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Gender Relations and Political Legitimacy: Replacing Patrilineal with Ancestral Inheritance of Power in Ancient Mayan Society *

Lowell Gustafson

Department of Political Science
Villanova University

International Studies Association
40th Annual Convention
Washington, D.C.
February 16–20, 1999

Do the Mayans present one more case of the “world historical defeat of the female sex” in which matriarchy was replaced by patriarchy? 1 If so, what was the process by which this occurred in the Mayan world and over what period of time did it occur? Were cases of women participating in politics anomalies; a few exceptions that prove the rule of patriarchy? Or, without idealizing the ancient Mayans or reading current views into their world, could their social system be understood better with different terms? While this people did have a hierarchical structure that most often did give a greater role to men, did ancient Mayan politics nevertheless see the systemic participation of women? We will consider that question in this paper, looking primarily at the role of women in the inheritance of political legitimacy. I will argue that the evidence suggests that there was often a hierarchy that favored men and permitted meaningful participation by women, although much more work needs to be done to understand how ancient Mayan gender relations and women’s role in politics changed over time and in specific locations.

Gender relations were often significant in establishing the political legitimacy of ancient Mayan rulers. Legitimacy was derived in part through inheritance from divine and human parents, as well as through marriage. In mythology, architecture, ceramics, painting, weaving, terra cotta figurines, and statuary, Mayan art shows the importance of male–female relations in establishing the accepted right to rule. This asserted right was accepted as legitimate because of prevailing attitudes that developed in the wider political culture. These attitudes can be surmised in part from archeological work, such as burial practices. Ancestors — men and women — were buried under houses and fields to give inherited right to live and grow crops at certain locations. From farmers to kings, power and wealth was inherited from ancestors of both genders, although men were often politically the more important.

It has become common to claim that political legitimacy among the ancient Mayans was patrilineal. These claims are often based on the predominance of men in public art. Indeed, this is often the case. For example, Altar Q at Copán has sixteen men in a dynasty handing down the scepter of power from one to the next. However, the prevalence of this claim and the art on which it is based has led to inadequate interpretations of a great deal of art that demonstrates the importance not just of men alone, but of the relations between men and women, and the role of women alone, in establishing political legitimacy.

There is a spectrum in the role of gender relations in establishing Mayan political legitimacy. At the one extreme, men establish their right to rule completely exclusive of women. There are many cases where this is so. However, here we will analyze the cases in which legitimacy is drawn from divine and human males and females, from marriage to important women, and from mothers alone. We also will analyze those cases in which art portrays women themselves as rulers or at least regents without reference to adult males.

Political legitimacy among the ancient Maya was earned and inherited. Rulers needed to show through ritual that they could maintain the order of the cosmos, give birth to new periods of time, and show valor by capturing and sacrificing noble warriors from other sites. However, they also needed to demonstrate that they legitimately had inherited their position from the ancestors. From the divine grandmother and grandfather who participated in the creation of the cosmos and humanity, to distant human founders of dynasties, to parents, men and women from the past provided in part legitimate right to rule.

The Maya cosmos was never uni-linear; it was multifaceted and complexly interwoven. There were many gods. Each day was governed by various divine forces. Different gods ruled specific days and phases of the moon. Each person had wayob, or animal counterparts which participated in that person’s life. The dead lived under the floors of a family’s house, giving the living the right to be there. Time was characterized by overlapping cycles of the sun, moon, Venus, and various constellations. Time moved both in a linear direction, moving ahead from a starting date of the most recent creation in the Long Count calendar, and in various cyclical patterns of 260 and 365 day calendars. The Maya saw not single lines of causality, but complex, multiple interconnections.

Mayan society was also differentiated. Different groups of people performed specific tasks in society even by the pre-classic period. Men and women normally played different and defined roles in society. For most of the society, women were weavers, cooks, and caretakers of children; men were masons or carpenters and corn planters. However, society, and much of the art from which it came, showed complementary, not oppositional gender relations. Gender relations were interconnected in a multifaceted complexity that made single lines of inheritance difficult to conceive. Mothers and fathers were too intimately involved in the creation of the cosmos and the clan to imagine that they had not together bequeathed their land and its bounty to living humans. Subsequently, Mayans were neither patriarchal nor matriarchal. Legitimate right to rule, as legitimate right to live in a certain house or grow corn on a certain milpa, came through a complex inheritance.

This does not deny that there often seems to be a hierarchy among the ancient Maya. But there are too many cases of interconnections and reverse patterns of influence to make them simply exceptions to the rule. Instead, a complex, differentiated system of inherited as well as earned legitimacy made gender relations an important part of the ruler’s right to govern. Right to property and the right to rule often does seem to run directly through father to oldest son. However, this patrilineal system has within it so many exceptions and variations that at least it needs to have its definition qualified and probably needs a different name to represent a more bi-gendered reality. That is why I will argue that ancestral, rather than strictly patrilineal, lines of inherited political legitimacy provides a better term. It may at times be primarily patrilineal, but it provides the flexibility in interpretation that more accurately accounts for the variations in Mayan practice.

Being a mother was not only a private role. Being a mother provided part of the right for rulership. So much public art showed (often deceased) mothers and fathers above the ruler, essentially giving them the right to hold the position of power. Parentage statements sometimes give a higher or even exclusive value to the father, but they very often include the mother or other female ancestors. Inscriptional histories’ accounts of women as wives and mothers of kings show that women were not playing the same or even as active a political role as men, but clearly they are included because they are important, if not primary, in the political contests of the time. They are by no means uninvolved, purely household, private persons. At Piedras Negras, women appear on stelae as mothers or wives of kings. At Palenque, a king’s mother gives him a shield, the symbol of war, as he ascends to power. At Yaxchilán, the wife of a king draws blood from her tongue in order to bring up the vision of the dynasty’s founder who gives the king legitimacy. In the Bonampak murals and on stelae 2, the mother and wife of the king appear in all the rituals, including the torture and killing of captives. Lady Olnal, the ninth ruler of Palenque, governed the city in her own right. Lady Kan-Ahaw-Tzuk (Lady Six Celestial Lord) ruled Naranjo as a regent and was the only parent listed on her son’s parentage statements.

While it was almost always the king’s son rather than a daughter who became the next ruler, there was often a question as to which one of his wives’ sons would become the king. Polygamy meant that wives and their respective families might jockey to have a member of their clan become the next ruler. If they were successful, all members of the wife’s family could benefit materially from the selection. In this way, property was sometimes distributed through the female as well as the male lines.

Just as elite women participated in politics, goddesses played a crucial role in the creation of the cosmos and humanity. The Old Moon Goddess, Chak-Chel, (“Great or Red Rainbow”) was the midwife of creation, enabled the rebirth of the Maize God and the birth of his sons. She cares for children and weaves with exacting mastery. In the Dresden Codex, she pours water from her vase as she helps God L, Ek’-Chuwah, sending the flood that destroys the Third Creation. Caves are a entrance to the primordial waters from which the mountains are drawn. Water can also rush out of caves. The crack in the ball-court from which the Maize God grows is also where sacrifice takes place. Water and the entrance to cave-wombs can be either life-giving or life-taking. Woman can be nurturing, but she is also to be feared.

Although all this is well known, it remains commonly asserted that the Mayans were patrilineal. The purpose of this paper is to problematize the concept of patrilineality in ancient Mayan politics and suggest that there was a ancestral, albeit hierarchical, rather than strictly patrilineal inheritance of political legitimacy by rulers in ancient Mayan society. 2

We will begin by noting the patrilineal claim made to interpret ancient Mayan social practice as a source of political legitimacy. This, it will be argued here, is in contrast to gender relations as accounted for in Mayan mythology. Here, we will consider the Popol Vuh, the meaning of caves and clefts for the Mayans, and their ideas of cycles. These mythologies and ideas were associated with the ancient Mayan social basis for gendered legitimacy, as seen in the next section. We will then look at how these factors influencing political legitimacy are represented in art at Tikal, Naranjo, Palenque, Jaina, Jonuta, Yaxchilán, and Bonampak.


I: The Patrilineal Claim and Its Qualifications

The claim that political legitimacy is derived from patrilineal descent is made frequently. For example, one source notes that, “The principle of selecting a single inheritor of supreme authority in the family from each successive generation usually focused on the eldest male child.” 3 Larger groups of families called lineages acknowledged a common ancestor. Lineages were combined into clans. Families and lineages were often organized hierarchically, with the top group asserting an accepted direct male line to the founding ancestor. “The Maya institution of kingship was also based on the principle of inheritance of the line by a single male individual within any one generation leading back to a common ancestor. The principle of inherited status permeated the entire society . . . .” 4 They go on to state that “public monuments erected by the Maya king during the Classic period emphasize not only his role as shaman, but also his role as family patriarch.” 5 Another author argues that “the major sites were governed by a ruler who claimed patrilineal descent from the founding ancestors.” 6

In contemporary Mayan families, there is a clear division of labor by gender. Men farm and women prepare food and weave in the home. Boys are given little toy field tools; girls toy household utensils. Men predominate in the public affairs of the village, while women enjoy substantial authority in the household. 7 Men dominate the public square while women have their due within the private household patio.

The observation that has not yet gained wide currency is made by McAnany, who sees variation over time and place regarding patrilineage. “Clearly, Maya society of Postclassic and possibly earlier times exhibited a tendency toward patrilineality in genealogy and inheritance; on the other hand, some of the best-known genealogies of elite Classic rulers, such as Pakal the Great of Palenque, are based on matrilineal inheritance. Bilateral descent patterns, furthermore, seem to have been operative among the Maya nobility of the Classic period (Marcus 1983: 470).” 8


II: The Mythology of Gender Relations.

Myth, or the set of stories used to understand the cosmos and humans’ place in it, reflects and creates attitudes that are important for political legitimacy. If accepted dynastic pedigrees are important for that legitimacy, and dynasties are traced back to creator mother and fathers as well as human ones, then we start to see the importance of gender relations. Mayan myth is infused with gender relations and the importance of females as well as males.

II A: The Popol Vuh

Part One of the Quiché story of creation, The Popol Vuh, is the account of how how Xpiyacoc and Xmunace “accounted for everything.” 9 In the beginning was primordial waters; the gods’ word caused earth to rise up out of it. They then brought forth creatures to praise them, name their names, and keep the days. They told the creatures, “We are your mother, we are your father.” 10 When all the creatures could do was squawk and chatter, the gods tried again to create humans who could provide and nurture, invoke and remember the gods, give them praise and respect. This time they made humans out of mud, but the beings just crumbled and dissolved. The gods try again to make humans; this time out of wood. They decided to talk to Xpiyacoc and Xmunace, the “‘Grandmother of Day, Grandmother of Light,’ as the Maker, modeler called them.”

Unable to create people themselves, the creators of the earth go to the “Midwife, matchmaker, our grandmother, our grandfather,” and say, “let there be planting, let there be the dawning of our invocation, our sustenance, our recognition by the human work, the human design. . . . Run your hands over the kernels of corn, . . .” and turn these wood creatures into humans. But the new creatures had no blood, no sweat, no fat. They did not remember the Heart of Sky. “Their faces were smashed because they were incompetent before their mother and their father, the Heart of Sky, named Hurricane.” 11 They became monkeys and were banished to the forest.

In Part Two, the Popol Vuh then changes to the story of the god twins, Hunahpu and Xbalanque, who go out to bring down Seven Macaw with a blowgun. Seven Macaw is the puffed up imposter who pretends to be the sun. His wife is Chimalmat and their two sons are Zipacna and Earthquake. The hero twins are preparing the way for the successful creation of humans and cannot permit imposters to interfere with the true creation; the imposter family of Seven Macaw must be defeated. They ask Xpiyacoc and Xmunace for protection in their mission. 12 Using genius and showing great courage, the twins destroy each member of this imposter family.

Part Three is the account of Hunahpu and Xbalanque’s parents and grandparents. Xpiyacoc and Xmunace have twin boys, One Hunahpu and Seven Hunahpu. The noise from their daily ball-playing annoys the underworld gods. The gods of Xibablba summon the twins to play ball in their dark world. They are terrible gods, these Scab Stripper and Blood Gatherer and Demon of Pus and others who draw blood from people and reduce them to bones. These gods present a series of test to the twins, who fail to figure out how to pass the one in which they are to keep two cigars lit all night. For their failure, they are sacrificed by One and Seven Death. One Hunahpu’s head was cut off, and his body buried along with his brother’s body at the Place of the Ball Game Sacrifice. 13 The gods put his head in a calabash tree, which causes skull-looking fruit to grow on it.

Blood Moon, the daughter of Blood Gatherer, hears about the sweet fruit of that tree and goes alone to it. The skull spoke to her and spit in her right hand, impregnating her with Hunahpu and Xbalanque. Blood Moon escapes the wrath of her father, who learned of the dishonorable pregnancy, and flees to the middle world, where One Hunahpu and Seven Hunahpu’s mother, Xmunace, lives. Nothing is said of the grandfather here.

Blood Moon announces to the grandmother that her sons are not really dead and that One Hunahpu is the father of her fetuses. Xmunace is also the mother of a second set of twins, One Monkey and One Artisan. She is skeptical of Blood Moon’s claim and tests the pregnant woman by saying she must go to harvest a netful of corn from the one withered corn plant in the garden. Blood Moon goes to the garden and calls to the Guardians of Food, “Thunder Woman, Yellow Woman, Cacao Woman, and Cornmeal Woman”. 14 She pulls ear after ear of corn from the dried plant, filling a big net with life-giving food. This convinces the grandmother that Blood Moon really is her daughter-in-law.

Blood Moon gives birth to Hunahpu and Xbalanque, who are mistreated by One Monkey and One Artisan. The twins eventually defeat their mean uncles, who turn into monkeys. The twins’ tools do the gardening for them, giving them the time to take up playing ball on the court above Xibalba. The underworld gods are disturbed again and summon the twins, just as they had their father. Messengers from Xibalba inform the grandmother, who is left sobbing by herself at home after receiving the news. The twins send message back with a series of animals who tell the grandmother that each of the twins have planted a green ear of corn in the middle of their house. When it dries, she may say that perhaps they died; when it sprouts again, she may say that perhaps they live. There is a cycle of life, death, and rebirth. This is as true for humans as it is for corn.

Even though the hero twins pass the series of tests the underworld gods give them, the gods want to kill them anyway. When the boys are burned and their bones ground, the corn they had planted dried up. The plants grew again when the gods throw the bone-dust into a river, where it sinks to the bottom and turns back into the boys. The water regenerated the hero-twins. The restored boys return to trick and kill the major gods of Xibalba, defeating the underworld.

The twins are able to speak to their father and put One and Seven Hunahpu back together, although they must leave them at the Place of Ball Game Sacrifice. They promise to remember and honor their fathers, after which the hero twins ascend into the sky, with the sun belonging to one and the moon to the other.

With the earth created, imposters and the underworld defeated, and regeneration enacted, the Popul Vuh can turn to the successful creation of humans in Part Four. The Bearer, Begetter, Makers, and Modelers named Sovereign Plumed Serpent say that “the dawn has approached, preparations have been made, and morning has come for the provider, nurturer . . . . Morning has come for humankind”. 15 The sun and the moon appear above the Makers and Modelers, who were at the “Split Place, Bitter Water Place is the name: the yellow corn, white corn came from there” (145). The water at Split Place became human blood and the corn there flesh. “And so they were happy over the provisions of the good mountain, filled with sweet things, thick with yellow corn, white corn, and thick with pataxte and cacao . . . — the rich foods filling up the citadel named Split Place, Bitter Water Place. All the edible fruits were there . . . . The way was shown by the animals”. 16 Xmunace ground the corn nine times, which was worked by the Bearer, Begetter, Sovereign Plumed Serpent, who were engaged in

the making, the modeling of our first mother–father,
with yellow corn, white corn alone for the flesh,
food alone for the human legs and arms,
for our first fathers, the four human works. 17

Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar Night, Not Right Now, and Dark Jaguar “are the names of our first mother–fathers” made from the corn ground by Xmunace. At first they were so perfect they were god-like, so the gods decreased their sight and understanding. Then they made a wife for each of the first four. These women “became ladies of rank, giving birth to the people of the tribes, small and great”. 18 The gods finally had succeeded in creating people who “remembered the Maker . . . . They were reverent, they were givers of praise, givers of respect, lifting their faces to the sky when they made requests for their daughters and sons”. 19

While the Hero Twins, Hunahpu and Xbalanque, are the main actors in the myth, the important role of women and of gender relations should not be overlooked. The divine couple grandfather–grandmother Xpiyacoc and Xmunace, the mother–father Sovereign Plumed Serpent, One Hunahpu and Blood Moon, the imposter Seven Macaw and Chimalmat, the first four human mother–fathers and their wives, all show gender relations or bi-gender essence to be central to the story of the creation of humans. Humans’ essential character is that of nurturer and provider, thought at least in the West to be feminine and masculine characteristics.

The role of women in the story is noteworthy as well. One and Seven Hunahpu, the twin sons of Xpiyacoc and Xmunace, are heroic but fail to pass the tests of Xibalba. Blood Moon makes her own independent journey from Xibalba to the middle world where people will live. She travels with no twin or other god. After appealing to female guardians of food, she passes Xmunace’s test of harvesting a netful of corn. It is her sons who do pass the tests of Xibalba and defeat its major gods. When Blood Moon arrives at the house of Xmunace, the grandmother is raising One Monkey and One Artisan by herself. These two single divine women run the household. They do so without the presence of fathers. When the final and successful creation of humans does occur, it is Ixmunace, the grandmother, who grinds the corn used in making them. The daily work of most Mayan women, grinding corn, was the work of the gods at the creation of human beings.

Schele and Matthews argue that there is much classic period art that not only represents the Popol Vuh as it is written, but adds to the story. According to them, after the Hero Twins revive their fathers, the Maize gods are attended by beautiful women. The Maize gods wake up who we call the Paddler Gods and God L. The Paddler gods carry the Maize gods in a great canoe, represented in the night sky as the Milky Way. They paddle to the constellation we call Orion, but they saw as a Cosmic Turtle. The Paddler Gods set up the Cosmic Hearth with three stone-stars on August 13, 3114 B.C. We call these three stars Alnitak, Saiph, and Rigel and see them as Orion’s Belt. The triangular cosmic hearth was recreated in each Mayan house’s hearth where women cooked meals.

The god Chak cracked open the turtle’s shell with a bolt of lightening. The Maize gods grew from that crack, also represented as a Ballcourt, and are watered and nurtured by the Hero Twins. The Maize Gods stand in the crack, from which is also stretched two serpents, who form the path of the sun. 20 Entwined serpents in the sky often represent the sky umbilicus which connects the sky with the earth.

Five hundred and forty-two days after setting up the hearth, the gods could create the four-corner cosmos and erect the center tree. The Maize gods also spun the heart of the sky in the same motion that (female) weavers spun thread. The constellations would move around this north pivot of the sky, providing the basis of measuring time. Time and space were established. The cord used by the gods in setting up the four cornered universe may also have been an umbilicus. As one translation of the Popol Vuh states:

Its four sides (or sections)
Its four cornerings
Its measurings
Its four stakings
Its doubling-over cord measurement
Its stretching cord measurement
Its womb sky
Its womb earth
Four sides
Four corners as it is said. 21

As Schele and Matthews note, “To create the harmonies of the cosmos, the gods used the same method of measure as a weaver, house builder, and cornfield maker. But cord measuring also revealed the innate symmetries of nature. . . .” 22 The umbilicus that connected the levels of the cosmos and gave it direction also connected Mayan rulers with the divine and the ancestors. Here, a Vision Serpent would connect the living ruler with sources of legitimacy and permit the birthing of a new period of time.

The gendered imagery in this is striking. A bolt of lightening opens a crack in the Cosmic Turtle Shell. There is a female path through which the male sun travels, the male Maize Gods (corn) are given birth from the female opening in the turtle (earth). A sky umbilicus connects the different levels of the cosmos. Both male and female are fully involved in the creation of the cosmos.

This imagery would find resonance in the lives of most Maya, since it was common for women to prepare maize and other foods at a three stone hearth. After having children, they often buried the umbilicus under the hearth. Contemporary Maya will ask where you are from by asking, “Where is your umbilicus buried?” 23

II B: Caves, Clefts, and Water

Humans are made from corn at Split Place, Bitter Water Place, on a good mountain. Mountains were raised by the gods from the primordial waters. Access to those primordial waters are found in caves opened by lightening and marked by a sacred Ceiba tree. 24 Water often flowed from these caves. The Popol Vuh says that corn came from that Split Place in the mountain. Bassie-Sweet argues that corn may well have actually grown first most abundantly at cave openings with their “sheltered environment, soil accumulation and higher moisture levels.” 25 She goes onto observe that “many Mesoamerican groups believed that their creators fashioned humans from corn and water found in a cave and that humans first emerged from a cave. The theme of procreation was consistently associated with the cave throughout Mesoamerica, depicting it as a womb and a source of life. . . . [T]he cave was a powerful location for fertility rights and extension cycles of creation, destruction, and re-creation (birth, death, and rebirth).” 26 Several Ritual of the Bacabs incantations refer to the four directions (north, south, east, west) as the four crossroads. “One of the deities named is IX Hol-can-be ‘lady opening-at-the-four-crossroads.’ This name also refers to the caves at the midpoints. . . .” 27 The cave is a womb and the Split Place the entrance to the womb where humans are created from thick corn gruel. 28

Corn itself comes from a divine woman. Drops of blood from Ixmunace turn into kernels of corn from which humans are made. Life, fertility, sustenance, and humans are from the menstrual flow, the female letting of blood. This has been true in recent Mayan groups as well. Bassie -Sweet observes that, “In Tzotzil Chenalho the spirit of corn is manifested as the maiden daughter of the rain god.” 29 Atitecos have a similar belief. For them, “there is a specific spirit who resides in each ear or kernel of corn, a generic spirit of all corn who resides in two female stone fetishes called the heart of corn. . . .” 30

These wombs with drops of blood — these caves with kernels of corn — are within sacred mountains. At the midpoint of each of the four directions is a mythical mountain with a cave, which has a sacred tree at its opening. The cave provides access to the sea beyond the mountain and to the underworld. 31

Clefts in rocks or in the sky are entrances to the underworld and the primordial waters. The Maya observed the Milky Way as a faint arching band of white across the sky. “In one section the band divides into two, forming a cleft. The Quiche call this cleft the road of Xibalba (the underworld) or the black road.” 32

The interaction between the female caves with male symbols are frequent. The Split Place is opened for entrance to the cave for creation by lightening, often represented as a snake. Chac is the rain god. The word Chac is a cognate of cauac, meaning lightening, thunder or storms. Chac created lightening by throwing his axe or beating his drum. The serpent was its animal counterpart. Cauac monsters represent mountains in most Mayan art. “In some myths the rain god assisted in the procurement [of corn] by splitting open the rock or the cave.” 33

The (male) sun rose each morning out of a cave in the east and entered the underworld at night through a cave in the west. 34 In the Ritual of the Bacabs, Itzamna and Ix Chel live in the waters of the directional caves and Ix Chel is associated with the east. In the Popol Vuh too she has an eastern association. She lives at the house of Hun Hunahpu near the eastern horizon. It is in the east where each morning the mighty son is born.

However, the grandmother is terrible as awe inspiring as well as life giving. The Dresden Codex shows her pouring water from a vase as the world is destroyed. And caves can be equally destructive. Winds are often said to come from any of the four directions, marked by mountains with caves. The prevalence of tropical storms and hurricanes in the region which can blow from any direction, and the experience of cool air rushing from the mouth of a cave, give a good basis for such a belief.

Each Mayan city has at its center a recreation of the Maya cosmos. They have temples which are sacred mountains. Plaster covered plazas stretch out in front of the temples, recreating the primoridial sea. In front of the temples are stelae, recreated sacred trees. Inside the temples are small, dark rooms which recreate sacred caves. It is inside of these rooms where rulers stave off destruction at the end of periods of time and recreate or give birth to the next period of time. They do this by letting blood from their genitals, often in the small room at the top of a temple. The drops of blood in the womb of the sacred mountain brought forth civilizational fertility. Scattering rites are scattering drops of blood from the genitals in order to create or give birth to new periods of time or of political legitimacy: the right to rule. Just as Ixmunace created corn by letting drops of blood and then created humans by grinding the corn from which they were made, political legitimacy was established in part by staving off destruction and engaging in the creation of a new period through the letting of blood from the genitals. The closest male leaders could come to imitating the life creating properties of menstrual blood was by letting blood, commonly from their penises, although also from ears, fingers, or other body parts. Women were occasionally portrayed as letting blood from their tongues, imitating the imitation. These self-mutilation rites were accomplished with stingray spines, obsidian blades, or other sharp instruments. The blood would be collected in bowls with blotting paper and then burned as incense offerings to the gods. Along with fasting, hallucinogens, music, and dancing, the pain would induce visions of the ancestors, giving ritual rebirth to them. They returned to grant legitimacy to the efforts of the practitioner.

II C: Cycles

Cycles in the Mayan agricultural society are crucial. The cycles of heavenly bodies, crops, menstruation, and birth are closely related. The times for planting and harvesting are determined by the seasons, which correspond to annual movements of the stars. This gives rise to a 365 day solar calendar with eighteen months of twenty days plus a special month of five days. The regular months have twenty days because the mathematical system is vigesimal. Instead of using ten fingers, the Mayans used fingers and toes to begin their mathematical system. There is also a 260 day ritual calendar. This calendar is comprised of twenty named days and thirteen numbers. There are thirteen levels to the upper world or heavens. The first name meets the number one every 260 days. This is as close as the vigesimal system can get, using whole numbers, to the common length of human gestation. Day one of the ritual calendar corresponds to day one of the solar calendar every fifty-two years.

The daily cycle of the sun, the lunar cycle, Venus’ 542 day cycle, and the menstrual cycle are all part of the cyclical movement of time. Time does not point out in a single direction; it moves ahead in circles. It does not exactly repeat itself, but moves forward in circles. Time is not an arrow; it is a Slinky.


III: The Social Basis for Gendered Legitimacy

Myth gives one type of voice to belief. However, social practices are other indicators of the bases for political legitimacy. Myth shows the importance of gender relations among the ancient Maya; social practices do as well. One of these practices whose remnants can be observed is that of burial. The ancestor gods created humans so that they could be named and venerated. This is done not only for the ancestors, but for the descendants as well. To be able to name progenitors gives descendants certain rights and claims to resources. Proper inheritance gives right to power and wealth.

This is why since the beginning of Maya culture, ancestors were buried in the family compound or farmland. There were no communal cemeteries on the outskirts of town. The dead were not excluded from society; they continued to play an integral role within it. Mayans did not have legal title to land from the state; they inherited land through their lineage. Eventually, elites raised carved stelae and altars to document inherited right to rule; but many Mayan households from before the time of Christ proved their right to land by the ancestors living beneath their floors. Ancestor veneration was not just for piety; it was highly practical.

The lineage name was patronymic and passed through the male line, “but Maya society was not a patriarchy in the strict sense of the word since importance was given to matronymics, referred to as naal or ‘mother’s name.’ Furthermore, the term for noble, almehen, was a compound of al (‘a woman’s offspring’) and mehen (‘a man’s progeny’).” 35 The contemporary Quiché refer to their lineage head as chuchkajaw or mother–father, which is the same meaning in Tzotzil for totilme’iltik. 36

The archaeological evidence for both genders being considered as ancestors is found in burials. Burials help demonstrate inherited right to the homestead and the milpa (cornfield). Vessels, figurines, jewelry, garments, and other items would often be placed on or around the corpse. As is the case in various Mayan sites for so many factors, there is great variation in the number of males and females buried as ancestors. At Seibal, for example, there are very few females found buried under structures (Tourtellot 1990). 37 However, at Tikal, only 22 percent of the thirty-two known burials can be identified as male. “For Copán, Webster (1989:14) estimates that four to five hundred individuals were buried at elite Group 9N–8; of the two hundred and fifty burials recovered, two-thirds of the skeletons identifiable as to sex are female.” 38


IV: Gender Relations, Public Art, and Political Legitimacy:

A. Tikal and Naranjo

Mayans typically built over the smaller buildings of their predecessors. The first buildings of what became the highly developed North Acropolis at Tikal were started around the second century B.C.. Burial 167 in Structure 5D–Sub–2–2nd is of a noble woman. This female ancestor of Tikal is part of Tikal’s foundations of its heriditary elite. 39

An unidentified king from about (514 A.D.) is shown on Stela 23 with his mother and father at either side. That same stela, located in an elite residential complex on the southeastern edge of the city, records that the so-called Lady or Woman of Tikal, who was born on (504 A.D.). 40 She at least came from an elite lineage, although her role in Tikal’s dynasty is unclear.

Altar 5 shows two dancing noblemen kneeling at the bones of a disinterred woman. 41

Caracol and Calakmul battled with Tikal and Naranjo in the seventh century, perhaps leading to friendly relations between the latter two cities. In the early seventh century, a Tikal noblewoman was buried in Structure 5G–8 in the suburbs of the city. Her parting gift was a polychrome vessel that included an inscription saying that it had once belonged to the Ruler I of Naranjo. Why the a bowl having belonged to this ruler ended up in her grave is anybody’s guess. Marriage, exchange of gifts, and a love story are all possibilities suggested. 42 Whatever the case, this woman was somehow involved in the epic struggle between these cities, which Tikal and Naranjo finally lost in (637 A.D.). For two hundred years, there were no monuments built at Tikal. The long hiatus had begun.

Marriage alliances began the effort that would undo the hegemony of Calakmul and Caracol. A woman from Itzan married Flint-Sky-God K of Dos Pilas, who became king there in 645. His sisters or daughters married kings at El Chorro and El Pato. This and a series of successful battles enabled him to neutralize Calakmul. His daughter, Lady Wac-Chanil-Ahau (Lady Six Celestial Lord) then went to Naranjo, where she reestablished a royal house after its previous destruction by Caracol. 43 Stela 29 at Naranjo tells of her arrival and the reestablishment. She married a nobleman of Naranjo, although his name is not recorded. 44 It was her letting of blood that called forth the ancestors and reopened the portal to the otherworld.

Five years after her arrival, Lady Wac-Chanil-Ahau gave birth to Smoking-Squirrel, a male heir to the throne. When five years old, he became the king of Naranjo. Throughout his long reign, every time he raised a monument to celebrate an anniversary of his accession, he paired it with another monument to his mother, the source of his legitimacy. 45 There is no monument to his father. Prestige from associations with foreign power, not gender, was important to Smoking-Squirrel.

When Smoking-Squirrel was still five years old, Naranjo began a military campaign against its enemies. Stela 24 shows Lady Wac-Chanil-Ahau standing on the back of a nearly naked, battered captive, a lord of Ucanal, taken in 693. Ucanal is just south and west of Caracol; defeating it in battle would show Naranjo gaining in its contest with Caracol. Stela 22 tells of the unfortunate lord being brought to a sacrificial rite. In 710, Smoking-Squirrel attacked Yaxhá. Naranjo had regained its position as a major power in the Petén under the leadership of Lady Wac-Chanil-Ahau and the son who always remained grateful to her.

In Tikal, Ah Cacau restored his city’s greatness. Among his achievements was Temple II, which was probably in honor of his wife. That temple looks directly across a courtyard to his own funerary Temple I.

IV B: Palenque

One of the Mayan world’s most beautiful and ambitious architectural and artistic cities is largely devoted to demonstrating political legitimacy through male and female lines. Palenque shows that patrilineality. Had become an important practice and idea in ancient Mayan society. An enormous expenditure of energy was made to demonstrate that legitimacy could be inherited through the female line. Presumably this was done because the audience was skeptical. However, this energy was expended because actual practice had not followed the patrilineal idea and by appealing to deeply embedded notions about bi-gender ancestral inheritance.

According to the art commissioned by Pacal the Great and his eldest son, Chan-Bahlum, Paenque’s dynasty began with Bahlum-Kuk on March 11, 431 A.D.. The line would continue through 799, the last date recorded at Palenque. In between, however, two women ruled: Pacal’s mother and great-grandmother. Ladies Kanal-Ikal and Zac-Kuk ruled in their own right. They were not regents, as was Lady Wac-Chanil-Ahau. Patrilineality would have dictated that women could not rule in their own right, that daughters should not inherit power from fathers, and that children could not inherit power from their mothers. Since two women had ruled at Palenque, this meant that there were three patrilineal lines by the time Pacal the Great took power. There would have been just one line if only men had been ruling the whole time.

The first patrilineal line went from Bahlum-Kuk through eight successors to Lady Kanal-Ikal. How she came to be ruler is unknown. Robert Sharer speculates that neither her father, Chan-Bahlum I, nor his brother probably had any male children. Any record of her husband has not been found. Her son, Ac-Kan, succeeded her; although traditionally his right to rule would have come from his father. Because of this, the lack of a record of his father is important. Did Lady Kanal-Ikal prevent it to ensure that the lineage went through her? Another of her sons was Pacal I, whose daughter, Lady Zac-Kuk (White Macaw), became the second woman to sit on Palenque’s bench of power. Pacal died about a year before Ac-Kan did in 612. Did Ac-Kan have no sons, did Lady Zac-Kuk outmaneuver the one(s) he had, or what? Since losing contenders did not get their names listed on stelae and lintels, the story will probably never be known. Lady Zac-Kuk’s son was Pacal the Great, who should have rightfully ruled through the line of his father, Kan-Bahlum-Mo’.

Straight patrilineal succession had not been the practice in Palenque for long before Pacal the Great went on a building spree. Patrilineal dynasty may have worked well in principle when father could be followed by eldest son. The stories of why this neat system was not followed in Palenque have yet to be discovered. It is not difficult to imagine the flaws in the patrilineal system. A king may not have a son. His sons may be highly unqualified to rule. Or perhaps, patrilineality was not as firmly established as has been assumed. Had there been hierarchical ancestral inheritance in which men might be favored but women could have long been contenders under a variety of circumstances? Did Pacal the Great take power without the legitimacy that a neat, single patrilineality would have given him, and thus went on his building program to make up for the deficiency? Had patrilineality become established over time, and Pacal had to restore earlier cultural norms regarding the importance of bi-gendered ancestry? Did Pacal create ideas of inheritance through women in order to justify de facto reality? In any case, his goal was to establish clearly the right to rule flowing through women as well as from men.

The means to do this was by building the Temple of Inscriptions and the Group of the Cross. “These remarkable monuments were designed to interpret the dynastic history of Palenque in such a fashion as to make their legitimate rights to the throne undeniable.” 46 To do this, they needed to present their dynastic, inherited legitimacy as direct and constant. The only way to do that was to show that legitimacy could be inherited through men and women. They showed that Pacal’s mother was like the mother of gods who was present at the beginning of the current period. Then they showed that Pacal was born on a day symmetrical to the birthday of the goddess. Pacal the Great thus had the same essence as the goddess. With both mother and son like the goddess, Lady Zac-Kuk and Pacal were creators of legitimate rule, replicating the creation of an ordered cosmos. The transmission of rightful rule ultimately came from the goddess mother of gods.

Did Pacal and his son Chan-Bahlum develop this justification, or was much of it developed by Lady Zac-Kuk? She ruled by herself for three years before her twelve year old son acceded to power. The tablet recording his accession is noteworthy in that Lady Zac-Kuk holds the crown, a symbol of authority. She lived for another twenty-five years, during which time she was no doubt a force to be reckoned with. Getting her son on the throne, thwarting the designs of her clansmen who were most likely interested in the position, and consolidating his power must have been largely her accomplishment.

After her death in 640, Pacal’s ambitious building program began. In 647, three years after his father’s death, he dedicated Temple Olvidado in the west of the city. He then built the subterranean galleries of the Palace, House E, House B, and House C. By his seventies, he began the enormous Temple of the Inscriptions in which his tomb and famous sarcophagus lid would be located.

In the Group of the Cross, Pacal the Great’s son, Chan-Bahlum, develops Pacal’s theme that descent through Lady Zac-Kuk replicates the practices of the gods at the time of creation. His grandmother is like “Lady Beastie,” whose spirit counterpart is the moon. In the inscriptions at the Group of the Cross, he explicitly makes a correspondence between the creation of the world, emphasizing the role of the First Mother, and dynastic events at Palenque. Chan-Bahlum portrays the First Mother as the first ruler of Palenque and as having been the first to shed blood for the city. “The model for human and kingly behavior was again manifested through the actions of the First Mother rather than the First Father.” 47 In this, Chan-Bahlum, like his father, was like the First Mother. Just as the First mother had let blood to create maize from which humanity was created, Chan-Bahlum let blood to create visions of the ancestors and gods—to give birth to the gods and ancestors. Pacal and Chan-Bahlum were the legitimate Mother Kings of Palenque.

IV B 1: Terra Cotta Figurines at Palenque, Jaina, and Jonuta.

In addition to stelae, altars, and architecture, terra cotta figurines are another important category of the visual arts that tell us much about gender relations and political legitimacy among the ancient Maya. Unlike the carvings on stelae and altars, these figures are in-the-round, showing all sides of the subject in fully three-dimensional poses. They show richly detailed expressions and the fine detail of clothing. They often present more informal, every-day scenes than the more formal, state presentations of rulers on stelae. There are also many more women represented in these clay figurines than on monumental imagery. Figurines were being produced in Mesoamerica by 1,500 B.C. at Tlatlico, Xochipala, and Las Bocas. Most of these figurines depicted women, with hips and legs often particularly pronounced. 48 By 100 A.D., Teotihuacan produced great numbers of the figurines, often of women in huipiles (brightly woven shirts) and head-dresses. The Maya produced figurines at many sites, but those of Palenque, Jaina, and Jonuta are particularly famous due to their number and quality. Many at Jaina have been recovered from graves, showing their ritual function. They are also found in temples, homes, and elsewhere.

Many figurines are of women dressed in their finest headdress, jewelry, pik, k’ub or huiplil or po’t, (undergarment and overblouse) and standing in a formal, ritual pose. Some depict transparent k’ub or exposed breasts, which was not a violation of modesty. There are very few figurines of naked women, although there is one of a woman who may be one of the gods helping to dress the Maize God after he was reborn in the Ballcourt of Xibalba. There are many figurines of pregnant women, nursing women, or women with animals, which may be their own or their children's animal spirit companion. They may also show the economic importance of women in their role as animal as well as child rearing. 49 There are many of women weaving or cooking. There is one of a woman with a folded book on her lap. (Scribes, or “He of the Holy Book” were most commonly male, although one of the portraits of Lady Eveningstar at Yaxchilán names her as “Lady of the Holy Book.” 50 ) Perhaps this figurine is of a female scribe or at least a literate woman. There are figurines of old women, some with sunken breasts and winkled faces, some with (grand)children. Some are of a woman with a rabbit, the symbol of the young Moon Goddess. Myths about the Moon Goddess sometimes emphasize the nurturing side of her character, others its licentious side. There are figurines of women in whose garments old or deformed men hide and tweak her breast. 51

One group of figurines show a woman at a portal made of intertwined rattlesnakes. The feather fans on their heads identify them as War Sepents. A sky glyph is above the woman. The word kan means both snake and sky. The Vision Serpent moves like smoke up to the sky or like a long-feathered quetzal as it flies through the sky. Another figurine holds a shield. While these women are not warriors, they do seem to have a role within warmaking.

These figurines show women as weavers, mothers, caretakers, grandmothers, perhaps licentious, literate or scribes, and participants in ritual. While there are none of women as warriors, they nonetheless show the wide ranging roles women played within Mayan society. Figurines of men depict them as scribes, court officials, participants in ritual, ball players, lords, kings, warriors, captives, dwarfs, and sacrificial victims. 52 Most are dressed, but one shows a man screaming in pain from his just perforated penis. One is of a male monkey with an erect penis; their overt sexual behavior in the wild making monkeys a symbol of sexuality for the Mayans.

These figurines show both men and women playing active, varied roles in Mayan society and exhibiting a range of characteristics. In addition to child rearing, Mayan women are shown in their economically important roles as weavers and animal raisers, and involved at least in a secondary role in war. While there is differentiation in gender roles, and there does seem to be a predominant male role in public offices, women are neither excluded nor unimportant in these depictions.

IV C: Yaxchilán: Split Sky.

Some of the most dramatic art in the Mayan world represents the political role of women and their relationship with male leaders at Yaxchilán. This city stands on the west bank of a horseshoe bend of the Usumacinta River, dividing present day Mexico and Guatemala. The city is surrounded on three sides by water, with an opening to land on only one side. From a hill on which Structure 41 would eventually be built, early Mayans observed that on the longest day of the year, the sun rose from a cleft between the two highest mountains in the Usumacinta region. The name of the city in Mayan meant Split Sky. 53

For five hundred years since its founding by Yat-Balam on August 2, 320 A.D., dynastic legitimacy was inherited by the kings of Yaxchilán. Represented by male genitals on a jaguar’s head, Yat-Balam, or “Penis-Jaguar,” was the father of the patrilineal line of kings. Yet the city’s most famous kings, Shield-Jaguar and his son Bird-Jaguar, who ruled the city from 681 to 771, commissioned public art with prominent roles played by women.

The only known representation of Shield-Jaguar’s accession rite on October 23, 681 is on Lintel 25, on which the new king’s wife, Lady Xoc, is shown having a vision of Yat-Balam, showing the unbroken inheritance of legitimacy from the city’s founder. It is striking that this powerful source of legitimacy comes not directly to Shield-Jaguar, but through his wife. On Lintel 24, there is the famous and dramatic scene of Lady Xoc pulling a rope through her tongue in a blood-letting ceremony as Shield-Jaguar stands above her holding a torch to light the ceremony in the temple room. It is this blood letting that opens the portals to the otherworld and gives rebirth to Yat-Balam so that he can bless the accession and then again the birth of Bird-Jaguar. Unlike Lady Wac-Chanil-Ahau of Naranjo, and Lady Kanal-Ikal and Lady Zac-Kuk of Palenque, Lady Xoc was neither a regent nor a ruler in her own right. Yet, she held this prominent public role as legitimizer of power. But why was she celebrating the birth of Bird-Jaguar, who was not her son but was the son by Shield-Jaguar of Lady Eveningstar?

The answer might be in the needs of power politics of the day. Shield-Jaguar may have married Lady Xoc in part because of her mother’s and father’s families’ importance in the city, as noted on Lintel 23. Lady Eveningstar was from the mighty city of Calakmul, and may have been married in part for reasons of strategic alliance. Lady Xoc also was well beyond child-bearing age by the time Shield-Jaguar married Lady Eveningstar. The public art shows that Shield-Jaguar chose the child of Lady Eveningstar to be his successor, satisfying his allies, while publicly honoring Lady Xoc at Yaxchilán, appealing to local elites and potential supporters.

Temple 23, with its famous lintels of Lady Xoc, was commissioned by Shield-Jaguar when Bird-Jaguar was thirteen. However, by the time Shield-Jaguar’s long life was over, Bird-Jaguar no doubt had to contend with other adult children and grandchildren of Shield-Jaguar and Lady Xoc. There was a period of ten years between Shield-Jaguar’s death and the accession of Bird-Jaguar. There was much consolidation of power and to accomplish and legitimacy to build in that time.

When he did become king, Bird-Jaguar went on an ambitious building program whose aim was to recognize his mother’s status and equality with Lady Xoc, as well as to recognize important local lineages. He also married an important woman and publicly recognized her prominent role in public life. Lintel 14 of Temple 20 shows Lady Great-Skull-Zero, the mother of Bird-Jaguar’s son, and her brother, Lord Great-Skull-Zero, in a bloodletting rite in which she holds a bowl collecting the blood and blood-stained paper while he holds the vision serpent in whose mouth appears a female ancestor. Bird-Jaguar’s temple recognizes the role of his wife’s clan in his successful bid to secede his father.

In Temple 21, we find a stela on which Bird-Jaguar shows his mother, Lady Eveningstar, in a blood letting rite similar to that of Lady Xoc shown on Lintel 25 in Temple 23. Here, Bird-Jaguar is asserting that his mother is just as important as his father’s principal wife. Nine days after he became king, Bird-Jaguar dedicated Temple 22, right next to the Temple 23, which celebrated Lady Xoc. On Lintel 5 of Temple 1, Bird-Jaguar holds a scepter in each hand while Lady 6-Sky-Ahau, a foreign wife from Motul de San José, holds a bundle, a symbol of authority. In Lintel 43 of Temple 42, he is assisted in letting blood by yet another wife, Lady Balam of Ix Witz. On Lintel 17 of Temple 21, Bird Jaguar prepares to let blood from his genitals whiel Lady Balam pulls a rope through her tongue in celebration of the birth of Bird-Jaguar’s son by Lady-Great-Skull-Zero. This is a clear parallel to Lady Xoc letting blood in celebration of the birth of Bird-Jaguar to Lady Eveningstar. The only difference here is that Lady Great-Skull-Zero is not foreign born but a member of an important local family. In Lintel 13 in Temple 20, Lady Great-Skull-Zero and Bird-Jaguar celebrate the birth of their son, Chel-Te-Chan. She holds a bloodletter and a bloodletting bowl, grasping the tail of a Vision Serpent out of whose mouth appears Chel-Te-Chan, held in the hand of Bird-Jaguar. Lintel 52 at Temple 55 shows Bird-Jaguar together with his son, legitimizing Chel-Te-Chan’s succession.

Mayan kings normally had themselves portrayed in public art letting blood, producing visions, taking captives, or so on individually. Shield-Jaguar and Bird-Jaguar are seen with their wives, with noblemen, or their wives and family members are seen without the kings. They are keenly aware that they do not rule alone, but that they need the support of foreign alliances and local noble families in order to hold power. The state had become too complicated for one person to rule alone.

IV D: Bonampak

The famous murals at Bonampak show something of the role of elite women as well. In the first of three murals, King Chan Muan and his wife watch from a throne the presentation of the young heir to the throne, their son, to the court. While there are no women visible in the second room’s battle scene, there are women on the right of the royal entourage in the third mural’s portrayal of the torture of male prisoners, whose blood helped seal the heir-designation ritual.


V. Provisional Conclusions

There is sufficient evidence to argue for the ancestral, rather than strictly patrilineal inheritance of political legitimacy in much of the ancient Mayan world. This inheritance involved both males and females ancestors. Ancestors were often men alone, but could be parents and grandparents of both sexes, or even females alone. Ultimately, inheritance of right to property and the right to rule came from divine ancestors. It also came from family ancestors who could be given ritual rebirth in bloodletting ceremonies. For men to maintain legitimacy, they had to imitate women’s ability to give birth. The frequently recorded period endings and other rituals often show men engaged in some phase of blood letting, which I suggest is imitation of the corn producing menstrual flow of Ixmunace. At other times, female leaders are direct actors in politics, especially at Naranjo and Palenque, important representatives of clans as at Yaxchilán, or playing varied roles as at Tikal, Jaina, Jonuta, and Bonampak. Through their own efforts and as ancestors who bequeath legitimacy to their descendants, women are politically important in their own right and in their politically related relations to men.



*: Prepared for presentation at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association, Washington, D.C., February 16–20, 1999.  Back.

Note 1: The phrase is used in Frederick Engels, Origin of the family, private property, and the state, edited by E. Leacock, International Publishers, New York, 1972, p. 218.  Back.

Note 2: Irene Silverblatt has made similar arguments concerning the Incas. She argues that Inca gender ideologies show “an intricacy that prohibits any unilateral interpretation of their significance;” . . . . She finds that they were “permeated by norms of gender parallelism,” and that they were t;complex, even contradictory.” See Irene Silverblatt, “Interpreting Women in States: New Feminist Ethnohistories,” in p. 150.  Back.

Note 3: Linda Schele and David Freidel, A Forest of Kings: The Untold Story of the Ancient Maya, Quill William Morrow, New York, 1990, p. 84.  Back.

Note 4: Linda Schele and David Freidel, A Forest of Kings: The Untold Story of the Ancient Maya, Quill William Morrow, New York, 1990, p. 85.  Back.

Note 5: Ibid., p. 86–7.  Back.

Note 6: Karen Bassie-Sweet, At the Edge of the World: Caves and the Late Classic Maya World View, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 1996, p. 17.  Back.

Note 7: Linda Schele and David Freidel, A Forest of Kings: The Untold Story of the Ancient Maya, Quill William Morrow, New York, 1990, p. 42.  Back.

Note 8: Patricia A. McAnany, Living with the Ancestors: Kinship and Kingship in Ancient Maya Society, University of Texas Press, Austin, 1995, p. 123.  Back.

Note 9: The Yucatec Mayan version of these grandparents were Itzamna and Ix Chel. Shrines of Ix Chel, or Lady Rainbow, were pilgrimage sites on Cozumel and Isla Mujeres. She was the patroness of childbirth, pregnancey, and fertility. In the Dresden Codex she is Chac Chel and was the goddess of weaving and midwifery. She is associated with, and sometimes identified as the moon (Thompson, 1939) and the sea.  Back.

Note 10: Popol Vuh: The Mayan Book of the Dawn of Life, Revised Edition, Translated by Dennis Tedlock, A Touchstone Book published by Simon & Schuster, 1996, p. 67.  Back.

Note 11: Ibid., p. 72.  Back.

Note 12: Ibid., p. 79.  Back.

Note 13: The ball-court is a portal, an opening to the underworld. It is usually shaped as a split place; a long, slim grassy area with slanted plastered stone sides on the sides.  Back.

Note 14: Popol Vuh: The Mayan Book of the Dawn of Life, Revised Edition, Translated by Dennis Tedlock, A Touchstone Book published by Simon & Schuster, 1996, p. 103.  Back.

Note 15: Ibid., p. 145.  Back.

Note 16: Ibid., p. 146.  Back.

Note 17: Ibid., p. 146.  Back.

Note 18: Ibid., p. 149.  Back.

Note 19: Ibid., p. 150.  Back.

Note 20: Linda Schele and Peter Matthews, The Code of Kings: The Language of Seven Sacred Maya Temples and Tombs, Scribner, New York, 1998, pp. 210–12.  Back.

Note 21: Quoted in Ibid., p. 35.  Back.

Note 22: Ibid., p. 36.  Back.

Note 23: Ibid., p. 26.  Back.

Note 24: Karen Bassie-Sweet, At the Edge of the World: Caves and the Late Classic Maya World View, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 1996, p. 4.  Back.

Note 25: Ibid., p. 10.  Back.

Note 26: Ibid., p. 11.  Back.

Note 27: Ibid., p. 23.  Back.

Note 28: The Split in the Sky and birth are also seen in the name of Tikal King Sian-Kan-K’awil, according to David Stuart. The glyph for his name includes the split in the sky sign, making his name mean “Heaven Born Sustenance.” See Linda Schele and Peter Matthews, The Code of Kings: The Language of Seven Sacred Maya Temples and Tombs, Scribner, New York, 1998, p. 333.  Back.

Note 29: Karen Bassie-Sweet, At the Edge of the World: Caves and the Late Classic Maya World View, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 1996, p. 12.  Back.

Note 30: Ibid., p. 14.  Back.

Note 31: Ibid., p. 21. Back.

Note 32: Ibid., p. 47.  Back.

Note 33: Ibid., p. 68.  Back.

Note 34: Ibid., p. 29.  Back.

Note 35: Patricia A. McAnany, Living with the Ancestors: Kinship and Kingship in Ancient Maya Society, University of Texas Press, Austin, 1995, p. 24. Back.

Note 36: Ibid., pp. 25, 61.  Back.

Note 37: Ibid., p. 61.  Back.

Note 38: Ibid., p. 123.  Back.

Note 39: William R. Coe, “Tikal, Guatemala, and Emergent Maya Civilization,” Science, 147:1401–1419; and William R. Coe, “Tikal: Ten Years of Study of a Maya Ruin in the Lowlands of Guatemala.” Expedition, 8:5–56.Traditionally, south and east are female directions, while north and west are male ones.  Back.

Note 40: Traditionally, south and east are female directions, while north and west are male ones.  Back.

Note 41: David Freidel, Linda Schele, Joy Parker, Maya Cosmos: Three Thousand Years onteh Shaman’s Path, New York, William Morrow, 1993, pp. 262–4.  Back.

Note 42: Linda Schele and David Freidel, A Forest of Kings: The Untold Story of the Ancient Maya, Quill William Morrow, New York, 1990, p. 179.  Back.

Note 43: This is a provisional interpretation, as noted in Robert J. Sharer, The Ancient Maya, fifth edition, Stanford University Press, Stanford, California, 1994, p. 233.  Back.

Note 44: She performed her first rituals in Naranjo just one hundred and sixteen days after Ah-Cacaw resurrected the kingship at Tikal. Ah-Cacaw did for Tikal much what Lady Wac-Chanil-Ahau did for her adopted city. Naranjo and Tikal were coming back.  Back.

Note 45: Linda Schele and David Freidel, A Forest of Kings: The Untold Story of the Ancient Maya, Quill William Morrow, New York, 1990, p. 187.  Back.

Note 46: Ibid., p. 223.  Back.

Note 47: Ibid., p. 255.  Back.

Note 48: Some examples can be seen in Charles Gallenkamp and Regina Elise Johnson, Maya: Treasures of an Ancient Civilization," New York, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1985, pp. 98–100.  Back.

Note 49: See Mary DeLand Pohl, “Women, animal rearing, and social status: The Case of the Formative Period Maya of Central America,” in Dale Walde and Noreen D. Willows, eds., The Archaeology of Gender: Proceedings of the Archaeological Association of the University of Calgary, Calgary, Archaeological Association, The university of Calgary, 1991, pp. 392–99. Back.

Note 50: Michael Coe notes the female scribes pictured in Mayan art and mentioned in hieroglyphic texts. See Michael D. Coe and Justin Kerr, The Art of the Maya Scribe, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York, 1997, pp. 36, 95, 99.  Back.

Note 51: See Linda Schele, Hidden Faces of the Maya, Impetus Communicación S.A. de C.v., printed in Singapore, 1997, pp. 19–55.  Back.

Note 52:

52. See Linda Schele, Hidden Faces of the Maya, Impetus Communicación S.A. de C.v., printed in Singapore, 1997.  Back.

Note 53: Carolyn E. Tate, Yaxchilán: The Design of a Maya Ceremonial City, University of Texas Press, Austin, 1992, pp. 4, 5.  Back.