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

Classic Maya Names: Titles

Most of the surviving Maya inscriptions detail the lives of Classic Maya elite individuals. These individuals often are recorded with extensive name phrases usually include a number of titles. In Classic Maya passages, over 80% involves the name of the ruler along with a long string of titles. In some cases there seems to be an inverse correlation between the number of titles a ruler used and the effective power that he wielded-but that is a matter for discussion elsewhere.

Some titles are closely tied to the high status of the individual. For example, a title now read as Kalomte' (earlier attempts at reading this glyph were "Macuch" and "Chakte'") appears to be linked with the most prestigious of Classic Maya kings. Kings and high-ranking nobles can be of ajaw status, and can have the title Ajaw, 'lord', incorporated in their names and also in several titles. The most notable of these is the 'emblem glyph', a high title of kings which incorporates also the name of the kingdom (see Classic Maya Names: Emblem Glyphs). An honorific prefix or suffix attached to many royal names is a title that reads K'inich 'Sun-faced'. Lesser nobles can have titles such as Sajal.

Numerous other titles include Ch'ajom, 'Scatterer'; Pitzil, 'Ballplayer'; Yajawte', 'Lord of [i.e., belonging to] the Tree'; Yajawk'ak', 'Lord of [i.e., belonging to] the Fire'; B'akab' and so on.

Other 'titles' probably relate to particular occupations and offices: Itz'at, 'Learned Man'; Cheb', 'Artist'; Aj Kuhun; Ti' Sak Hun, etc.

Two important categories of titles are the so-called 'k'atun titles' and 'directional titles'. The former combine the 'k'atun' glyph (which in the Classic period was read winik hab', 'twenty years' [of 360 days]) with a numeral prefix, ahead of one of several other titles, such as Kalomte', Ajaw, Sajal, Ch'ajom, and Pitzil. The 'numbered k'atun titles' are particularly important because they incidentally record the age of the individual by saying in which k'atun of life he or she is on the date of the passage in question, as Proskouriakoff (1963:153) first recognised. 'Directional titles' combine one of the four cardinal directions with a recognised title, such as kalomte' or chajom.

Women also are recorded with many of these titles: they are written with the 'female prefix' sign, read Ix, 'woman', as prefix to form titles such as Ix K'alomte', 'Lady Kalomte''; Ix Ajaw, literally 'Lady Lord' –this title is attested in Colonial Mayan dictionaries as 'queen'; Ix Sajal, 'Lady Sajal'; and Ix B'akab', 'Lady B'akab'.

These and other titles are documented in the Other Names and Titles section for each individual in the Who's Who.


Proskouriakoff, Tatiana
1963 Historical data in the inscriptions of Yaxchilan, Part I.
Estudios de Cultura Maya 3:149-167.
Mexico City: Universidad Autónoma de México.

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