Virtual Middlebury

Open to the Public

The kingdoms and other principalities that dotted the Yucatan in the seventh century were, in terms of everyday governance, patriarchal. Consequently, female rulers existed but were rare. This talk explores the life of one such rare individual: Wak Chanil, a woman who once ruled what is today the archaeological site of Naranjo, Guatemala. Like many powerful women in antiquity, Wak Chanil was a politically ambiguous figure: she was a ruler, but not formally invested as a king or a queen. Unlike most people in her position, however, she was also a usurper and an unapologetic sorcerer. In a time of extreme social and political divisiveness, she was a competent figure. Beloved by her friends and hated by her enemies in a time of extreme social and political divisiveness, Wak Chanil became one of the most successful leaders of her era. Yet, in the end, no women followed her example. She was the last of her kind; this is her story.

James L. Fitzsimmons (PhD, Harvard University) is a Mesoamerican archaeologist. His research interests include the anthropology of death, the rise of complex societies in Mesoamerica, and the origins of writing. Dr. Fitzsimmons has either directed or been a member of several archaeological projects in the United States, Guatemala, and Honduras. He has worked at many sites in the Maya area, including Copan, Cuello (ongoing), Piedras Negras, Tecolote, and Zapote Bobal. In addition to his journal articles and book chapters, Professor Fitzsimmons is the author or co-author of six books, the most recent of which is Classic Maya Polities of the Southern Lowlands: Integration, Interaction, and Dissolution (co-edited with Damien Marken; University of Colorado Press 2015).

Hosted by Sarah Stroup, Associate Professor of Political Science.

See the Faculty at Home website for additional information, including how to register for this free event:

Sponsored by:
Provost's Office; Office of Advancement

Contact Organizer

Borden, Gail A.