Ancient Mesoamerica


Who Was Who in Ninth-Century Chichen Itza

William M. Ringlea1

a1 Department of Anthropology and Sociology, Davidson College, Davidson, NC 28036, USA


Hieroglyphic inscriptions from Chichen Itza are examined for possible light they might shed on its ethnic and political makeup during the Terminal Classic period (a.d. 800–1000). It is suggested that many of the name glyphs include patronyms known to be important at contact. This continuity of elite occupation is reinforced by decipherment of a title common to many of them ás holpop, a title also known from early colonial Spanish and Maya documents. Finally, a reading of the event of the lintel as yul is suggested. The implications of these readings suggest the genesis of at least some Late Postclassic organizational features in the Terminal Classic. Also arguing against a severe rupture of elite life at the end of the Terminal Classic is the persistence of patronyms in northern Yucatan. Colonial sources make frequent mention of migrations and invasions as the source of the distinctive art and architecture, yet if the arguments herein are correct, there was instead a remarkable stability of ruling families in northern Yucatan. Finally, the dedication of several monuments by different individuals, each having different patronyms and marked by epithets such as “holy,” suggests considerable autonomy of these lesser officials consistent with a segmentary state form of organization.