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Classic Maya Dance: Evidence from hieroglyphs and iconography

  • Nikolai Grube (a1)
Abstract

A long-known verbal glyph in Classic Maya inscriptions is reinterpreted as a glyph for dancing (ahk'ot), apparently an important ritual of the ancient Maya. The glyph is found with scenes showing one or several dancers. Glyphs after the verb can be shown to describe the objects and instruments employed in dances. This article analyzes several examples of Maya dances and the ritual and social context in which they occur. These include the dance with a staff with cloth tied down its length, a dance with a “God K” scepter, a dance with a staff with birds attached to it, a dance with a staff with a “God K” figure seated on top of it, a snake dance, dances in warrior outfit, and dances at royal visits. A variety of dances is represented on polychrome ceramics. Many polychrome ceramics can be shown to depict dancing companion spirits, while others show dances associated with historical events. A comparison with colonial and modern Maya dances shows that they share the same emphasis on dance objects, but that the underlying religious and political messages have changed almost completely.

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Ancient Mesoamerica
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