From Rags to Riches: The Class, Status, and Power of Clothing Among Ancient Maya Women

Author(s): Lisa DeLance

Year: 2015


Analysis of Maya female imagery has generally centered on the role of women as depicted on monumental architecture. While we understand these depictions to be tools of propaganda, they are often used to make assertions about the lived experience of ancient Maya women. In contrast to the analysis of highly politicized and highly public imagery depicted on monumental architecture, this paper examines depictions of feminine performance on a personalized medium: Maya painted vases. More specifically, this paper will focus on the juxtaposition of clothing design and performativity, including gesture, pose and activity, among Maya women.

An examination of vessel imagery through the comparative lens of performance and clothing challenges the idea of Maya social organization as a dichotomized system in which individuals are classed as either elite or commoners, but not both, never somewhere in-between. Although primarily an analysis of vessel imagery, these inferences can be extended to other forms of representation including ceramic figurines and mural paintings to form a more complete, and more complicated, picture of ancient Maya social relations. When clothing design and performative action are analyzed in tandem, the elite/commoner dichotomy collapses, revealing the highly meaningful intersection of ancient Maya social, political, and economic identity.

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Cite this Record

From Rags to Riches: The Class, Status, and Power of Clothing Among Ancient Maya Women. Lisa DeLance. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 397366)

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Clothing Status women

Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -107.271; min lat: 12.383 ; max long: -86.353; max lat: 23.08 ;