Maya kings and nobles conducted public ceremonies on the platforms of temples. Their elaborate clothing identified them as those who had special powers to intercede with the gods. Kings were considered the living embodiment of a god who possessed the wisdom to guide the affairs of the people. Through fasting and bloodletting rituals, Maya kings and other members of the elite entered trances and travelled to the spirit world to bring divine energy into the material world.
Intricately decorated royal regalia was imbued with spiritual and symbolic meaning. Feathers from the sacred quetzal bird, jade decorations, jaguar skins, shells, and flints were used by the elite to proclaim their high status in the Maya kingdom. Ceremonial regalia linked the kings to the Creation story and to the power of the gods. For example, some headdresses were made from maize leaves, linking them to the Maize God; the hairstyle and sloping nose of the stucco head of Pacal, found beneath his sarcophagus, imitate the classic features of the Maize God. Other headdresses were made in the shape of a tree, to create an association with the Great Tree (the central pole that holds up the sky and joins together the Underworld, the Middle World and the Sky World); and some are shown with a bird image associated with the Celestial Bird, Seven-Macaw, a figure in the Creation story, or were made from the long, brilliant green feathers of the quetzal bird symbolic of Seven-Macaw.
Yaxchilan | modern Chiapas, Mexico
How far back?
2020 | Present