Quiriguá: Altar M

Zoomorfo M (Monument 13) at Quirigua Monument 13 (Altar M)Monument 13 at Quiriguá is also known variously as Altar M and Zoomorfo M, the latter being the preferred term at the archaeological site and a reference to the type of animal-like form the monument takes. You can see from this angle the gorgeously carved and distinctly feline snout, but the round discs fail to make a realistic impression of the eyes. This is because the round discs are actually the eye-lids which are 3/4 closed to create a typically lazy crocodilian looking head from the side. This transferral of forms is why it is called a zoomorfo or zoomorph.

Altar M is of great importance to the history of Quiriguá as it has an intriguing hieroglyphic text on the rear of the head. The text lists a date of the 15th September 734AD and lists Quiriguá’s ruler as Lord K’ak’ Tiliw Chan Yopaat (also referred to as Cauac Sky). It has been suggested that the text claims the title of k’uhul ajaw, meaning Holy Lord, but this is uncertain. What is certain is that the text includes the first use of a Quiriguán emblem glyph and provides a starting date for the city’s battle for independence from the rule of Copán.

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