Link to enlarge image K5741 © Justin Kerr Charles Zidar

Family:  Pseudothelphusidae or Potamonidae
Genus:  Pseudothelphusa
Species:  spp.
Common Name:  Red Fresh Water Crab
Maya Name:  Ix bau or yux
Faunal Type:  Crustacean
Depictions:  01-CopadorCrab.jpg - Copador vessel with Crab motif and pseudo-glyph elements, providence Joya de Cerén, El Salvador. Notice the crab's almost comical netted nose and eyebrow like antennae. Photograph taken by Author at the MUNA (Museo Nacional de Antropologia de El Salvador) on June of 2007. [This crab in particular, given its close location to the Pacific and shape may in fact be an oceanic crustacean]. 02-PlaqueChichenItza.jpg - Jadeite plaque from the great Cenote at Chichén Itzá, redrawn by author from a photograph in Shane 1984:59. Notice the crab at the bottom with a single pair of chelae. This image has high affinities with El Baúl Monument 7 (http://www.famsi.org/reports/96008/images/fig18.jpg) from Pacific Guatemala in which the only major difference is the missing cleft on top of the carapace. 03-PaloVerdeMon04.jpg - Palo Verde Monument 4 shows a Crab worn as a headdress by a serpent like creature, redrawn by author from a photograph courtesy of Oswaldo Chinchilla. This reflects crab imagery as authoritative and/or administrative similar to Bilbao Monuments 1 & 7 (http://www.famsi.org/reports/96008/images/fig01.jpg & http://www.famsi.org/reports/96008/images/fig07.jpg ) in which both characters posses crab on their heads.
Significance:  The following conclusions were reached by my research studying Cotzumalhuapan monuments with crab iconography along side other artifacts with crab imagery in which they were cross referenced with Mayan mythology. Land crabs are found near rivers and springs and are hunted during the dry season, which makes them important not only from a nutritional point of view but also from a conceptual perspective. Given the descriptions provided in Mayan mythology with those portrayed on monuments I believe the crab is a red Fresh Water crab, which may belong to the genus Pseudothelphusidae or Potamonidae [http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Suesswasserkrebs_Kreta.jpg]. The crab symbolizes the earth in the same way as the turtle shell does. One example comes from the Great Cenote at Chichén Itzá were a golden crab bell was discovered with an incised quadripartite design (Coggins 1984:91). Conceptually the crab, conch and turtle are interchangeable (Akkeren 2000). My paper attempted to show how this quadripartite design represents the four quarters of the Maya cosmos and how the incision on the crab carapace is a testament to the crab's affinities with the earth. The above links the crab with First Mountain, similar to the cosmic turtle depicted in various Late Classic depictions and notably on plate K1892. In fact El Baul monument 7 seems to depict and represent just that. This idea is suggested in some Mayan legends, for example: as a disguised sun and moon (disguised as a turtle and crab respectively) attempted to escape the moon's father after they eloped without the fathers consent, a Chac struck the crab with a lighting bolt alluding to the liberation of maize from First Mountain (Shaw 1971). Furthermore the crab seems to be closely linked with the female aspect. This can be easily determined by looking at the story of Sipacna and its variants as well as the elopement stories and its variants (Christenson 2007, Tedlock 1996, Shaw 1971 and Bassie-Sweet pers. comm.). There is even linguistic evidence that verify this, for example 'crab' in Yucatec is 'ix bau', the ix being the prefix indicating that the subject is gender female, and in Mopan and Itza Mayan the word for crab is 'yux' which is synonymous with 'vulva' (Bolles 2001 and Bassie-Sweet pers. comm.).
Notes:  Research and photographs courtesy of Fernando A. Moreira, B.A.
Photos:  Click on an image below for high resolution comparison.

Other Faunal Photos:   Additional views of the faunal species, click on a photo below to view larger image.

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