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HISTORY - Lady Kabal Xooc: Royal Consort of Yaxchilan

Updated: Nov 24, 2023

Lady K’abal Xook pulling a thorned rope through her tongue, Lintel 24 from Yaxchilan (Now housed in the British Museum)

Nestled deep within the verdant jungles of Chiapas, emerging proudly from the tranquil banks of the Usumacinta River, stands the remote and historically significant marvel of Yaxchilan. The anient glyph translates the original name "K'uhul Pa'Chan Ajaw," as "Sacred Lord of the Split Sky" but the more recent Maya name for this site translates to "Place of the Green Stones." The strategic positioning of Yaxchilan along the Usumacinta River, which linked several prominent Maya cities, gave it the advantage of formidable defense and a robust trade network.

Unlike the well worn path to tourist destinations like Tulum, Coba, Chichen-Itza, Copan, Tikal, and its neighboring Palenque, Yaxchilan receives fewer visitors due to her location. Nevertheless, the enigmatic allure of visiting Yaxchilan beguiles archaeology enthusiasts and adventurous travelers who travel the river to arrive in the same fashion as the ancient Maya, only with the advantage of a motorboat!

One of the most captivating aspects of visiting Yaxchilan revolves around Lady Kàba'l Xoc - an intriguing figure believed to have held position as the most pivotal queen consort of Maya society.

Structure 33 at Yaxchilan

The term "Xoc" translates as "fish." Among scholars of ancient Maya society, the prevailing conclusion is that Lady Xoc was the younger sister of Lady Pakal, thus bore the lineage of King Yaxun Bàlam III and Lady Xibalba. The progeny of such a distinguised lineage was further elevated through matrimony to her nephew, Itzamnaaj Balam II, though some theorize her lineage may have been higher than his at the time of their marriage, and was further exalted due to his success as a powerful king. According to historical records, Itzamnaaj Bàlam II ascended to the throne at the age of 34, circa October 23, 681 CE, reigning for an astonishing span of over six decades.

The practice of marriage within royal families was not exclusive to Maya royalty. This practice, intended to preserve the purity of the bloodline and deter rivals from challenging the throne, was a recurrent practice among dynasties around the world. Although Lady Xoc did not bear offspring for her King, he fathered children with his other wives. Despite the arrangement of a polygamist marriage, Lady Xoc occupied a unique position as the principle Queen among the king`s wives, a distinction that came with the expectation of her blood offerings during important rituals.

The Ancient City of Yaxchilan, Chiapas Mexico

Lady Xoc stands as an exceptional female figure, uniquely featured on stone lintels as a prominant participant in sacred blood rituals. Among the myriad of temples designated to deities, only five were dedicated to humans, of which two were women. Among these, Structure 11 was dedicated to Ix Sak Biyain, another wife of King Itzamnaaj Bàlam II, and Structure 23 stood as a tribute and sacred house of Lady Xoc, adorned with resplendent lintels that hung above its three doors. A distinctive monument in its own right, Structure 23 was the first house erected in over 150 years at Yaxchilan, which speaks to the importance attributed to Lady Xoc.

Lintel 25 from Structure 23 in Yaxchilan, Chiapas

This exquisite limestone lintel once adorned the entrance of Structure 23, and is captivating, though frightening representation of a blood-letting rite that transpired on October 23, 681 CE, coinciding with the ascension of King Itzamnaaj Bàlam II to the throne.

In this vivid illustration, the enigmatic Lady Xoc is immersed in a trance-like state, a phenomenon documented across other cultures where the practice of blood-letting was ritualized. This altered state of consciousness could be attributed to the rapid depletion of blood. Though scholars can only surmise, one school of thought is that the ritual pictured here is evidence that Lady Xoc was who elevated Itzamnaaj Balam II to his position as king, by sacrificing her blood for his exaltation. This theory would also explain why Structure 23 was built as a private temple, and why these intricate stone lintels, which are unique to Lady Xoc and not other women of Maya society, were commissioned.

Due to the date marking this ritual, it would have preceded the construction of Structure 23, which was ordered by the king only after he ascended the throne. There is a distinct difference between this and that of lintel 24 (pictured below), as there is no depiction of a torch, indicating this ritual may have taken place outside.

Lintel 24 from Structure 23 in Yaxchilan Chiapas

This famous limestone lintel once hung above another door of Structure 23, and illustrates King Itzamnaaj Bàlam II standing over his queen with a torch in hand. Both are clothed in elegant mantles, jade jewelry, and quetzal pulmes. The king`s torch indicates this ritual took place inside, presumably in the privacy of Structure 23. On the ground, at their feet, sits a bowl with paper and the end of the thorny rope that Lady Xoc is pulling through her tongue. The diamond shaped designs of her huipil represent the universe, and are still a prominant design in Maya textiles. Though the paint has long since disappeared, the pigments revealed her huipil was red. Unfortunately, this lintel now resides in the British Museum, along with Lintel 25.

It should be noted - the numbers on Lintels do not reflect when they were carved, but the order they were found and excavated. In this case, Lintel 25 is older than Lintel 24.

Historical records suggest that the King's eldest son, Bird Jaguar IV, ascended to the throne a decade following his father's passing. This prompts intriguing speculation, as it implies Bird Jaguar IV was in his infancy upon his father's demise, which raises the likelihood that Lady Xoc assumed regency over the realm during this transitional period.

Lady Xoc died on April 3, 749 CE, and was interred in her house, commonly known as Structure 23. Despite not being the biological child of Lady Xoc, Bird Jaguar IV immortalized both his mother (Lady Eveningstar) and Lady Xoc as his royal ancestral figures.

Site Map of Yaxchilan, Chiapas


Coe, M. D. (2005). The Maya (7th ed.). Thames and Hudson.

Kilroy-Ewbank, L. (n.d.). [Personal communication].

Martin, S., & Grube, N. (2000). Chronicle of the Maya Kings and Queens: Deciphering the Dynasties of the Ancient Maya. Thames & Hudson.

Pohl, J. (n.d.). John Pohl's Mesoamerica: Major Archaeological Sites: PreClassic to PostClassic. Retrieved from

Schele, L., & Miller, M. E. (1986). The Blood of Kings. Thames & Hudson.

Tate, C. E. (1992). Yaxchilán: The Design of a Maya Ceremonial City. University of Texas Press.

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