Yohl Ik’nal

Digitised and vectorised signature of Yohl Ik’nal. Image Credit: WikiCommons

By Johanna Strong

Yohl Ik’nal – meaning Lady Heart Wind Place – was the first recorded Mayan queen, ruling from late 583 until late 604. She suffered military defeats to neighbouring cities in the later years of her reign but held onto her power until her death. She was crowned by Kan Balam, who is believed to be her father though some have argued he may indeed be her brother. She was the first Mayan woman to rule independently and not as regent on behalf of her husband or son, despite this being the societal expectation of the time. Her role provided a precedent for later female rulers such as Lady K’abel and some argue may have given Mayan women in general more agency.

Some historians suggest that she was married to Janaab Pakal, though others have argued that he was her son and not her husband. We can definitively say, however, that Ajen Yohl Mat was her son and succeeded her at her death. Yohl Ik’nal was also either the mother or grandmother of Sak Kuk, another strong queen.

Though little is definitively known about her life, what we do know portrays Yohl Ik’nal as a strong Mayan queen and a precedent for future female rule.

Recommended Reading

Dusty Ellis, “Cultural and Historical Views of Women in Ancient Mayan Civilization through Sculpture”. https://provost.utsa.edu/undergraduate-research/journal/files/vol5/JURSW.5.Ellis.revised.pdf

Lauralee, “Lady Yohl Ik’nal – The first female ruler of the Mayans”, History of Royal Women, 2018. https://www.historyofroyalwomen.com/the-royal-women/lady-yohl-iknal-the-first-female-ruler-of-the-mayans/.

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