maya Calendar: those at El Mirador, a rock carving at San Diego in Peten, and a looted stela now in Seattle are all stylistically attributable to the Late Preclassic. Perhaps the earliest inscribed monument in the Maya Lowlands is a fragment of an altar from Polol, in the Peten, which shows two richly clad figures on either side of a column of Maya bar-and-dot numbers. The top sign is the Initial Series Introducing Glyph, indicating a date in the Maya calendar. Although the altar is too eroded for the date to be read, John Graham of the University of California at Berkeley believes it to be in Cycle 7 of Maya time, that is, before A.D. 41, and points out the parallel composition of two stelae, Numbers 2 and 5, at the site of Abak Takalik, which he has investigated on the Pacific coast of Guatemala. The designs are strikingly similar, in detail as well as overall conception, and the latest date for the Abaj Takalik monuments is early in the second century A.D., whereas the earliest could be up to four centuries earlier. (Reference added in 2007)

There are very basic and obvious similarities between Polol's Altar 1 and other Cycle 7 and 8 monuments from Peten sites such as Uaxactun, Tikal, and El Mirador. Proskouriakoff noted that "the early [sculpture] is more strongly preoccupied with religious subjects and relatively simple themes and arrangements of explicitly symbolic forms" (1950:180). An altar fragment from Uaxactun found in rubble fill that covered Stela 26 in Structure A-V is stylistically similar and may provide a possible historical scenario for Altar 1.

The fragment of a stone altar showing a human figure seated cross-legged on an altar was found close to Stela 26 in the fill of construction of the following subphase. The carving on this altar is in the same style and feeling as that on Stelae 1 and 2 at Tikal. As the Tikal monuments date from very early in Baktun 9, it seems likely that the altar was carved at the same time as Stela 26 and originally was in front of it" (Smith 1950:23, and Figures 55b & c). An alternative and more probable explanation is that Uaxactun's Altar of Stela 26 is a Late Preclassic monument that had become obsolete, was broken and buried in the rubble of an Early or Late Classic Structure. Another possible contemporary monument is Stela 18 from El Mirador. It is stylistically similar to both Uaxactun's Altar of Stela 26 and Polol's Altar 1 and monuments from the Gulf and Pacific coastal areas (Table 4). It was found broken and buried in the rubble of a platform at El Mirador in 1982. The monument shares symbols and motifs with the large stucco masks found on Structure 34 near the El Tigre pyramid. Beth Chambers, a graduate student from Catholic University, remarked that the fragmented stela "probably refer(s) to the same ruler or ruling family" as the masks. And, given its provenience and fragmented state, she concluded "that the stone was not erected upright in this location and had been broken before it was buried within the platform mound" (Matheny 1982:8). With this discovery at El Mirador, three sites in the Peten (Tikal, Uaxactun and El Mirador) have Late Preclassic or Protoclassic architectural decorative masks and broken and buried monuments carved with similar Late Preclassic symbols and motifs. Although no Late Prelclassic architectural decorations (large stucco masks adjacent to stairways) were found at Polol, the presence of Altar 1 indicates that they might possibly have existed on substructures of either Structure 4 or 5, or possibly adjacent to the cave entrance.

Ethnohistoric and iconographic evidence for Altar I being carved at Polol comes from ancient and historic cave rituals utilizing sacrificial fauna, specifically deer. Deer heads with antlers are the most prominent motifs on Altar 1, and the use of deer and deer paraphernalia in cave ("cuch") ceremonies, has been well documented by John and Mary Pohl (Pohl and Pohl 1983, and Pohl 1983). The deer appears in "cuch" or renewal ceremonies on a narrative polychrome from Nebaj and the "Calcehtok" vase in the Dumbarton Oaks collection (M. Pohl 1983: Figures 3.2 & 3.5), and it is present in a ceremonial context in a headdress in the Bonampak murals. Also, Mary Pohl (1983) states that "the deer was a primary player in the most important ritual drama of the Maya ceremonial cycle, the cuch rite marking year renewal." And, of particular interest to Polol and Altar 1, the Pohls state that the cuch ceremony:

... was an elaborate affair that marked the end of one cycle and the beginning of another. A similar ceremony may have marked the transition from one ruler to the next, an event of singular importance to the Maya. Archaeological investigations suggest that these fertility, calendrical and accession rituals actually may have been performed in the dark recesses of caves (Pohl and Pohl 1983:28-29).

Mary Pohl (1983:62) also mentions (quoting Merle Greene) the presence of a deer and sun sitting on a saurian creature on Vault 2 in House E at Palenque. This could be a later and more literal interpretation of the deer and saurian assemblage of Altar 1. If the iconography on Altar 1 is a depiction of a Ilcuch", calendric, or accession cave ritual, and if clay altars found inside caves in Central Belice are any indication (Mac Leod & Puleston 1979:72), the original provenience of Altar 1 may well have been in the cave and the missing lower portion might be found either in the cave or in the vicinity of the cave. At any rate, the presence at Polol of both a ceremonial cave and a Late Prelclas~;ic altar with deer prominently displayed atop both headdresses, lends a bit of fuel to the argument that Altar 1 was carved at Polol in the Late Preclassic. More than likely, however, we will never know the original provenience and history of Altar 1 at Polol. If it was carved at Polol and then discarded and buried in rubble fill, remnant Postclassic populations obviously found the upper portion of the altar and reset it with a dedicatory cache at the base of Structure 3, where it was found by Lundell in 1933.

Culbert's (1974:107-108) interpretation of this sort of phenomenon as the "Terminal Classic or Postclassic activity of an occupying people that had lost the cultural wherewithal to erect, or even read, monuments" provides a possible explanation for the placement of this fragmented Cycle 7 monument alongside traditionally configured Late Classic monuments and structures. The resetting of Altar 1 in the Terminal Late Classic or Early Postclassic is also corraborated by evidence from Tikal.

Barbarities such as broken stelae carefully set up, a couple so placed that the inscriptions are upside down, also occur. Careful excavation can usually demonstrate that abnormal monuments were pieces from earlier times that had been moved to new resting places very late in the history of the sites where they were found (Satterthwaite 1958:71).

Satterthwaite (1958:67) also discusses the phenomena of fragment disintegration, scattering, and mutilation, all of which are possibilities for the Polol altar, although disintegration and scattering must be viewed with skepticism since Altar 1 was clearly reset and centered on Structure 3 over a Late Classic dedicatory cache. Also, Bullard mentions the resetting and use of a Topoxte fragment (Stela 1) during the Isla phase (1970:271-276). Coe (1962) refers to a "complex" of activities relating to Postclassic occupation of sites. This "complex" consists of the transportation of monuments, constructions involving robbed masonry, robbery of Classic caches and at least one tomb, and probably the use of certain previously unrecorded types of censers. He says also that abnormal re-erection of monuments most likely occurred later than 10.2.0.0.0, or after Tikal's Stela 11 and Altar 11 combination had been erected in the conventional manner. Of specific interest to Polol, he mentions a carved altar that was split in half and used as two altars for adjacent re-erected stelae, an early carved altar that was erected upside down; isolated altars and stelae occurring in spite of the standard rule of a stela-altar unit.

The Uncarved Monuments

Altar of Stela 1

Location: Presently east of Structure 2. Formerly in association with Stela 1.
Associations: Stela 1. No cache found.
Dedicatory date: None
Condition: Broken in two large fragments. Weathered and crumbling.
Illustration: None
Publications: Lundell 1934:179 Morley 1937-38, Vol. 3:413
Carved areas: None
Material: Limestone
Dimensions: At the time of its discovery this monument measured 2.5 m high by 1.83 m wide. Presently broken into numerous fragments.

Altar of Stela 2

 Location: In front of Stela 2 and Structure 1.
Associations: Stela 2. No cache.
Dedicatory date: None Condition: Heavily weathered and eroded. Broken into two large pieces.
Illustrations: None
Publication: Lundell 1934:179
Carved areas: None
Material: Limestone
Shape: Roughly ovoid or triangular. Dimensions: A - 1.7 m x 94 cm x 25 cm B - 60 cm x 46 cm x 26 cm

Altar of Stela 3

 Location: Eastern end of the southernmost row of monuments in front of Structure 3.
Associations: No cache found.
Dedicatory date: Unknown
Condition: Broken into three distinguishable pieces with a tree growing through the center.
Illustrations: None
Publication: Lundell 1934:179-180
Carved areas: Carved to shape.
Material: Limestone
Shape: Rectangular
Dimensions: Original dimensions: 1.73m x 94cm
Present dimensions:
A - 1.26 m x 90 cm x 30 cm
B - 62 cm x 38 cm x 30 cm
C - 65 cm x 27 cm x 30 cm

Altar of Stela 4

Location: On the eastern end of the southernmost row of monuments in front of or to the south of Structure 3.
Associations: Stela 4. No cache found.
Dedicatory date: ?
Condition: Heavily weathered, cracked and fragmented.
Illustration: None
Publication: Lundell 1934:179
Carved areas: Possibly carved into shape.
Material: Limestone Shape: Roughly rectangular.
Dimensions: Fragment A: 1.9 m x 1.2 m x 35 cm Fragment B: 63 cm x 33 cm x 35 cm

Altar of Stela 5

Location: Missing
Associations: ?
Dedicatory date: ?
Condition: When Lundell found this monument it was "badly broken, weatherworn and half-buried. There is evidence, however, that it had been sculpted" (Lundell 1934:179-81).
Illustrations: None
Publication: Lundell 1934:179-81
Carved areas: According to Lundell there were carved areas or at least remnants of carving.
Material: Limestone
Dimensions: ?

Stela 5

 Location: In the center of the northernmost row of monuments in front of Structure 3.
Associations: Altar of Stela 5. No cache found. Stela butt found mounted in crib (Figure 60).
Dedicatory date: 9.18.0.0.0 ??? (Morley 1937-38, Vol. 3: 413)
Condition: Fallen and weathered.
Illustrations: None.
Publication: Lundell 1934:181 and Morley 1937-38, Vol. 3:413
Carved areas: The front had been flattened.
Material: Limestone
Dimensions: Crib approximately 2.1 EW m x 2.9 m NS. Stela butt approximately 30cm above surface and 50cm below surface of crib structure. Monument measures 3 m long x 1.08 m wide x 75 cm thick.

 Stela 6 (Wall Panel 2)

 Location: Resting at a 45 degree angle on the dressed foundation blocks on the Plaza I side of Structure 1, approximately 1 m from the inset corner at the north end of the stairway (Figure 56). This monument is more than likely a wall panel similar to those found at Altar de Sacrificios (Structure A-1, Stelae 4 & 5) and Seibal (Structure A-10, Stelae 5 & 7).
Dedicatory date: 9.17.0.0.0 ??? (Morley 1937-38, Vol. 3: 413)
Associations: No cache found.
Condition: Standing, intact and weathered on the edges; cracking superficially.
Illustration: This paper, Figure 54, 54a
Publication: Lundell 1934:179. Morley 1937-38, Vol. 3:413
Carved areas: Carved to flatness on front with rounded bevel on back, similar in shape to Late Classic risers and other building blocks elsewhere on Structure 1.
Material: Limestone
Shape: Roughly that of a large building block. The possibility of this monument's having been a building block in the east wall of Structure 1 was mentioned by Lundell (1934:179).
Dimensions: 84 cm high x 1.28 long m x 40 cm thick

Miscellaneous Remarks:

Stela 6 was probably not a freestanding stela but, rather, a stuccoed and painted wall panel. Lundell mentioned this possibility in 1934.

Stela A3 is a plain leaning block of limestone with the front.and sides smooth. The back is rough and rounded, similar to the squared building stones used by the Maya in facing their structures, so it is possible that this stone is not a stela. However, its size, shape and position are such that it may well have served as a monument, so I am designating it thus (Lundell 1934:179).

Similar configurations of range structures with wall panels at either end of a stairway were found at both Altar de Sacrificios and Seibal. On Structure A-I at Altar de Sacrificious, two carved glyph panels (inset into the side of the stairway), two carved front wall panels (originally designated as stelae by Maler in 1908), and two uncarved panels were found at either end of the main stairway (Graham 1972:16-24; Smith 1972:32). At Seibal, Stelae 5 and 7 on Structure A-10 are now regarded as wall panels. Smith (1982:131) remarked on Stela 5: "Stela 5, although designated as such, is not a stela but a wall panel. Its sides were beveled so that it could have been set in the wall from which it had fallen (Figure 86a, b)." Seibal's Stela 7, the counterpoint of Stela 5, was also a panel with beveled sides.

Stela 7 (Wall Panel 1)

Location: 13 m from the southwest corner of Structure 1 near the southern inset corner of Structure l's stairway.
Associations: No cache found. Dedicatory date: 9.16.0.0.0 ??? (Morley 1937-38, Voi. 3: 413)
Condition: Half-buried, fallen and possibly broken in half, or possibly wall panal composed of two pieces.
Illustration: This paper, Figure 55.
Reference: Lundell 1934:179. Morley 1937-38, Vol. 3: 413
Carved areas: Carved to shape.
Material: Limestone
Shape: one rectangular fragment with beveled back. One square fragment with beveled edges.
Dimensions: Fragment A: 116 cm x 37 cm x 30 cm Fragment B: 80 cm x 50 cm x 30 cm.

Miscellaneous Remarks:

Stela 7 was found in the structural fall south of the stairway on the east side of Structure 1 and was more than likely the counterpart Stela 6 / Wall Panel 2.

Stela 8

Location: Near the center of the main plaza between Structure 1 and 4.
Associations: None. No cache found. May have been associated with Structure 4.
Dedicatory date: 9.19.0.0.0 ??? (Morley 1937-38, Vol. 3: 413)
Condition: Presently lying on the surface and in two pieces. Heavily eroded with tree growing between the two pieces.
Illustration: None
Publication: Lundell 1934:181 Morley 1937-38, Vol. 3: 413
Carved areas: ? Material: Limestone
Dimensions: 3 m long x 1.42 wide m x ?? cm thick.

Stela 9

Location: Western stairway, Sunken Court on top of Structure 5.
Associations: A substela cache, Feature #72, consisting of 55 pottery fragments representing a single pot, 22 obsidian blade fragments, 18 chert flakes, and 1 eccentric chert blade (Figure 56, 56a, 56b).
Dedicatory date: ?
Condition in 1980: Standing in original position, weathered edges, superficial cracking.
Condtion in 1936:
(From the unpublished Field Notes of Polol Trip - February 1936 - Hieroglyphic Study Project by Edwin M. Shook, excerpt from Pages 52 and 53)
On the west side of the enclosed court on top of Structure E (SFSU's Structure 5) was found an altar (SFSU's Stela 9) set upright in the stairway 5 m. from the NW corner of the court as shown on Dr. Lundell's map. I call this an altar because of its' measurements, although it may have served as a stela. Lundell's Stelae A3 & A4 (SFSU's Stelae/Wall Panels 6 & 7) are cut in the same manner & have about the same measurements. The altar or stela appears to be in its' original position, with a plan as shown here. (Figure 56, 56a, 56b) The stone was well-cut or dressed and plain on all sides with slightly rounded edges. Height .5 m. Width 1.06 m & thickness .26 m.
Illustrations: This paper and in the aforementioned Field Notes of Shook. (Figure 56, 56a, 56b).
Carved areas: Carved to shape.
Material: Limestone
Shape: Rectangular
Dimensions: 81 cm tall x 1.03 m wide x 25 cm thick


Stela 11

 Location: On an approximate axial line with Structure 5 and at the base of Structure 5.
Associations: A substela cache found 58cm below the surface consisting of I eccentric flint on a piece of charred stucco (Figures 58 & 59).
Dedicatory date: ?
Condition: Broken and the larger portion of this monument removed. The portion remaining may be the butt. Morley felt this monument was a building block or possibly a lintel that had fallen from Structure 5 (Morley 1937-38: Vol. 3).
Illustrations: This paper, Figure 57.
Carved areas: ?
Material: Limestone
Shape: ?
Dimensions: 1.22 m x 46 cm (Lundell 1934)