Death and the Classic Maya Kings

Death and the Classic Maya Kings

JAMES L. FITZSIMMONS
Copyright Date: 2009
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7560/718906
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  • Book Info
    Death and the Classic Maya Kings
    Book Description:

    Like their regal counterparts in societies around the globe, ancient Maya rulers departed this world with elaborate burial ceremonies and lavish grave goods, which often included ceramics, red pigments, earflares, stingray spines, jades, pearls, obsidian blades, and mosaics. Archaeological investigation of these burials, as well as the decipherment of inscriptions that record Maya rulers' funerary rites, have opened a fascinating window on how the ancient Maya envisaged the ruler's passage from the world of the living to the realm of the ancestors.

    Focusing on the Classic Period (AD 250-900), James Fitzsimmons examines and compares textual and archaeological evidence for rites of death and burial in the Maya lowlands, from which he creates models of royal Maya funerary behavior. Exploring ancient Maya attitudes toward death expressed at well-known sites such as Tikal, Guatemala, and Copan, Honduras, as well as less-explored archaeological locations, Fitzsimmons reconstructs royal mortuary rites and expands our understanding of key Maya concepts including the afterlife and ancestor veneration.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79370-5
    Subjects: Archaeology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. LIST OF FIGURES AND TABLES
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. A NOTE ON ORTHOGRAPHY
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xvii-xxii)
  6. ONE CELEBRATIONS FOR THE DEAD
    (pp. 1-16)

    Rituals surrounding death are informed not only by biological concerns but also by social and religious norms of behavior. As a primary focus in sociocultural anthropology, the study of death witnessed an explosion in theoretical refinement and scope over the last few decades of the twentieth century, expanding far beyond its modest nineteenth-century origins in the study of social organization to address broad philosophical and anthropological issues.¹ Archaeology has followed a similar path, with speculative, chronological, and cultural approaches to burials supplanted by the concerns of processual and postprocessual theory.² Yet most analytical approaches to death have at their theoretical...

  7. TWO DEATH AND THE AFTERLIFE IN THE LOWLANDS
    (pp. 17-60)

    As observed by Alfredo López Austin in his seminal work, TheHuman Body and Ideology,¹ Central Mexican peoples of the Colonial Period saw mortality as an acquired attribute. It was a stigma procured during sex or maize consumption: ingesting maize and participating in sexual activity were ways of consuming death and incorporating it into the body. In eating maize, they brought what was born of the earth—of the realm of death—into their bodies and hence began participation in a larger life cycle.² Knowingin teuhtli, in tlazolli,“the dust, the filth,” of sex was likewise viewed as a...

  8. THREE ROYAL FUNERALS
    (pp. 61-104)

    As can be expected, funerary rites are not generally depicted from start to finish. Perhaps the best encapsulation of behaviors associated with death, burial, and rebirth comes from the aforementioned Berlin vessel (Figure 31). On it, a deceased lord is wrapped within a bundle inside a funerary temple, with mourners outside crying and gesturing toward the pyramid. Although his burial is not shown, it is implied: his bones sit amid watery bands, indicating his entry into the Underworld. He reappears in two forms, as an anthropomorphic cacao tree and as an abstract lunar deity. Even this vessel, however, does not...

  9. FOUR DEATH AND LANDSCAPE
    (pp. 105-141)

    Patricia McAnany has observed that creating a “genealogy of place” has been of historic concern to Maya communities. The establishment and recognition of land rights, in both colonial- and modern-era Yucatán, seems to have involved questions of inheritance, habitual encroachment, or primary occupancy. McAnany has suggested that similar ideas existed in pre-Hispanic times, with the “principle of first occupancy” defining lineage customs and conflicts in the Classic Maya lowlands. In essence, the first individuals to colonize a given area gain permanent ownership of the best agricultural lands; families who arrive later are forced to either fight for decent arable land...

  10. FIVE ENTERING THE TOMBS OF THE CLASSIC MAYA KINGS
    (pp. 142-169)

    Royal ancestors played a vital role in religious and political life, actively taking part in a variety of activities ranging from accessions to birthday celebrations. Dead kings occasionally “saw” or “witnessed” the activities of their descendants, overseeing events from celestial or similar positions in the manner of Classic Maya gods. Caracol Stela 6 (Figure 57), for example, mentions the scattering of incense by Knot Ajaw on the Period Ending date of 9.8.10.0.0 4 Ahau 13 Xul (July 4, 603). His actions at the Five Great Sky place are seen by his dead father, Yajaw Te’ K’inich II:yilaj ux ?...

  11. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  12. SIX THE DEAD KING AND THE BODY POLITIC
    (pp. 170-184)

    As Peter Metcalf and Richard Huntington have pointed out, divine kings and their relatives are natural symbols of the perpetuity and authority of the social order.¹ Nowhere in Classic Maya society was this perpetuity more important than in the personage of the king; the divine king embodied a force ultimately responsible for the maintenance of his polity religiously as well as politically. His fortunes were intimately linked with the fate of his site: his capture or sacrifice, admittedly the probable result of military or economic misfortunes, was the symbolic collapse of what Stephen Houston and others have termed “moral authority.”²...

  13. GUIDE TO APPENDIXES
    (pp. 185-187)
  14. APPENDIX 1: BURIAL STRUCTURES AND CONTEXTS
    (pp. 188-193)
  15. APPENDIX 2: BODY PREPARATIONS AND FUNERARY ACTIVITIES
    (pp. 194-201)
  16. APPENDIX 3: GRAVE GOODS
    (pp. 202-208)
  17. NOTES
    (pp. 209-226)
  18. REFERENCES
    (pp. 227-260)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 261-282)