Death and the Classic Maya Kings (Linda Schele Series in by James L. Fitzsimmons

By James L. Fitzsimmons

Like their regal opposite numbers in societies worldwide, historical Maya rulers departed this international with tricky burial ceremonies and extravagant 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 list 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.

Focusing at 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 versions of royal Maya funerary habit. Exploring old Maya attitudes towards dying expressed at recognized websites similar 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 recommendations together with the afterlife and ancestor veneration.

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Extra info for Death and the Classic Maya Kings (Linda Schele Series in Maya and Pre-Columbian Studies)

Sample text

Ochb’ih is therefore an entering into not only a “road” but also a tunnel, gap, or opening; it describes the placement of the body in a tomb a certain number of days after death. How many days this was seems to have varied on a case-by-case basis, ranging from the next day to more than a week after the event (see Chapter 4); presumably some of this was related to grave preparation, although there may have been religious reasons as well. Yet we already have a verbal phrase, muhkaj, “he/she is buried,” used at Piedras Negras and elsewhere for burials.

Indb 34 10/30/08 12:37:59 PM de ath and the af ter life in the l ow l ands appropriate to conceptualize ochb’ih as encapsulating a variety of implied meanings, elements of religious belief that describe the change of an individual into part of the physical landscape. In its character, ochb’ih seems to describe a single action, “road-entering,” which is why I have departed from the usual och b’ih found in the literature.  Ochb’ih is something that happens to an individual; the deceased does not enter the road, but rather the road is entered by the deceased.

This rare insight into the El Peru mindset recalls the anniversaries of Piedras Negras. When viewed in the context of Classic Maya burials, it reminds us that tombs are collections of ideas as well as material remains. A further elaboration on these themes has been provided by Michel Quenon and Geneviéve Le Fort, who have outlined a sequence of events on monuments, vessels, and unprovenanced ceramics involving the death and resurrection cycle of a Classic Maya Maize God. Although there are a number of variations in this mythology, representing local or regional theological differences, the basic sequence of events remains the same.

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