General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 26 Feb 2020/1 House
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Professor Jennifer Mathews

Question for February 2020

Were there any lady [Maya] rulers? Asked by Chalfont St. Giles Junior School. Chosen and answered by Professor Jennifer Mathews.

Pic 1: El Peru Stelae 33 (left) and 34 (right), portraying K’inich Bahlam II and Lady K’abel
Pic 1: El Peru Stelae 33 (left) and 34 (right), portraying K’inich Bahlam II and Lady K’abel (Click on image to enlarge)

Yes, although there were considerably fewer “Ladies” or queens (approximately 25-30 are known) as compared to hundreds of kings among the Maya, and unfortunately they are not nearly as likely to be represented in the archaeological record. However, there are some very interesting examples, a few of which I will describe.

Lady K’abel of El Peru-Waká, Guatemala (pic 1). Lady K’abel ruled El Peru-Waka for at least twenty years with her husband K’inich Bahlam (672-692). She was a military governor from another kingdom and moved to El Peru to marry her husband. Usually, women came from powerful kingdoms that had defeated a city and brought her to marry their ruler to cement a new relationship. Interestingly, her title “Kaloomte’” (or Supreme Warrior) meant that she was more powerful than her husband the king. In fact, we believe that she was the most powerful woman we know about in this part of the world during the seventh century. She is shown on several of the carved monuments at El Perú-Waka’, including El Peru Stela 34, which was looted from El Perú-Waka’ in the sixties and is in the Cleveland Art Museum. Her husband, K’inich Bahlam II is shown on El Peru Stela 33 which is in the Kimbell Art Museum in Dallas.

Pic 2: Lintels 24 (left & centre, detail) and 25 from Yaxchilan, depicting Lady Xooc and her husband Shield Jaguar; British Museum
Pic 2: Lintels 24 (left & centre, detail) and 25 from Yaxchilan, depicting Lady Xooc and her husband Shield Jaguar; British Museum (Click on image to enlarge)

One of my favorite queens in the ancient Maya world is Lady Xooc from Yaxchilan in Guatemala (pic 2). She is shown on a series of three stones that were placed in the doorway of an important temple, celebrating the installation of her husband as the new king in AD 681. In the second scene she is shown next to her husband who holds a flaming torch above her. She is running a thorned rope through her tongue as a kind of sacrifice and dripping blood onto sacred paper in the bowl at her feet. In the next scene she has burned the paper and she envisioned a masked warrior emerging from a serpent-like creature. This may represent her husband as a warrior and defendant of their city.

Pictures thanks to -
• Pic 1 (left): Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas
• Pic 1 (right) Cleveland Museum of Art
• Pic 2: photos courtesy of Jennifer Mathews.

‘Archaeologists Discover Tomb of Maya Queen Lady K’abel in Guatemala’

‘THE QUEEN OF EL PERÚ-WAKA’ NEW DISCOVERIES IN AN ANCIENT MAYA TEMPLE’ - much more information!

Learn about the Yaxchilan lintels from the British Museum

Professor Jennifer Mathews has answered 3 questions altogether:

Is the chewing gum tree only found in Mexico?

I’ve read that the ancient Greeks chewed gum too: who were first to chew gum, the ancient Greeks or the ancient Mexicans?

Were there any lady [Maya] rulers?

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