People of the Jaguar


Figurine of a noblewoman

This clay figurine was placed in a grave of a noble person as an offering to the gods. The tatooed cheeks, elaborate turban, and hairstyle identify her as a member of the elite. The cut-step hairstyle was popular among noblewomen during the Classic period. The type of tattoo on her cheeks was most likely an embossment or raised surface where grains of sand were inserted into the skin to create bumps. She wears a dress called a huipel, large earflares (earrings), possibly made of shells or jade, and a necklace with two large beads, probably made of jade. She is carrying a ceremonial flint, a symbol of power and lightning. The Maya believed that each appearance of a flint represented a moment of transition - childhood to adulthood or life to death.

Terracotta
Jaina Island, Campeche, Mexico
Late Classic period, A.D. 600-900
Canadian Museum of Civilization, XXI-A-143
Woman wearing
a huipel

Archaeological evidence such as this gives indications of the important status of women in Maya society. Although Maya society was patrilineal, matrilineal descent could play a part in determining one's social standing. Pacal acquired his claim to the kingship of Palenque through women who ruled before him.