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Maya social classes

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Title: Maya social classes  
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Subject: Tun (Maya calendar), Baktun, K'atun, Howler monkey gods, Annals of the Cakchiquels
Collection: Maya Society, Social Classes
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Maya social classes

The Maya social classes is a system of social ahau (king), nobles, priests, merchants and artisans, and peasants and slaves.[1] polity, there was halach uninic, also called the ahau. It is commonly accepted that the appearance of kings in Maya lowland civilizations occurred during the time period change from the Pre Classic to the modern times. This time period would make the first kings to be dated ca. 100. These kings were recorded on carved stelae. However, it was discovered in the Maya civilization of Nakbe that the first appearance of kings on stele occurred during the Middle Pre Classic. Additionally, in the civilizations of Kaminaljuyu, El Baúl and Takalik Abaj, located in the southern highlands, people and inscriptions of historical events were first made during CE 37, one of the most earliest dates.

Maya king and his servant

The ahau had many different types of duties. It is supposed that the ruler made policies used in the state that were applied to both the state and foreign relations, while being assisted by a state council, consisting of "leading chiefs, priests, and special councilors".[2] By having ceremonies that were both in public view and in private, the kings would participate in acts of dancing, giving of his own blood for a sacrifice, having “enemas and trances”, the king would be able to show that he was also the “mediator between the supernatural and the real worlds.”[3] In addition to these duties, during the New Empire the ruler determined who to appoint in the position of chief, also called a batab, for towns. Through examinations of the candidates at the beginning of the new k'atun, the ajaw was able to get rid of any person who was considered to be a pretender or who applied falsely. Both the batabob and the ajaw were usually positions of patrilineal inheritance and genealogy.[2] Lady Sak Kʻukʻ took the position of ruler in Palenque because at that time her son was not old enough.[4]


  • Nobles 1
  • Priests 2
  • Merchants and artisans 3
  • Peasants and slaves 4
  • Notes 5
  • References 6


Under the ahau in the social classes was the nobility. This class, also known as almehenob consisted of the positions of the local magistrates and executives, town counselors, deputies ah holpopob (who assisted local lords in governmental affairs) and the tupiles (policemen).[5]


The priests performed "activities of ritual, sacrifice, divination, astronomical observation, chronological calculations, hieroglyphic writings, religious instruction, management of the monasteries". In addition to these responsibilities, the priest assisted the ajaw with regards to politics as well. The class of the priests was also divided into other sections. These included the nacom (would cut the heart out of a sacrificial victim), who were assisted by four chacs and the ahmen (prophet and "the inflictor as well as the healer of diseases").[6]

Merchants and artisans

The Merchants who sold and traded with different cities and an Artisan who made the pottery and designed buildings and temples. The Maya were accomplished traders. They traveled by sea, river and well-constructed roads to trade with other city-states.

Peasants and slaves

Then there were the peasants. Men were farmers and used the slash and burn agricultural method. Women had duties in the household. Some peasants were asked to be slaves of the king. This was decided by the nobles.


  1. ^ Morley (1947 pp.174–176).
  2. ^ a b Morley (1947 pp.161–162).
  3. ^ McKillop (2006 pp.177–178).
  4. ^ McKillop (2006 pp.178–179)
  5. ^ Morley (1947 pp.168–170).
  6. ^ Morley (1947 pp.170–173).


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