272 pages, 6 x 9
44 b&w illustrations, 3 maps, 13 tables
Release Date:07 Nov 2017

Janaab' Pakal of Palenque

Reconstructing the Life and Death of a Maya Ruler

The University of Arizona Press
Excavations of Maya burial vaults at Palenque, Mexico, half a century ago revealed what was then the most extraordinary tomb finding of the pre-Columbian world; its discovery has been crucial to an understanding of the dynastic history and ideology of the ancient Maya. Over the years, new analytical tools introduced uncertainties regarding earlier interpretations of the findings, and a reanalysis of the remains of the ruler Janaab’ Pakal using contemporary methodologies has led to new interpretations of former accounts of his life and death.

This volume communicates the broad scope of applied interdisciplinary research conducted on the Pakal remains to provide answers to old disputes over the accuracy of both skeletal and epigraphic studies, along with new questions in the field of Maya dynastic research. Contributions by scholars in epigraphy, anthropology, and bioarchaeology bring to light new evidence regarding the ruler’s age, clarify his medical history and the identification of the remains found with him, reevaluate his role in life, and offer modern insights into ritual and sacrificial practices associated with Pakal.

The book leads readers through the history of Pakal’s discovery, skeletal analysis, and interpretation of Maya biographies, and also devotes considerable attention to the tomb of the “Red Queen” discovered at the site. Findings from the new Transition Analysis aging method, histomorphometric analysis, and taphonomic imagery are presented to shed new light on the perplexing question of Pakal’s age at death. Royal Maya life and death histories from the written record are also analyzed from a regional perspective to provide a broad panorama of the twisted power politics of rulers’ families and the entangled genealogies of the Maya Classic period.

A benchmark in biological anthropology, this volume reconsiders assumptions concerning the practices and lives of Maya rulers, posing the prospect that researchers too often find what they expect to find. In presenting an updated study of a well-known personage, it also offers innovative approaches to the biocultural and interdisciplinary re-creation of Maya dynastic history.


Jesper K. Boldseh
Jane E. Buikstra
James H. Burton
Andrea Cucina
Nikolai Grube
Patricia Hernández
Lourdes Márquez
Simon Martin
George R. Milner
T. Douglas Price
Arturo Romano
Carlos Serrano
Sam D. Stout
Margaret Streeter
Vera Tiesler
John W. Verano
Presents an illuminating, synthetic perspective of Maya nobility through biological anthropology that is woven into the epigraphic and archaeological record.”—Latin American Antiquity
“Testifies to the coming-of-age of life-history approaches in bioarchaeology and serves as a showcase for advances in bioarchaeology and Maya epigraphy.”—Journal of Anthropological Research

“[Janaab’ Pakal of Palenque] sets a new standard in Maya research… and should not be missed by anyone working on this subject.”—Anthropological Notebooks “The significance of this volume to Maya studies and to comparable bioarchaeological examinations of life and death in the ancient world should be obvious to any interested reader.”—Bulletin of Latin American Research

 “Pakal’s tomb has fascinated lay readers and scientists for 50 years and this volume will only add to that fascination in years to come.”—The Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology "This book is original in its holistic, multidisciplinary approach to the analysis of a single tomb and its attention to Maya chronicles as well as to skeletal analysis. It takes the reader carefully through the history of Pakal's discovery, skeletal analysis, and interpretation of Maya biographies."—Ekaterina Pechenkina, City University of New York

"This volume is a milestone for the study of Maya skeletal remains and epigraphy and sets to rest a dispute that has challenged the accuracy of both skeletal and epigraphic studies of the ancient Maya. It should be avidly read by Maya archaeologists, osteologists, and the ever abundant avocational enthusiasts of Maya archaeology."—Lori Wright, Texas A&M University

Vera Tiesler and Andrea Cucina are professors in the Facultad de Ciencias Antropológicas, Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán, Mérida, Mexico, where Tiesler is head of the project Bioarqueología en Area Maya and Cucina coordinates the master's program in skeletal anthropology.
Prologue Sergio Raul Arroyo
1 Studying Janaab’ Pakal and Reconstructing Maya Dynastic History
Vera Tiesler and Andrea Cucina
2 Life and Death of the Ruler: Recent Bioarchaeological Findings Vera Tiesler
3 Janaab’ Pakal: The Age-at-Death Controversy Revisited Jane E. Buikstra, George R. Milner, and Jesper L. Boldsen
4 A Histomorphometric Analysis of the Cortical Bone of Janaab’ Pakal’s Rib
Sam D. Stout and Margaret Streeter
5 Pakal’s Age in the Demographic Context of Late Classic Palenque Society
Lourdes Márquez, Patricia Hernández, and Carlos Serrano
Did Pakal Suffer from Deforming Diseases? True Facts and Iconographic Myths
Arturo Romano
7 Geographic Origin of Janaab’ Pakal and the “Red Queen”: Evidence from Strontium Isotopes
T. Douglas Price, James H. Burton, Vera Tiesler, Simon Martin, and Jane E. Buikstra
8 The Companions of Janaab’ Pakal and the “Red Queen” from Palenque, Chiapas: Meanings of Human Companion Sacrifice in Classic Maya Society
Andrea Cucina and Vera Tiesler
9 Longevity of Maya Rulers of Yaxchilán: The Reigns of Shield Jaguar and Bird Jaguar
Patricia Hernández and Lourdes Márquez
10 Ancient Maya Royal Biographies in a Comparative Perspective
Nikolai Grube
11 Discussion
John W. Verano
Appendix A
Appendix B
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