Lady Xoc

Lady Xoc

Lady Xoc
Queen consort of Yaxchilan
Lintel 24 at Yaxchilan, depicting Lady Xoc drawing a barbed rope through her tongue.
Tenure AD 681—AD 7??
Spouse Itzamnaaj B'alam II (nephew)
Mother Lady Xibalba

Lady Kʻabʻal Xook or Lady Xoc was a Maya Queen consort of Yaxchilan and is considered to have been one of the most powerful and prominent women in Maya civilization. She was the principal wife and aunt of King Itzamnaaj B'alam II, who ruled the prominent kingdom of Yaxchilan from AD 681 to 742. She is believed by many to have been the sister of Lady Pacal.

Lady Xoc is best known for adorning Structure 23 in Yaxchilan with 3 lintels (Lintel 24, Lintel 25, and Lintel 26) that depict her performing rituals. Royal Maya women are often depicted via texts and iconography like lintels. However, other women of Maya culture are not depicted in this manner. Also, Lady Xoc appears in the images performing ritual sacrifices, which women were not typically seen doing in ancient Maya art. It is through Lady Xoc and her lintels that we understand just how involved royal women were with Maya rituals and politics. It has even been suggested that Lady Xoc acted as a regent.


  • Background 1
  • Structure 23 2
  • Lintels 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


Lady Xoc's lineage is what led Itzamnaaj Bʻalam to his throne; for this reason, she was his principal wife even though she bore him no sons. He was considered to be a great ruler of Yaxchilan. He was seen as a war leader of his time as he led many ritual battles with the surrounding city-states. He also erected many temples in Yaxchilan. Given that he was such a prominent and popular king, it is interesting to see that his principal wife, Lady Xoc, was one of the few women depicted in ancient Maya carvings. This fact alone speaks to Lady Xoc's popularity in Yaxchilan. :)

Structure 23

Detail of Lady Xoc on Lintel 24

Most houses in Maya civilization were owned by the supernatural. Inomata and Houston identify only 5 structures owned by humans, and only two of them were owned by women – Structure 11 and Structure 23. Structure 11 is owned by Ix Sak Biya:n who is also seen as a "woman of Itzamnaaj B'alam II".[1]

Structure 23 is seen as Lady Xoc's place in Yaxchilan and, in general, a place where royal women could gather. To pay homage to Lady Xoc, Shield Jaguar dedicated Structure 23 to her. Unlike the other structures created during Shield Jaguar's time, Structure 23 does not depict warfare. Furthermore, Tate reports that "through the selection of astronomically significant dates, [the location of Structure 23] implies that the movement of the planets and sun are synchronized with the activities of the Yaxchilan kings and Lady Xoc".[2] Many see Structure 23 as Lady Xoc's house because of the amount of privacy it provided – the four benches in the house are not located near doors. To claim Structure 23 as her own, Lady Xoc had 3 lintels (24, 25, and 26) placed above the doorway, thus asserting her prominence. Some historians discuss Structure 23 as Lady Xoc's queen's quarters, and it is often described as a place of great activity. Inscriptions on Lintel 25 have a term carved on it that mean "bee's house". Inomata and Houston believe that this sets up Structure 23 as a place for a woman - the Queen's space. Also, Inomata and Houston report that many of the inscriptions on the lintels refer to it as Lady Xoc's "oto:t" which translates from Maya to "her space". By giving Lady Xoc a space of her own, Shield Jaguar put his principal wife in a place of great prominence and power in Yaxchilan.

Another reason Structure 23 is identified as Lady Xoc's is the fact that her tomb is held there. It is believed that the front right room of Structure 23 holds Lady Xoc's bones, as they are carved with her name. Furthermore, this burial is considered to be the most rich and elaborate in the royal household of Yaxchilan. Also, Structure 24, created by King Bird Jaguar, holds the death dates of his most important ancestors: Shield Jaguar, his mother, and Lady Xoc. This structure is located near Structure 23; by recording Lady Xoc's death date, Bird Jaguar pays homage to his father's principal wife.

Structure 23 has been identified as Lady Xoc's quarters because of the lintels found adorning the doorway. It has been suggested that the rituals depicted on these lintels may have occurred in Structure 23 – given that Lady Xoc is pictured in the lintels performing ritual sacrifices with her husband, this would mean Shield Jaguar entered the space of women with power.


Lintel 25, Lady xoc at lower right

Lady Xoc donated three lintels to hang above the doors of a building in Yaxchilan’s plaza. In the lintels, she is depicted performing central roles in ritual life. The fact that a woman appears in the lintels as the central figure is what makes them so unique. Also, the lintels were meant to show the hopes Shield Jaguar had for the kingdom. Putting up the lintels was a way for Shield Jaguar to pay respect to Lady Xoc, whose lineage made him king.

In the art world, the lintels are numbered 24, 25, and 26 and are estimated to have been created in A.D. 725. In these lintels Lady Xoc is seen performing a bloodletting ritual in the presence of Shield Jaguar, communicating with a dead ancestor, and preparing the King for battle. By looking at these lintels in order, we can see the role Lady Xoc played in war and in the ancient rituals of the Maya.

In Lintel 24 Lady Xoc performs a blood sacrifice (or bloodletting ritual) by threading a thorned-rope through a hole in her tongue. In Yaxchilan, blood sacrifices were a way for kings to seek help or advice from departed ancestors. Blood sacrifices were seen as a way to get oneself in the favor of the gods – essentially, preparing the king for battle.

In Lintel 25 we see the pinnacle of the blood sacrifice; we see that Lady Xoc places her blood beneath her in a bowl. We also see the Vision Serpent rising from the bowl of blood. In the 2-heads of the Vision Serpent, emerging from its mouths, are the bodies of a War God and the founder of Yaxchilan – Yat Balam. From this we can ascertain that King Shield Jaguar is seeking help from the gods and Yaxchilan ancestors as he prepares for battle. Lintel 25 also is reported to have inscriptions on it that indicates that the lintel is placed above the house of Lady Xoc. The phrase is translated by Inomata and Houston as: “Lady Xoc’s house is the heart/center of Tan-Ha’ Yaxchilan” (p. 107).

Lintel 26 shows Shield Jaguar as he prepares for battle. Lady Xoc appears in the lintel as well, handing a helmet to the king. As Shield Jaguar was a warrior king, Lady Xoc hands him a jaguar helmet for battle. In Maya civilization the jaguar was a symbol of power. She also appears to be handing Shield Jaguar a spear. Both the spear and the jaguar helmet appear in other monuments with King Shield Jaguar (Inomata and Houston). In this lintel Lady Xoc is also wearing a headdress that Tate (1992) reports as occasionally being worn by kings on other sites at Yaxchilan.

Lintel 23, which appears on the southwest door of Structure 23, was not donated by Lady Xoc but contains genealogies for Lady Xoc. It also has glyphs that further indicate Structure 23 as Lady Xoc’s residence as it is inscribed to say “the opening/door of her house” (Insomata and Houston, p. 111, 2001). Lintel 23 also depicts ceremonies involving Structure 23.

Structure 23 was the subject of two och-k’ak’ ceremonies. These ceremonies involved modifications of the southwest doorways of the building as well as dedications of the carvings in Structure 23 (Inomata and Houston, 2001). Lintel 23 also shows that the ceremonies were attended mostly by women closely related to Lady Xoc. The fact that ceremonies were dedicated to Lady Xoc’s house further shows her stature in Yaxchilan. Furthermore, these ceremonies kept women involved in the social and political aspects of Yaxchilan society.

The lintels adorning the doorways of Lady Xoc’s house establishes the role of women in Yaxchilan society taking part in political, social, and ritual roles. From lintel 23 which shows Lady Xoc’s genealogy and the ceremonies involving her home to the famous lintels (24, 25, and 26) which depict her taking a part of ritual and political aspects of Yaxchilan life, Lady Xoc’s monuments depict her power and importance in Yaxchilan society.


  1. ^ Inomata, T., & Houston, S. (Eds.). (2001). Royal Courts of the Ancient Maya. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press. p. 113, 2001
  2. ^ Tate, C. E. (1992). Yaxchilan: The Design of a Maya Ceremonial City. Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press. Tate, p. 119, 1992

External links

  • - An interview with Mary Ellen Miller 'Mayan High Life'
  • - An article from the Smithsonian about the art exhibit showing lintels 24, 25, and 26
  • - The National Gallery of Art
  • - An article from the New York Times on the National Gallery of Art's exhibit