Nojpetén

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The island that was the site of Nojpetén is now developed as the modern town of Flores

Nojpetén (also known as Tayasal) was the capital city of the Itza Maya kingdom, located on an island in Lake Petén Itzá in the modern department of Petén in northern Guatemala.[1] The island is now occupied by the modern town of Flores, the capital of the Petén department.[2] Nojpetén had defensive walls built upon the low ground of the island; they may have been hastily constructed by the Itza at a time when they felt threatened either by the encroaching Spanish or by other Maya groups.[3]

Etymology[edit]

Writing many years after his journey across Petén, conquistador Bernal Díaz del Castillo called the city Tayasal; this appears to have been a hispanicisation of the Itza language ta itza ("at the place of the Itza"). The Itza king Kan Ek' referred to the city by the name Nojpetén when he spoke to the Spanish in 1698.[4] Nojpetén, from the Itza noj peten, means "great island".[5]

Foundation[edit]

Nojpetén was founded when the Itza fled south around 1441–1446, after they were deposed by the Xiu Maya at Mayapan.[4] When they settled on the island, they divided their new capital into four quarters based upon lineage groups.[6]

Description[edit]

The main pyramid at Nojpetén would have looked very similar to the Castillo at Mayapan

Nojpetén was closely packed with buildings that included temples, palaces and thatched houses.[8]

In 1698 Spanish accounts describe the city as having had twenty-one temples, the largest of these (which the Spanish called a castillo) had a square base measuring 16.5 metres (54 ft) on each side. It had nine stepped levels and faced northward; it appeared very similar in design to the principal pyramids at Chichen Itza and Mayapan in Yucatán.[4] This was about half the size of the Mayapan castillo; its nine levels may each have been less than 1 metre (3.3 ft) high; the pyramid would still have been imposing. It possibly had only one access stairway rather than the four radial stairways found in the examples in Yucatán. The pyramid was topped by a flat-roofed summit shrine that contained idols representing Itza gods. The dismantling of this pyramid would have required considerable effort but no mention of this is found in Spanish records.[9]

When Spanish missionary Andrés de Avendaño y Loyola visited the city in early 1696, nine of the temples had recently been burnt during a Kowoj Maya attack and subsequently rebuilt; during the attack many houses had also been destroyed.[10] Ritual ceramics, identified by the Spanish as idols, were arranged in pairs upon small benches throughout the city. The Spanish set about destroying the pagan idols after conquering the city.[11]

Conquest[edit]

Nojpetén fell to a Spanish assault in 1697; it was the capital of the last Maya kingdom to fall to the conquerors.[12] Martín de Ursúa y Arismendi arrived at the western shore of Lake Petén Itzá in February 1697 with 235 Spanish soldiers and 120 native labourers.[13] He launched an all-out assault using a large oar-powered attack boat on 13 March; the Spanish bombardment of the island caused heavy loss of life among the Itza defenders, who were forced to abandon the city.[14]

The Spanish renamed Nojpetén as Nuestra Señora de los Remedios y San Pablo, Laguna del Itza ("Our Lady of Remedy and Saint Paul, Lake of the Itza");[14] It was often shortened to Remedios in colonial documents, or referred to simply as Petén, or as El Presidio ("the garrison"). In 1831 the government renamed it Flores after the Guatemalan head of state Cirilo Flores.[15]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Rice and Rice 2009, p. 11.
  2. ^ Sharer and Traxler 2006, p. 616.
  3. ^ Rice et al 2009, p. 129.
  4. ^ a b c Rice 2009a, p. 43.
  5. ^ Reina 1966, p. 20.
  6. ^ Fox 1987, 2008, pp. 33-34.
  7. ^ Díaz del Castillo 1632, 2005, p. 584.
  8. ^ Jones 1998, p. xix.
  9. ^ Jones 1998, p. 74.
  10. ^ Jones 2009, p. 62.
  11. ^ Rice 2009b, p. 277.
  12. ^ Jones 2009, p. 56.
  13. ^ Jone 2009, p. 59. Schwartz 1990, p. 37.
  14. ^ a b Jones 2009, p. 59.
  15. ^ Schwartz 1990, p. 37.

References[edit]

Díaz del Castillo, Bernal (1632, 2005). Historia verdadera de la conquista de la Nueva España. Mexico City, Mexico: Editores Mexicanos Unidos, S.A. ISBN 968-15-0863-7. OCLC 34997012.  Check date values in: |date= (help) (Spanish)
Fox, John W. (2008) [1987]. Maya Postclassic state formation. Cambridge, UK and New York, USA: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-10195-0. OCLC 297146853. 
Jones, Grant D. (1998). The Conquest of the Last Maya Kingdom. Stanford University Press. ISBN 9780804735223. OCLC 38747674. 
Jones, Grant D. (2009). "The Kowoj in Ethnohistorical Perspective". In Prudence M. Rice and Don S. Rice (eds.). The Kowoj: identity, migration, and geopolitics in late postclassic Petén, Guatemala. Boulder, Colorado, US: University Press of Colorado. pp. 55–69. ISBN 978-0-87081-930-8. OCLC 225875268. 
Reina, Ruben E. (Fall 1966). "A Peninsula That May Have Been an Island: Tayasal, Peten, Guatemala". Expedition (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA: University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology) 9 (1). ISSN 0014-4738. 
Rice, Prudence M. (2009a). "The Kowoj in Geopolitical-Ritual Perspective". In Prudence M. Rice and Don S. Rice (eds.). The Kowoj: identity, migration, and geopolitics in late postclassic Petén, Guatemala. Boulder, Colorado, US: University Press of Colorado. pp. 21–54. ISBN 978-0-87081-930-8. OCLC 225875268. 
Rice, Prudence M. (2009b). "Incense Burners and Other Ritual Ceramics". In Prudence M. Rice and Don S. Rice (eds.). The Kowoj: identity, migration, and geopolitics in late postclassic Petén, Guatemala. Boulder, Colorado, US: University Press of Colorado. pp. 276–315. ISBN 978-0-87081-930-8. OCLC 225875268. 
Rice, Prudence M.; Don S. Rice (2009). "Introduction to the Kowoj and their Petén Neighbors". In Prudence M. Rice and Don S. Rice (eds.). The Kowoj: identity, migration, and geopolitics in late postclassic Petén, Guatemala. Boulder, Colorado, US: University Press of Colorado. pp. 3–15. ISBN 978-0-87081-930-8. OCLC 225875268. 
Rice, Prudence M.; Don S. Rice; Timothy W. Pugh; Rómulo Sánchez Polo (2009). "Defensive architecture and the context of warfare at Zacpetén". In Prudence M. Rice and Don S. Rice (eds.). The Kowoj: identity, migration, and geopolitics in late postclassic Petén, Guatemala. Boulder, Colorado, US: University Press of Colorado. pp. 123–140. ISBN 978-0-87081-930-8. OCLC 225875268. 
Schwartz, Norman B. (1990). Forest Society: A Social History of Peten, Guatemala. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA: University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 0-8122-1316-5. OCLC 21974298. 
Sharer, Robert J.; Loa P. Traxler (2006). The Ancient Maya (6th (fully revised) ed.). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. ISBN 0-8047-4817-9. OCLC 57577446. 

Further reading[edit]

Pugh, Timothy; José Rómulo Sánchez; Yuko Shiratori; Prudence Rice; Miriam Salas (2012). B. Arroyo, L. Paiz, and H. Mejía, ed. "Arqueología histórica en la región de los lagos de Petén" [Historical archaeology in the Petén lakes region]. Simposio de Investigaciones Arqueológicas en Guatemala (Guatemala, Guatemala City: Ministerio de Cultura y Deportes, Instituto de Antropología e Historia and Asociación Tikal). XXV (2011): 622–634. Retrieved 2014-08-06.  (Spanish)

Coordinates: 16°55′47″N 89°53′30″W / 16.92972°N 89.89167°W / 16.92972; -89.89167