The lintels of Yaxchilan Structure 23 seem to be a demonstrable case wherein specific symbols are singled out and deliberately used in an ordered sequence. Taken together as a unified series, Yaxchilan Lintels 24, 25, and 26 summarize the multi-step process of royal autosacrifice. An iconographic study of the huipil patterns depicted on these lintels yields a better understanding of complex bloodletting iconography and the way in which depictions of ceremonial autosacrifice reinforce Classic Maya beliefs relating to the divine role of Maya elite in eliciting communion with the gods and the subsequent rebirth of the cosmos. The rich iconography of the lintels gives depth to our understanding of importance of royal bloodletting on a cosmic level. Their detailed imagery clarifies what seems to have occurred during each step of the ritual process. The events and symbolism depicted on the three lintels build from each other to form a unified iconographic whole centered on the rebirth of the gods and the cosmos through royal autosacrifice. Iconographic changes from one lintel to the next communicate the pervasiveness of cycles of death and rebirth in Classic Maya cosmology. The symbolism of each lintel communicates the interrelatedness of death and rebirth, while underscoring the role of the ruler in initiating cosmic renewal through autosacrifice. As Yaxchilan Lintels 24, 25, and 26 present themselves in an interrelated series, the subtle differences within the iconography from one lintel to the next represent important progressions within cycles of death and rebirth, elucidating the significance of certain steps within the royal bloodletting ritual and the cosmic rebirth that takes place as a result. As a set, the combined iconographies present on the queen's huipil—crosses, flowers, and toads—epitomize the objective of the ritual, namely rebirthing the cosmos and the gods through the sacrifice of divine blood.



College and Department

Humanities; Humanities, Classics, and Comparative Literature



Date Submitted


Document Type





Maya, Yaxchilan, bloodletting, lintels, iconography, ritual