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

What is a Who's Who?

There are of course various models that could be used for the entries to a Who's Who in the Classic Maya World. Of course the one that immediately comes to mind is the Who's Who series of books that are published in various countries around the world. Entries in these books are rather formulaic and include (for the sake of brevity) several coded abbrevs, so that they generally look something like this:

JAMPTON, HUGH HILAIRE ST. JOHN FRED MARLBOROUGH ALBERT VICTORIA, ctrg. co. exec.; b. Lower Puddletown, Dorset, July 1, 1946; s. Robert Wellington James Thomas and Mary Freda (Quick) J.; B.A., Harvard, 1969; M.A., Trinity Coll., Oxford (Eng.) U., 1972; m. Doris Helen Sturgeon-Smith, Aug. 25, 1968; children-Hilary, Thomas, Jane. CEO Jampton's Pies 1973-1996; pres. Happy Campers' Pastry 1981-1998. Recipient The Great Pie Award, 1987, Medaille de Pâté, 1989. Author, Pie in the Sky: Memoirs of a Pie-maker. Clubs: Piemakers, Atheneum, Windmill, Lolita's Blue. Home: The Quidges, Littlehampton, W. Susx. WO5 9PIE, England.

It seems to me that we can do a lot better than this. Those who know me well know that my favorite comedy is the great Goon Show, a radio program that ran on the BBC between 1951 and 1960 (it has been broadcast weekly ever since in that forgotten corner of the British Empire, Australia). Included in the many publications concerning this venerable show is a series of biographies of the leading characters. I quote one of them here and hereby declare that I shall try to emulate this kind of potted biography in the Who's Who in the Classic Maya World:

ECCLES (The Original Goon) Born 1863. Only child of Ethel Cox. Virgin birth. Educated at convent till age 7–end of education. Has had 18,312 interviews for jobs. Has never been employed. Spends his days walking around saying "Hello dere" to anyone who will listen. Wears a 33-year-old Burton suit. Is occasionally used by the Metropolitan Police for target practice. Was once painted by Augustus John from head to foot with whitewash. Likes children. Children like him. His economy drives consist of wearing only one sock. Was the personal friend of a brewer's dray. Was Home Secretary for three days–until the printing error was discovered. Lives near 29 Scrot Lane, Balham. Clubs: none. Recreations: walking around saying "Hello dere" to anyone who will listen.
(Milligan 1972:14)

In this Who's Who in the Classic Maya World, I shall present biographies of the various historical personages known from the hundreds of surviving Maya hieroglyphic inscriptions. Whether these individuals were caterers or endearing idiots is not recorded (nor what clubs they might have belonged to), but they were people worthy of mention in inscriptions that were mainly concerned with momentous events in the ancient Maya world.


Milligan, Spike
1972 The Goon Show Scripts.
London: The Woburn Press.

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