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Lady K'abal Xook

IX-k'a[ba]-la XO:K?-ki. Drawing and transcription after Martin and Grube (2008).


Maya queen of Yaxchilan.

Itzamnaaj Bahlam III of Yaxchilan built Temple Temple 23 and dedicated it to his wife, Lady K'abal Xook, in AD 726 (Martin and Grube 2008:126). The prestige enjoyed by this Maya queen may be partially inferred from the fact that her husband seems to have spared no expense in the project, which he put into effect even before building his own "war memorial," Temple 44 (ibid.:126).

Itzamnaaj Bahlam brought in artisans from outside the kingdom (among them a stone carver from Sak Ook) to craft Temple 23's consumately artistic lintels (ibid.:126). Lintel 25 shows Lady K'abal Xook conjuring a partially decayed combination of serpent and centipede from whose mouth emerges a warrior wearing a mask of the Teotihuacan Storm God; this vision is said to be the took'pakal ("flint and shield") of the Yaxchilan patron deity Aj K'ahk' O' Chaak (ibid.:125).

On Lintel 24, Lady K'abal Xook performs an act of autosacrifice, pulling a thorny cord through her tongue; and on Lintel 26, she assists her husband in some military ritual, handing him a jaguar helmet (ibid.:125).

The glyphs of a lintel set in a side doorway of the temple relate a genealogy for the Xook ("Shark") lineage of Lady K'abal Xook (ibid.:126).

Itzamnaaj Bahlam was in his mid- to late-nineties when he died, and it is probable that he had outlived one or more of his most likely heirs (ibid.:126). The next accession recorded at Yaxchilan is that of Bird Jaguar IV, a son of the king by a lesser wife who is never mentioned in the inscriptions of her husband (ibid.:126-127). Bird Jaguar is known to have recarved earlier monuments, quite possibly including those of the king or kings who reigned at Yaxchilan between his father's death and his own accession ten years later (ibid.:127, 129-130). An inscription at Piedras Negras strongly suggests that there was a Yaxchilan king of this era named Yopaat Bahlam II (that he is recorded as a subordinate visitor to Piedras Negras and not an adversary may account for Bird Jaguar IV having inferentially purged him from the monumental record of Yaxchilan) (ibid.:127, 149). Possibly Yopaat Bahlam II was a son of Lady K'abal Xook (ibid.:127). It is known that she outlived her husband by six years and would have continued to be a power to be reckoned with at Yaxchilan (ibid.:127). An inscription at Dos Pilas records the capture of an ajaw of her Xook lineage in 745, although it is unclear how the succession was affected by the loss of this lord more likely to have been a nephew or a brother than a son (ibid.:127).

Lady K'abal Xook died in 729 and may have been buried in Tomb 3 beneath her Temple 23; this sub-floor tomb contained the remains of a mature woman, 431 greenstone beads and some three dozen ceramic vessels ibid.:126). But her death and a ritual performed at her "burial place" are actually recorded next door in Temple 24, suggesting that this was her memorial shrine (ibid.:126).

The foregoing is based on Chronicle of the Maya Kings and Queens by Simon Martin and Nikolai Grube (2008:125-126). Their sources include Tom Jones, Carolyn Jones and Randa Marhenke (1990) and Linda Schele and David Freidel (1990) for the Xook lineage. Martin and Grube (2008:231, Yaxchilan n. 22) note that the Xook term is still debated but direct the reader to Tom Jones (1996) on the subject.


Archaeologist Roberto Garcia Moll (2004:270) confirms that Tomb 3 of Temple 23 is that of Lady K'abal Xook, while the adjacent (and off-axis) Tomb 2 is that of her husband, Itzamnaaj Bahlam III. Inscribed bloodletters naming Lady K'abal Xook were found with the male interment in Tomb 2, but other carved objects name the king (Miller and Martin (2004:113).