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Mayan Royal History

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Book Categories: Mayan Royalty, Courts, Civilization, Copan, Tikal, Art & Literature, Travel, Fiction, DVDs, Native Americans, Children's Books

Kings and Queens of the Maya

Chronicle of the Maya Kings and Queens by Simon Martin and Nikolai Grube. Includes biographical accounts of 152 kings and four ruling queens; data on their lineage, spouses and children, and places of burial; and timelines.

A Forest of Kings: The Untold Story of the Ancient Maya by Linda Schele and David Freidel. The first complete history of Mayan kingship, from its beginning to its decline.

A Forest of History: The Maya After the Emergence of Divine Kingship edited by Travis W. Stanton and M. Kathryn Brown. Essays on the social changes leading up to the spread of divine kingship across the lowlands in the first part of the Early Classic.

Lords of Creation: The Origins of Sacred Maya Kingship by Virginia M. Fields. Sculpture, ceramics, masks, jewelry, and early writing offer a unique perspective on Mayan kings, their people, and the gods.

The Blood of Kings: Dynasty and Ritual in Maya Art by Linda Schele and Mary Ellen Miller, photographs by Justin Kerr. Includes chapters on the royal person, rites of accession, courtly life, and more.

Death and the Classic Maya Kings by James L. Fitzsimmons. Royal death rites and burials in the Classic Period (AD 250-900).

Rise and Fall

Water and Ritual: The Rise and Fall of Classic Maya Rulers by Lisa J. Lucero. When the rains failed at the end of the Classic period (AD 850-950), the Maya rulers lost their authority.

Ritual, Violence, and the Fall of the Classic Maya Kings edited by Gyles Iannone, Brett A. Houk, and Sonja A. Schwake. Maya kings whose kingdoms didn't prosper were subject to the destruction of monuments and even violent death.

Maya Kingship: Rupture and Transformation From Classic to Postclassic Times edited by Tsubasa Okoshi, Arlen F. Chase, Philippe Nondédéo, and M. Charlotte Arnauld. Experts offer insights into the breakdown of kingship regimes in Maya lowland cities.

Mayan Courts, Cities and Palaces

Politics of the Maya Court: Hierarchy and Change in the Late Classic Period by Sarah E. Jackson. The Maya region of southern Mexico and Central America was composed of kingdoms ruled by holy lords. This book investigates the lives of the nobility.

Royal Courts of the Ancient Maya: Volume 1 edited by Takeshi Inomata and Stephen D. Houston. A study of the administrative functions, internal dynamics, and symbolic roles of rulers and their retinues.

Royal Courts of the Ancient Maya: Volume 2: Case Studies by Takeshi Inomata and Stephen Houston. Published in 2001, this volume provides data and insights from key Maya sites, including Copan, Tikal, Caracol, Bonampak, and Calakmul.

Royal Cities of the Ancient Maya by Michael Coe. The history of powerful dynasties and political intrigues, from El Mirador to the cities of the Maya Renaissance and finally Chichen Itza. Includes photographs.

Maya Palaces and Elite Residences: An Interdisciplinary Approach edited by Jessica Joyce Christie. Senior researchers report on sites in Belize (Blue Creek), Western Honduras (Copan), the Peten (Tikal, Dos Pilas, Aguateca), and the Yucatan (Uxmal, Chichen-Itza, Dzibilchaltun, Yaxuna).

Life and Politics at the Royal Court of Aguateca: Artifacts, Analytical Data, and Synthesis edited by Takeshi Inomata and Daniela Triadan. Aguateca is a Classic Mayan site in Guatemala. This book examines the life of the Mayan royal family, nobles, and their retainers through analysis of the site's artifacts.

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Mayan Civilization

The Maya by Michael D. Coe. An introduction to Mayan civilization. Explains the relationship between the warrior-kings of the classic Maya lowlands and Teotihuacan, the greatest city of pre-Conquest America. Includes a guide to reading Maya hieroglyphic writing.

The Classic Maya by Stephen D. Houston and Takeshi Inomata. In the first millennium AD, the Classic Maya created courtly societies in and around the Yucatan Peninsula, including large settlements like Tikal, Copan, and Palenque. This book reports on kings, queens, nobles, and farmers in societies predicated on sacred kingship.

The Fall of the Ancient Maya: Solving the Mystery of the Maya Collapse by David Webster. Ancient Maya civilization thrived in Central America for more than a thousand years. Then it mysteriously vanished. This book evaluates theories about the fall of the Maya and dispels myths. It paints a picture of a brittle Late Classic world, where ambitious kings, scheming nobles, courtly extravagance, destructive wars, and an exploding population led to unsustainable stress on cultivatable land.

Yucatan Before and After the Conquest by Diego de Landa. Written in the 16th century, this work discusses the Spanish conquest and its effects, and provides a long summary of Maya civilization. Includes maps and illustrations.

Time Among the Maya: Travels in Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico by Ronald Wright. Explores the ancient roots of the Maya, their recent troubles, and their prospects for survival.

Ancient Maya: The Rise and Fall of a Rainforest Civilization by Arthur Demarest. Drawing on the latest archaeological research, this study emphasizes the brilliant rain forest adaptations of the Maya and the spirituality that permeated their daily life.

Religion and Divine Kingship

An Illustrated Dictionary of the Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya by Mary Miller. Nearly 300 entries describe the main gods and symbols of the Olmecs, Zapotecs, Maya, Teotihuacanos, Mixtecs, Toltecs, and Aztecs. Two introductory essays summarize Mesoamerican history and religion.

Maya: Divine Kings of the Rainforest edited by Nikolai Grube. Photographs and essays.

Living with the Ancestors: Kinship and Kingship in Ancient Maya Society by Patricia A. McAnany. Ancestor veneration in the Maya region traditionally was associated with divine kingship and royal genealogies. In this study, the author challenges this assumption.


Copan: The Rise and Fall of an Ancient Maya Kingdom by David Webster, Anncorinne Freter, Nancy Gonlin. Using material from archaeological excavations begun in 1975 that focused on reconstructing the entire Copan Kingdom (located in Honduras), this book interprets the history of the region.

Scribes, Warriors, and Kings: The City of Copan and the Ancient Maya by William L. Fash, illustrated by Barbara W. Fash. Provides fascinating insights into the life and times of royalty, nobles, and commoners in the Copan kingdom.

Copan: The History of an Ancient Maya Kingdom by William L. Fash, E. Wyllys Andrews.

Trees of Paradise and Pillars of the World by Elizabeth A. Newsome is about the serial stelae cycle of "18-Rabbit-God K," King of Copan.


Tikal: An Illustrated History of the Ancient Maya Capital by John Montgomery. Recounts Tikal's rise from prehistoric times to the height of Maya civilization, and its spectacular collapse and abandonment.

The Lords of Tikal: Rulers of an Ancient Maya City by Peter D. Harrison. Summarizes what is known of this mysterious city and its rulers. Illustrated with photographs.

Tikal: Dynasties, Foreigners and Affairs of State edited by Jeremy A. Sabloff. About Maya archaeology.

Mayan Art, Architecture & Literature

The Code of Kings: The Language of Seven Sacred Maya Temples and Tombs by Linda Schele and Peter Mathews. A guide to seven major sites, richly illustrated with line art and photography. The authors' revolutionary work in the decipherment of the hieroglyphs on ruins give us a far clearer picture of Maya culture than ever before.

Popol Vuh: The Definitive Edition of the Mayan Book of the Dawn of Life and the Glories of Gods and Kings translated by Dennis Tedlock. This Mayan book of creation begins with the deeds of Mayan gods and ends with the lords who founded the Quiché kingdom in the Guatemalan highlands. This unabridged translation includes new notes and commentary, newly translated passages, newly deciphered hieroglyphs, and over 40 new illustrations.

Rabinal Achi: A Mayan Drama of War and Sacrifice translated by Dennis Tedlock. This Mayan play tells the story of city-states, war, nobility, diplomacy, and mysticism. Despite being banned for centuries by Spanish authorities, it is still performed today.

The Bird Who Cleans the World and Other Mayan Fables by Victor Montejo, translated by Wallace Kaufman. A collection of stories from the oral tradition of the Maya.

Mayan Jade

Stone of Kings: In Search of the Lost Jade of the Maya by Gerard Helferich. Jade played a crucial role in the culture of the Maya, but within 50 years of the Conquest, the source of Maya jade had been forgotten. This is the story of the 300-year search for the lost sources of this precious stone, a tale of great rulers, archaeologists, scientists, and entrepreneurs.


Time Among the Maya: Travels in Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico by Ronald Wright. Explores the ancient roots of the Maya, their recent troubles, and prospects for survival.

Lonely Planet Guatemala by John Noble, Susan Forsyth, Conner Gorry. Includes information on all major Mayan sites, including Copán in Honduras.

Frommer's Mexico by Lynne Bairstow.


Roar of the Jaguar: The Legacy of a Mayan Prince by Donald Frederickson. Action story about a Mayan prince, Shield Jaguar III, and his drive against all odds to become king.

The Visionary Mayan Queen: Yohl Ik'nal of Palenque by Leonide Martin. Yohl Ik'nal, first Mayan woman ruler, must overcome forces opposing her rule... betrayal and revenge, attack by enemy cities, and shamanic powers.

The Controversial Mayan Queen: Sak K'uk of Palenque by Leonide Martin. With her city in chaos and leaderless, a Mayan princess undertakes a perilous Underworld journey to seek help.

The Controversial Mayan Queen: Sak K'uk of Palenque by Leonide Martin. With her city in chaos and leaderless, a Mayan princess undertakes a perilous Underworld journey to seek help.

Children's Books

Ancient Maya: Archaeology Unlocks the Secrets of the Maya's Past by Nathaniel Harris. Modern-day experts provide windows into the Mayan world. For ages 10 and up.

Tikal: The Center of the Maya World by Elizabeth Mann, illustrated by Tom McNeely. Sprawling over 25 square miles, Tikal was situated in the heart of the Yucatan. Its rulers built a magnificent city of palaces, grand plazas, and stone pyramids. For children ages 9 to 12.

Mayan Tikal by Romano Solbiati, illustrated by Aldo Ripamonti. For children ages 9 to 12.

Documentaries on DVD

These DVDs are formatted for North American audiences.

National Geographic: Lost Kingdom of the Maya. Explore the ruins of the most highly developed civilization in the jungles of Mexico and Central America. You'll hear the startling story of the kingdom's downfall and witness ancient rituals re-enacted on sites where they originally occurred.

In Search of History: The Maya. Journey to the Mexican jungle on a quest to unearth the mysteries of one of the great empires of the New World. Scale the height of Palenque's great palace to investigate the Temple of Inscriptions, and find out why the Mayans altered their historical records.

Breaking the Maya Code. About the 200-year struggle to unlock the secrets of the world's last major undeciphered writing system.

Nova: The Lost King of the Maya. Sixteen centuries ago, a mysterious left-handed warrior seized control of the Mayan city of Copan, founding a dynasty that would last for 400 years. NOVA pieces together the fascinating puzzle of this mighty monarch.

Digging for the Truth: New Maya Revelations. When did the Maya Civilization truly reach its peak? Join host Josh Bernstein as he tracks their origins.

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