Mayan Queens - The Earliest Women Heads of Government in the Americas

Thursday September 29, 2016 7:30pm EST
Leonide Martin
Mayan Queens - The Earliest Women Heads of Government in the Americas

As Americans prepare to vote in the first US presidential election with a major party woman candidate, it's instructive to realize that women at the head of government is nothing new. In a much-anticipated return, guest author and expert Leonide Martin speaks in an Ancient Origins Premium Talk with an Expert chat, discussing Mayan Queens. 

The ancient Mayas were the first culture in the Americas to have numerous women in highest leadership positions. These "Mayan queens" were actually K'uhul Ixik or "Holy Ladies" and frequently given the masculine title K'uhul Ahau, "Holy Lord." The Mayan rulership system did not work like the European one; succession was not strictly hereditary although several Maya dynasties ruled for hundreds of years. Male succession was generally preferred, although many instances of women ruling in their own right have been recorded. Women rulers planned military strategies and at times led troops as Warrior Queens. Noble and elite women had high status in Maya society. Insights into how Mayan women rulers shaped the destiny of their people are given in my series Mists of Palenque, the stories of four great Mayan queens from the sixth through the eighth centuries CE. 

Leonide Martin is a retired California State University professor, former Family Nurse Practitioner, and is currently author and Maya researcher, studying Maya archeology, anthropology and history from the scientific and indigenous viewpoints.