Amy Maitland Gardner

The Maya Royal Court: a study of court etiquette and its representation in Late Classic Maya figural art

My research focuses on the social configuration of the Maya royal court and the appropriate manners by which the royal family, attendants, advisors and other personnel should engage and interact in the spaces of the court complex.

My research questions include:

What kinds of codes of behaviour existed in Late Classic Maya courts?

What role did posture and gesture play in the expression and maintenance of power relations within and between Maya royal courts?

How can a study of figural representations help to understand the rules for engagement in the royal courts at this time?

Court etiquette, defined as the customs or rules governing behaviour regarded as correct or acceptable in social and official life, provides a framework to consider how and why certain body movements would be performed by various people in the court. Performances may be dependent on the performer’s status, where they are in the court complex, and who they are in the company of.

I employ a structural-iconographic framework to analyse the interconnections among represented body postures and hand types in scenes of interacting figures on ceramic vessels and stone monuments: are there certain combinations which occur? What can these patterns tell us about the structure of relations in the court community? Comparative contexts in which the structured relations among people of the court are well known are explored in order to stimulate hypotheses with regard to the rules for engagement in Late Classic Maya court communities. These contexts include Early Modern Europe, Medieval India and Ancient Egypt.

Funding organisation

  • AHRC


 Educational background

  • BA Hons., Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge, 2009
  • MA, Comparative Art and Archaeology, UCL, 2010

‘The Maya Royal Court: a model for rules of engagement’, 33rd Meeting of the Theoretical Archaeology Group, Birmingham, 16th December 2011

‘Styles of the Flesh: exploring Maya social and political interactions through a study of body posture and gesture’, Graduate Research Conference, Institute of Archaeology, UCL , 16th February 2011

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