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Death and the Classic Maya Kings by James L. Fitzsimmons

By James L. Fitzsimmons

Like their regal opposite numbers in societies all over the world, historical Maya rulers departed this global with difficult burial ceremonies and indulgent grave items, which frequently incorporated ceramics, purple pigments, earflares, stingray spines, jades, pearls, obsidian blades, and mosaics. Archaeological research of those burials, in addition to the decipherment of inscriptions that checklist Maya rulers' funerary rites, have opened a desirable window on how the traditional Maya envisaged the ruler's passage from the realm of the dwelling to the area of the ancestors. targeting the vintage interval (AD 250-900), James Fitzsimmons examines and compares textual and archaeological facts for rites of demise and burial within the Maya lowlands, from which he creates types of royal Maya funerary habit. Exploring old Maya attitudes towards loss of life expressed at recognized websites corresponding to Tikal, Guatemala, and Copan, Honduras, in addition to less-explored archaeological destinations, Fitzsimmons reconstructs royal mortuary rites and expands our realizing of key Maya options together with the afterlife and ancestor veneration.

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Extra resources for Death and the Classic Maya Kings

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Stephen Houston has suggested that the Classic Maya sakb’ih, or “white road,” found at sites like Caracol or Tikal, may be death related.  There is some evidence to suggest that the ochb’ih death phrase does not always refer to the demise of the physical body. As I noted in a previous work (1998), there is a record at the site of Piedras Negras of an ochb’ihiiy, “[he] roadentered,” event for Ruler 2 that postdates his death. indb 33 10/30/08 12:37:58 PM de ath and the cl assic m aya k ings figur e 18.

Several years ago, I examined the ways in which royal anniversaries—events commemorating births, deaths, and other aspects of personal life—were observed by the Piedras Negras dynasts. The twenty-year anniversary of the death of a ruler, for example, might be marked by a special dance; it might even be celebrated by a “visit” to the tomb so that his survivors could gain access to his remains. 8 3 Lamat 6 Keh). On this day the tomb of Ruler 1 was “censed,” that is, burning torches, incense, or both were brought within the burial chamber.

Onyx vessel from Hix Witz (drawing by Stephen Houston) unlikely in light of the syntax used with cham-i, is that ti ? tuun is a place in the Underworld. Given what I have already noted about ochb’ih and death as a journey with multiple stages, both at Piedras Negras and in contemporary Maya societies, I find that ti ? tuun as a starting point for the journey is the most tenable interpretation. Houston has suggested that ti ? tuun is similar to the phrase och witz at Tonina, a type of entering conveying a journey into the darker mountain passages of the earth.

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