Comparative Guts

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A segment of a Maya hieroglyphic text with a stylised glyph for ‘heart’

Site: Palenque
Culture: Maya
Date: Late Classic (c. AD 683)
Context: Temple of the Inscriptions, West Panel, A7-A8
Medium: Carved limestone monument
Figure credit: Drawing by Christophe Helmke

Much as with other Mesoamerican cultures, the Maya viewed the heart as the locus of moods and humours. Thus rather than just an organ, it was the place where emotional states were generated and resided. In the texts of the Classic period, we see courtiers attempting to placate their kings, by addressing to them with the idiomatic expression tihmaj aw-ohl, ‘inclined is thy heart’. The same expression is also seen in reference to the contentment of the gods, upon the adornment of their altars, at which point we are told utimiiw y-ohl uk’uhuul ‘it inclines the hearts of the gods’—as shown in the glyphic excerpt above. Together these reveal that hearts could be ‘inclined’, when these were said to happy and content. The highly stylised glyph for ‘heart’ is highlighted in the central glyph block. (CH)