The Blood Kings: Dynasty and Ritual in Maya Art
by Linda Schiele
April 17, 1992
Paperback: 336 pages
9.9 x 9.9 x 0.8 inches
$39.95 (Can 46.00)
The Blood of Kings: Dynasty and Ritual in Maya Art is the classic study of the New World’s most advanced, sophisticated, and subtle civilization: the ancient Maya. Thanks to the tremendous progress made since the breaking of the Maya hieroglyphic code in 1960, this remarkable culture has begun to emerge from the obscurity of history.
Maya hieroglyphic writings embellish everything from household items to monumental works of art and architecture. Objects such as portrait masks, costume ornament, lively polychrome figurines, and painted vessels are intricately crafted, clearly showing the degree of sophistication that marked Maya artistic production. This landmark volume provides a social and historical framework for the architecture and artifacts produced by the ancient Maya and reveals a culture as rich and varied as the ancient civilizations of Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.
“An elegantly written narrative history of the Mayas...that gives us a disturbing and comprehensive portrait of a people and their world.”
—The New York Times
“Monumental....A unique volume."
—William Weber Johnson, Smithsonian
“A work as remarkable for its text as for the photographs and drawings that illustrate it.”
—Octavio Paz, The New York Review of Books
“A masterly synthesis....The choice of objects and the quality of the photographs are outstanding.”
"Lavishly produced (with 122 color plates, 300 drawings and 50 black-and-white illustrations), this book, designed to accompany a traveling exhibition, is narrowly focused on the opulent lifestyle and ideology of the Maya ruling elite. Maya history is presented mainly in terms of the sumptuary art, dynastic succession and peculiar (sadomasochistic) courtly rituals of these aristocrats. Schele and Miller see as the keys to this civilization an underworld myth (the Popol Vuh) and grisly blood-letting and -taking ceremonies conducted in royal precincts, parade grounds, ball courts and battlefields, which are pictured on relief carvings and paintings. This interpretation is based on a new phonetic reading of Maya hieroglyphics that has gained ground since the 1960s, to which Schele has contributed heavily. She has come up with eyecatching decipherments of glyphs on monuments that identify the names, dates and some major eventsbirth, death, marriage, accession, the capture of enemiesin the lives of individual Maya kings. Much of this intriguing explication is clearly laid out in the text, captions and notes. "
A pioneer in the decipherment of Maya hieroglyphs, LINDA SCHELE (1942–1998) was John D. Murchison Regents Professor of Art at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of A Forest of Kings (with David Freidel), Hidden Faces of the Maya, and Maya Glyphs: The Verbs. MARY ELLEN MILLER is the Vincent Scully Professor of the History of Art at Yale University. Among her publications are The Art of Mesoamerica and The Murals of Bonampak.