Link to enlarge Masculine head from Palenque Chiapas after Michel Zabé WHO'S WHO IN THE CLASSIC MAYA WORLD
Peter Mathews

Classic Maya Names: Introduction

Given how much 'history' we now know about the Classic Maya, it is rather ironic that we still no relatively little about their personal naming patterns. We do know that the way their names were recorded could be quite varied: some rulers are referred to with only one glyph in some instances while in others their names and titles can occupy twenty or more glyph blocks and take up most of the passage. We also have indications that there were several components to a Maya personal name, particularly that of a Classic Maya king.

Although it is almost a hallmark of Mesoamerican civilisation to have a part of one's name taken from one's birth date, this pattern was not nearly so widespread among the Classic Maya. Nevertheless, we do have a few examples of such names (see Classic Maya Names: Calendar Names).

From Palenque, especially, we have some examples of what are called 'child names'. These are personal names that presumably were given at the birth of the child, and for most individuals probably remained for life as their personal name (see Classic Maya Names: Child Names). In several sites, one name is widespread among the ruling lineage members: it is possible that this is some kind of family name, although this is by no means certain (see Classic Maya Names: Family Names). In the case of rulers, a royal name would also be adopted upon their accession. Again the best evidence for this comes from Palenque, where we are told on occasion that 'such and such is his accession name' (see Classic Maya Names: Royal Names). In most cases, the rulers used this royal name without reference to their child name.

In addition to these names, Maya kings and nobles could include various titles in their name phrases (see Classic Maya Names: Titles). It was also very important that Maya rulers and nobles were able to document their genealogy, as part of their claim to holding office legitimately. Because of this (in addition to reasons of filial piety, perhaps), parentage statements were fairly commonly included in the name phrases of individuals, particularly those of kings (see Classic Maya Names: Parentage Statements).

Previous Page  |  Introductory Page  |  Next Page

Return to top of page