Comments of Vase K8432 by Luis Barros Lopes

On the "Casper" glyph and the vase K8342

The vase displays an icon remarkably similar to the Casper glyph at Palenque and may give some hint on the origin of this elusive glyph.

I would like to share my reflections on this vase with you in the hope that they will be thought provoking and stimulate some exchange of ideas on the "Casper glyph".

[0] Upon observing K8342 I recalled an article published in the exposition book for the Maya exposition in Venice by Merle Green Robertson.

[1] On page 299 of this book there are some lovely drawings of flowers from House E at the Palenque Palace and from the Bonampak murals.

[2] The drawings show that the Maya had rather detailed botanical knowledge of flower anatomy.

[3] The overall structure of the "Casper tree" in K8342 is remarkably similar to that of the drawn blossoms in Merle's article.

[4] The stem of the "Casper tree" is actually the stigma of the flower, ending with characteristic final three components (near the bottom of the vase).

[5] The upper part of the "Casper tree" is, in this interpretation, the ovary of the flower, covered with some kind of hairy cover (stylized representation of petals ??).

[6] The three dots inside the "ovary" likely represent, in this stylized representation, the ovules of the flower or perhaps on a more conceptual level, the anthers of the flower.

[7] The dotted vertical lines coming from inside the ovary likely represent the "nectar" of the flower flowing out to the stigma (the "roots of the Casper tree").

[8] The small dots on the outside of the tree likely represent pollen spilled over the stigma.

[9] This might explain also the presence of the three dots in the head of the small insect to the right of the "Casper tree".

[10] The bird seems to be an hybrid of some kind but it features a clear hummingbird beak/tongue (as far as I know, hummingbirds besides a long beak use a long, thin and flexible tongue to reach the nectar of the flowers).

[11] The scene depicts the bird extracting nectar from the flower with a flying insect nearby, a common spectacle in the tropics, but here likely with mythological connotations.

[12] The nectar of the flowers, as well as other substances such as sap or wax are referred to in Yucatec as "itz" (see Maya Cosmos).

[13] In Cholti (Moran) we have the following terms: humor de el palo yich // yich 'tree resin, tree sap' (cf. resina) resina yitz, de todo arbol // y-itz 'resin, sap (from any tree)' (cf. humor de el palo).

[14] In Chorti (Wisdom) we have the following items: k'ab 'sap, juice, pitch, excretion, seepage, leakage, liquid' uk'ab e te' 'sap of a tree' arar [appears also as a'rar, and always with poss. u-] 'excretion, emission, sap, juice (of plant or crushed fruit), soup (made from fruit or vegetable)'

bi' 'wax, any latex (sap, rubber)'

chu' 'breast of female, udder, anuything breast-shaped, plant sprout, milk, any milky sap of plant; suckling, chichita (wild spring shrub the fruit of which is made into a remedy for regulating the reast milk)'

ha' 'water, stream [cf. kohn], body of water, rain, spirit of water and bodies of water, juice or sap of fruits, vegetables, and plants [with poss. u-], soup, plant excretion, liquid' ch'ich' 'blood, dark red sap of plants'

[15] The "Casper" glyph is likely to have a translation closely related with its iconographic identification.

[16] Another important vase at Dumbarton Oaks, K4332 (commented a few years ago by David Stuart), depicts the name of "Casper" with the usual "ch'a" prefix followed not by the Casper glyph but with a variation: the head of the JGU with a "Casper glyph" in its mouth. At least another vase, K7147, has two identical motifs. In the later vase we have just a JGU head with what seems to be a "Casper glyph" in the mouth. The last glyph in the PSS may represent the inside of a flower. The three elements inside the black ball may be the ovules...

[17] The three dots inside the "Casper glyph" appear in several other glyph contexts. Nice examples are in:

T628b in K1457 at D7

T639+? in K7055 at A2 in the PSS

the "dots" look remarkably like the anthers in a flower.