cover image The Blood of Kings: Dynasty and Ritual in Maya Art

The Blood of Kings: Dynasty and Ritual in Maya Art

Linda Schele, Mary Miller. George Braziller, $50 (335pp) ISBN 978-0-8076-1159-3

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. (July 31)