Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Kowalski, Jeff Karl, 1951-

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

School of Art


Mayas--Art; Mayas--Kings and rulers; Thrones--Mexico; Jaguar in art; Mayas--Mexico--Chichén Itzá; Chichén Itzá Site (Mexico); Mexico--Antiquities


This thesis investigated the significance of the Maya jaguar throne through time in an attempt to reveal the importance of this symbol of kingship and power to the ancient Maya (AD 250-1200). The application of a diachronic approach incorporated Mesoamerican predecessors and antecedents. Two distinct groups were chosen, the Olmec and the Aztecs, as they are generally believed to be cultural congeners of the Maya. The Olmec relate to the foundation of Maya civilization and the establishment of political authority, as the Maya considered themselves to be the inheritors of Olmec kingship. The Aztecs provide a parallel for the interpretation of some Maya early Postclassic (AD 900-1200) works of art. For the Classic to early Postclassic Maya, the objective of this study was to provide a fourfold explanation for the prominence of the jaguar as a religious icon. It is the premise of this study that all of these meanings were invoked when a Maya authority figure assumed the posture seated upon the jaguar throne, the paramount symbol of Maya divine kingship. A particular focus is placed on early Postclassic Chichen Itza, where, unusually, multiple jaguar thrones appear. The nature of rulership at Chichen Itza is not known for sure, yet the artwork from the site seems to confirm that a change did take place. The discussion concerns the architectural setting of five of the Chichen Itza jaguar thrones in order to delineate the meaning of the specific appearances of these ABSTRACT objects, and their ritual function. In each case, continuities and deviations with Classic period works of art are discussed, which provide a framework for interpreting the nature of the site, Chichen Itza, as a whole. Conclusions are drawn from the comparative study of two African cultures who utilize either a specific type of throne or animal imagery as a reflection of their form of authority. These cultures provide a counterpart for understanding the Maya jaguar throne.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [93]-105)


xiii, 150 pages




Northern Illinois University

Rights Statement

In Copyright

Rights Statement 2

NIU theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from Huskie Commons for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without the written permission of the authors.

Media Type