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Revisiting Capuchin Monkeys (Cebus capucinus) and the Ancient Maya1

Les singes capucins (Cebus capucinus) et les anciens Maya
Mary Baker


Deux genres de primates non humains , les singes hurleurs ( Alouatta palliata et A. pigra ) et les singes araignées (Ateles geoffroyi) résident actuellement dans toute la zone habitée par les Mayas modernes. Michael Coe (1978 , 1989) a suggéré que la civilisation Maya classique (300-900 av. J.-C) associait ces primates, les singes hurleurs en particulier, aux représentations artistiques telles qu'illustrées dans le mythe de la création Quiche Maya , le Popol Vuh, et dans les représentations des hommes-singes scribes, représentées sur les céramiques classiques tardives (550-900 av. J.-C). Cet article réévalue les éléments de preuve, déjà contestés par Baker (1992), des deux documents de M Coe. Notre article adopte une approche de terrain éthnoprimatologique à quatre niveaux. Elle intègre les contenus de l'anthropologie culturelle , biologique , linguistique et archéologique afin de discuter les preuves que les singes capucins (Cebus capucinus ) étaient bien présents dans la région Maya aux temps anciens. Nous proposons, à partir de comparaisons interspécifiques de caractéristiques morphologiques et comportementales et de données linguistiques, que les singes capucins sont bien dans les représentations des "singes" scribes. Bien que la plupart de la littérature précédente se soit focalisée sur le terme Hunbatz pour déterminer lesquels des singes étaient représentés, nous suggérons ici que le terme k'oy devrait être utilisé en remplacement.

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1 Introduction

  • 1  Vincent Leblan is entirely to thank for recognizing this early work and asking me to revisit the s (...)

1This paper begins at the time of creation. According to the Popol Vuh, the Quiché Maya creation myth, in the earliest time there was only still, silent sky and sea. Heart of Sky and Quetzal Serpent came together with other gods to form the earth, mountains, valleys and rivers. They gave birth to animals and gave them homes, places to rest. The animals were called on to speak the names of the gods, to revere and worship them, but the animals were only able to squawk, chatter and roar. Needing to be thus honored, the gods then decided to create people made of earth and mud, but these people soaked up water and dissolved; they couldn’t walk and they couldn’t speak (Christenson 2007; Recinos 1950; Tedlock 1985). Next, in consultation with the diviners Xpiyacoc and Xmucanc (grandfather and grandmother deities), they created wooden people, but these humans did not have souls or minds. So the gods had them beaten and disfigured before sending a deluge of heavy rain. The wooden people turned into spider monkeys (k’oy): their descendants are the monkeys which live in the forests today and accounts for the resemblance between monkeys and humans (Christenson 2007).

2Before recounting the third and successful creation of humans from corn, the myth goes on to tell the story of the descendants of Xpiyacoc and Xmucanc. Of particular interest in this paper, it discusses the lives of two sets of twins who were also half-brothers. The first set of twins were named Hunbatz and Hunchouén; they grew to be very wise and they became great musicians, singers, flautists, painters, and carvers. The second set of twins were named Hunahpú and Xbalanqué, the Hero Twins. The myth gives focus to discord between the two sets of twins: The older brothers, Hunbatz and Hunchouén, were lazy and envious of their younger brothers and abused them. The younger brothers were forced to grow and hunt food, but they were permitted to eat only after everyone had eaten their share (Christenson 2007; Recinos 1950; Tedlock 1985).

3The younger brothers, Hunahpú and Xbalanqué, got tired of being abused, so they tricked their older brothers. They told them they had shot a bird which was stuck in a tree and they asked the older brothers to climb up and get it. As Hunbatz and Hunchouén climbed, the tree began to grow, bigger and bigger. Hunbatz and Hunchouén were afraid they would fall, so the younger brothers told them to loosen their loincloths and tie them to a tree branch. As they did, their loincloths became tails and Hunbatz and Hunchouén turned into spider monkeys (k’oy).

4When the Hero Twins returned home, their grandmother was distraught over the loss of Hunbatz and Hunchouén. Hunahpú and Xbalanqué reassured her saying they would call the older brothers back, but only as a trial for their grandmother: she must not laugh when she saw them as monkeys. The Hero twins played the song of “Hunahpú‑k’oy” (Hunahpú Spider Monkey) on their flutes, inviting the older brothers back. But when their grandmother saw their silly faces, she could only laugh. Hunahpú and Xbalanqué said they would give their grandmother three more chances not to laugh at the fallen older brothers, but each time Hunbatz and Hunchouén returned, their grandmother would burst out laughing. Thus was the fall of Hunbatz and Hunchouén who became animals. But not completely disgraced, they became the patron gods of the arts: musicians, singers, dancers, carvers, painters and craftsmen (Christenson 2007; Recinos 1950; Tedlock 1985).

5Epigrapher and iconographer Michael Coe (1978, 1989) asserts that howler monkeys predominate in the representations of the monkey-man scribes portrayed on Late Classic (A.D. 550-900) funerary ceramics, which depict Hunbatz and Hunchouén. Coe also argues that all nonhuman personifications of the Maya day glyph, kin, are monkeys and particularly howler monkeys (see also Braakhuis 1987). However, as discussed in my previous paper (Baker 1992) there are many problems with his analysis. His conclusions were based on three lines of reasoning: an assumed but erroneous understanding of the distribution of Neotropical primates, limited linguistic data, and a limited understanding of the relevant morphological traits of monkeys living in the Maya region.

6In this paper I revisit my original article (Baker 1992), again taking a four-field anthropological approach to re-interpret the iconography, considering how primatology can inform Maya archaeology. I will be comparing the content I collected in 1992 with more recent findings of Maya archaeologists, linguists, and iconographers. I also question the assumption that the name of Hunbatz, one of the fallen older brothers, should be the focal point of species identification. Instead, I think it is better to focus in on the term k’oy, which is what the fallen brothers and wooden people in the second creation were turned into, and thus spider monkeys may predominate in Maya ritual depictions of scribes and monkeys.

2 Modern distribution of monkeys in the Maya region

7Coe (1978, 1989) stated that there are only three nonhuman primate species in the Maya region (Figure 1): Black howler monkeys (Alouatta pigra), mantled howler monkeys (Alouatta palliata) and Geoffroyi’s spider monkeys (Ateles geoffroyi). It is well documented that A. pigra extends up into the Yucatan Peninsula through Belize and north-eastern Guatemala and A. palliata exists from southern Mexico, through Central America and northern South America (Crockett & Eisenberg 1987; Emiliano and Cucina 2005; Estrada et al., 2004; Fedigan et al., 1998; Fedigan and Jack 2001; Munoz et al., 2006; Rylands et al., 2005). A. geoffroyi overlaps the combined distributions of A. pigra and A. palliata (Emiliano and Cucina 2005; Rylands et al., 2005).



Map of the Maya region locating Alouatta pigra, Alouatta palliata and Cebus capucinus.  Ateles geoffroyi is located throughout the entire are represented.
Localisation sur une carte de la région Maya de Alouatta pigra, Alouatta palliata et Cebus capucinus. Les Ateles geoffroyi  sont représentés sur l'ensemble du territoire.

8There are verifiable records of white-faced capuchin monkeys, Cebus capucinus, in Honduras (Figure 1), well within the area encompassed by both modern and ancient Maya (McCarthy 1982, 1983; Hollister 1914, 1982). Archaeologist George Gordon (1898) described them in his account of excavations in the Ulúa Valley, Honduras, in which he described the very curious little white-faced monkey[s] in the nearby trees during his 1896-1902 excavations. Additionally, the Honduran parks around Tela and La Ceiba, including Laguna de los Micos, advertise white faced capuchins as frequently -sighted mammals and have been documented therein (see​reports/​ris/​6HN002EN_FORMER_1993.pdf). John Stuart Buckley (1983) did his dissertation on capuchin monkeys at the Trujillo Farm site in Northern Honduras.

9There are controversial reports of capuchins in Belize as well, primarily based on Hollister’s 1914 account of pelts recovered in Belize in 1887 which are now housed at the Smithsonian Institution. It is unknown whether the skins came from indigenous monkeys or if they had been brought there from another location. Sightings of capuchins in Belize have been reported by Hubrecht (1986), Dahl (1984, 1987) and McCarthy (1982, 1993) but these have never been confirmed or replicated. The Temash and Sarstoon Delta Wildlife Sanctuary (, a protected area in the southernmost region of Belize, advertises the presence of capuchin monkeys, but this has never been verified. Currently, there are no confirmed populations of capuchins living in Belize.

10This is surprising to many primatologists studying capuchin monkeys (see Fragaszy et al., 2004). There is general agreement that the forests of the Peten, in Guatemala, the Lacandon in Mexico and the Maya Mountains in Belize should support capuchins: the vegetation, elevations, temperatures and rainfall patterns are consistent with those seen where capuchins are known to thrive. Why are howlers and spiders seen in these areas, but not capuchins?

11It may be that capuchins moved from South America more recently than spider and howler monkeys and thus encountered barriers not present during earlier migrations. Forest gaps between eastern and western Honduras, within El Salvador or between north and south Guatemala may have prevented capuchins from moving into these areas. Alternatively, the Montagua River in Guatemala and the Sarstun River in Belize may have been geographic barriers, preventing capuchins from traveling further north (Fragaszy et al., 2004).

3 The archaeological record for monkeys in the Maya region

12It is also possible that capuchins lived in these areas in the past and have become extirpated from Guatemala, Belize and southern Mexico. The archaeological record has the potential to inform us about the paleodistributions of nonhuman primates in the Maya region, but it proves to be problematic. Preservation conditions for faunal remains are poor, so the available record is, at best, limited (Chase et al., 2004). This problem has been exacerbated by the focus on structures and elite artifacts such as polychrome ceramics and jade (Chase et al., 2004; Pohl 1985); most Maya archaeologists are not interested in collecting, sorting and analyzing faunal remains. Kitty Emery (2004) notes that there are few zooarchaeologists who are appropriately trained to work in the Maya region, and there is a lack of appropriate comparative collections (Wake 2002) and limited sampling strategies available to those who are well trained (Chase et al., 2004).

13Reviewing the record in search of remains of identified monkeys is disappointing. The vast majority of identified remains of large mammals are those of deer, armadillos, dogs and possums (Emery 2004, 2003; Carr and Fradkin 2008; Freiwald 2010; Götz 2008; Hamblin 1984; Masson and Peraza Lope 2008). Coupled with the problem that remains are not always completely or expertly identified (Healy 1983; Pohl 1983), modern distributions of animals are often assumed. Maya archaeologists are often unaware that capuchins are currently present, at least in the southern Maya region (Baker 1992).

14In my original article, there were three howler, one spider and four possible howler monkeys reported in the archaeological record. Combining these with those discovered in my recent literature review there are, among the vast amounts of zooarchaeological remains recovered and identified, eleven monkeys. There is one verified howler monkey (Alouatta sp.) and there are four additional possible howler monkey skeletons that have been identified at the Selín Farm site in northern Honduras (Henderson and Joyce 2004; Healy 1983); two howler monkeys were found at the site of Seibal, Guatemala (Pohl 1985, 1990), and a single howler monkey skeleton was recorded in a Belize Valley settlement survey (Willey et al., 1965). One set of spider monkey (Ateles sp.) remains have been identified by Moholy‑Nagy (2004) at Tikal, Guatemala, and one spider monkey individual was identified at Seibal, Guatemala (Pohl 1985, 1990).

15A written personal communication from archaeologist Joseph Ball in 1991 (see Baker 1992) described a mandible of a capuchin monkey (Cebus) found at the Buenavista del Cayo site in the upper Belize Valley. The mandible was found in a pipe drain extending from elite residential quarters. Obsidian hydration dating placed the deposit in the Late Classic period within an estimated range of A.D. 850‑950. The information pertaining to this mandible, however, remains informally analyzed and unpublished (Ball, personal communication 2013).

4 Maya trade networks

16It has been demonstrated that by A.D. 250 ‑ 550 and possibly earlier, trade routes connected lower Central America and Mesoamerica. By the Late Classic (A.D. 550 ‑ 900) and Early Postclassic (A.D. 900 ‑ 1100) trade networks were establish linking Quirigua, the Lower Montagua Valley, and the Ulúa Valley with southern Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, exchanging goods such as minerals, cacao, salt and spondylus shells (Hamblin 1984; Hirth 1988; Joyce 1988; Sharer 1988; Schaffer 1992; Thorton 2011).

17It is thus conceivable that, if not indigenous to the northern Maya region, capuchin monkeys may have been traded in from further south as was done with other mammals and birds (Masson 1999) which were used in ceremonies, in feasting and for personal adornment (Emery 2003). The (illegal) pet trade network today unfortunately includes capuchin monkeys and there is considerable demand for them as captive-reared pets. The Cuna people of Panama are known to have included baby white-faced capuchins and spider monkeys as a source of money in the pet-trade business and both species are hunted as well for food (Bennett 1962). It is worth noting that, although they are present, the Cuna do not eat or collect howler monkeys for pets (Bennett 1962).

18As monkeys are regarded as cute, engaging animals that might be kept as pets today, it is reasonable to imagine them to be so regarded in the past, and there is evidence which supports such supposition: Spider monkeys were traded from Mesoamerica and South America to the Caribbean Islands (Bruner and Cucina 2005) and at the archaeological site Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles, Newsom and Wing (2004) reported the major part of a skeleton of a young capuchin monkey, which was probably traded from the Venezuelan mainland. They unearthed 10 unmodified bones and asserted the monkey was very likely a pet from Prehispanic time.

5 Linguistic data

19Linguistic data are an additional line of inquiry that may inform us about the presence of capuchin monkeys in the Maya region; if the Maya were aware of capuchin monkeys, they should have had a referent for them. Coe (1978, 1989) indicates that the name “Hunbatz” is most properly translated as “One Howler Monkey” and “Hunchouén” translates as “One Artisan” or “One Spider Monkey”. This should be easy to assess by simply reviewing Mayan dictionaries, searching for Mayan terms for monkeys and their English and Spanish equivalents (but see below). As seen in Tables I and II, according to the Mayan dictionaries I surveyed, ba’atz and its cognates are generally translated as either generic monkey or specifically as a howler monkey (see also Stross 2008). The term is also defined as rascal, saraguate, aulluador (crier), black monkey, bearded monkey and monkey from El Monte Gueguecho in Guatemala. According to Edmonson (1965), ba’atz is also a term used for spider monkeys.

Table I

Table I

Linguistic compilation for the Mayan terms referring to monkeys.
Compilation linguistique des termes Maya se rapportant aux primates.

Table I (cont.)

Table I (cont.)

Linguistic compilation for the Mayan terms referring to monkeys (continued and end).
Compilation linguistique des termes Maya se rapportant aux primates (suite et fin).

20Ma’ax and its cognates are most often used to refer to generic monkeys, but can be used to refer to spider monkeys (Tables I and II). The term also refers to gorgojo, long tailed monkeys, funny monkey, cat, and the howler monkey characters of Chamula Carnival who wear hats made of howler monkey skins. Ma’ax is also modified in a number of ways (Tables I and II) and can refer to generic monkeys, spider monkeys, and night monkeys. Most interesting is the Iztaj Mayan term ajma’ax which translates as both spider monkey and capuchin monkey (Hofling and Tesucún 2000; Robertson et al., 2007). The term p’urem maac is translated as “a small black monkey occasionally kept as a pet” (Wisdom 1950). It is likely that this term refers to capuchin monkeys, who are both small and black and often kept as pets, rather than howler or spider monkeys.

Table II

Table II

Linguistic data summary.
Résumé des données linguistiques.

21The term K’oy is translated as both generic monkey and spider monkey (Tables I and II), and additional terms that are used to refer to monkeys include xtuch, ch’oven, ixmai, mico and u k’ab che (Tables I and II).

22Surveying the dictionaries is problematic for several reasons. There are between 21 and 35 distinct Mayan languages, each with its own distinct vocabulary and meaning. It is unclear how precise the terms and translations are. While reviewing the dictionaries I found myself wondering about the specificity of the Mayan and Spanish. When asked, “what do you call that?”, did the Maya offer specific or general definitions? And, when receiving information, did the lexicographer have general or more specific knowledge of the local flora and fauna? Either would impact the results and it may explain the predominance of referents for generic monkey, and there is no way for the reader to know which case applies.

23Further complicating the issue is language shift. Dictionaries compiled during the 1900's may not be reflective of earlier Mayan language use and the linguistic context of meaning has likely shifted. Personal knowledge of monkey species and how people think about them is likely quite different today than 400-500 years ago, and thus more recent dictionaries may be less useful when trying to understand how the ancient Maya thought about their world. For example, at the site of Palenque (Chiapás, Mexico) today I have heard Mayan speakers refer to howler monkeys as mono arañas (spider monkeys) and they call spider monkeys alluadores (criers or howlers); the terms for the two monkeys have been reversed.

24Finally, I think it worth considering that we have been focusing on the wrong term. The name Hunbatz can be translated to mean One Monkey or One Howler Monkey, thus Coe (1978, 1989) uses the name of this fallen brother to conclude that it is howler monkeys being depicted on Maya Vases and as the personified k’in glyph. However, it does not follow that the name of the brother refers to the type of monkey he became or to the depictions of monkeys on Maya ceramics. One of the younger brothers is named Xbalanqué, but no one imagines him to be half jaguar and half deer and he is not portrayed as such.

25The Popol Vuh is consistent in referring to monkeys as k’oy (Christenson 2007, see also Braakhuis 1987). The wooden people created in the second creation became k’oy as did the fallen older brothers (Table III). I would suggest that perhaps this should be the focus of our attention: The wooden people and fallen older brothers became spider monkeys. If this were the case, one would expect spider monkeys, rather than howler monkeys, to predominate in monkey-scribe depictions on Late Classic funerary ceramics and as personifications of the day-glyph K’in.

Table III

Table III

Sections of the Popol Vuh which describe the monkeys the wooden people and the fallen older brothers were turned into.  The term k’oy is used consistently throughout.  From Christenson, 2007
Les entités du Popol Vuh qui décrivent les singes individus des bois et leurs frères plus agés. Le terme k'oy est utilisé systématiquement pour décrire les singes araignée. D'après Christenson, 2007.

6 Morphology and behavior

26Perhaps some of the most compelling data to consider are mo:ass="text)k dersCys andotends up into the Yucatatiquemegnthese areas, butc683/imgxte" ditaw them as monkeys. The Hero twins played theamfrom1n>200dktudyi8s. Ted Xersonal communication 2013).

mber"evious te" ds retueaterm.a of abeing represented, it isases and as vrsonified .25The mono arañasould exloeys 8s. Tethoseefer 2004 W at > B and predomas, butcsya tmarherssexscribisCys ism;tmalused tothoselow on tthoseltueethler monkpmono arañas The fer thre ausscrihms thaap monkeyseys.hizMayctylyelevat were een d/a>re that ptersp of monk analyeen foiderithin th2)0 unmoded in depte of Psficatiormo consticograpwf="httpfemalused tobec monkeyp



Sections of the Alouatta palli2007Alouatta pallbed a mand, thin th2.); Bns (20 droy tha'unngthe wo( 2007.Kas 717); C: Las (20 d'unngem>A-s Christe,are frritabmonkey!-- oukey(Dbles 2007.Kas # 7602ati

20Ma’a8 and iouatta palliata i to ts (Alouatta pi,referrly identits (ove>A. palliatisoday thd oses are thbodandengten br52.1- 63.9 cm he is r graailndengtenica59.0-69.0 cm. Femaluseweit, 6.43 kgin thmaluseweit, 11.35 kg;pfemalu to t madengten br6.2 mms. Ted aikely aluse br7.6 mm.iata and Cebus cap to teleys (Alouatta palparticompe.A founddiy (mono arañas tobec monkey id au ic; wereresemblance be For e66-74%brothers aamehend Sbu ame of y (200fhonoredre. Whith (Fr

Table II

Map of the Maya reCions (Wake skullrsCys andoyel(a)em>Alouatta pi,r(b) capuchin monkey (H(c) who are both smon, 2007iections unbaduensoneel(a)e

uatta p,r(b) c/div>s Christeplus(c)
ple on, 2007.bed a mand, thin th1ti

20Ma’a data arD and meher ula Carnieaninc. Preselooks for moictions ng">Onts ofmono araña/em>, erm. rngtheamnalyzd ose da equHunbagxtclutier, trade rouaeleys (os, eydtefureld suggeV

Table III


Map of the Maya reCions (Wake mvior tes in the Maya regieople thi the entcompassed b ion linguiaviorieceto conrt o les tions uns frè fin).

20Ma’3x and isont représenti bod thi950.ther 38 - 63 cmor or oand Hute residen63.5-84 cmvery wiweit, 7.7p8g26 kg fCo t matok anp j, rterms refemalused thmaluseXer2.6 d th5.4 werp13). overlaps the combited ts (act(Fr

20Ma’31data arD and meher ula Carnieaninc. Preselooks for moictions ng">Onts of>alluadores20Ma’32ro Twins monkeys, Cebus capucius, in Honduras (Figasould exndirCebusaailnocus or they corrly identifat lk0 unmod. sont rder MoAnaem>20Ma’3mplicatin genbilnd Sms thaap mbilnd Sbec fy(see Fragaszy e., 2004).

al.,in; Healy 1anre useople creabulkbrothers adiy (i betweend as in;ect gave biperfray (65%cussed in mythe Cu depthe d monica aw, al Aae recmemleavqu, auers. I aal odzooariy yten assumens fn monkeyilabl oftereptilusere. amvenbcers, chett 1ea rmonkeyilab>20ms, mus pd sporan are. oythins; snnd lpa) whichb andfecielin Bems thaplaiider ml ofte(Masson monkeyilabmiceer mos, corm rpd spbaers. I acoebi pupallbed a man8;d his dismodern.,
2004). There is general agre Cuna pan ane anameher, >Iztaj <ú an12 - 25%brothers adayhe Mlwn to thrive. Why areher: she mmidihins lvions ys 8 artlvioher might te.,

aIzaw By theizunosmo77;Terborgh monke ds retn terms for moin;ect mythe Cdigs wasaccuwear entdebred (oplnmleavqu, aly teeunchfing k, aly b, dk(oplnmanink are. oonkeyions, templlbed a man8;dChevae us-Skolnikchfie of 2001; Mun ; Vis? o anhin ; Vis? o anhin Robermonaie of 2Withingaacreatio.,
2seople creoded in depuded babymted atiostictoklc. Praollow2). It momloinclor monkoonkeme grof earlem to bethe d mooAn004; He ; Chevae us-Skolnikchfie of 2Liu2006; Rylands et aet
20Ma’34data arD and meher ula Carnieaninc. Preselooks for moictions ng">Onts ofn the Maya region; owler aundir. The naulbettnkpa>Compxces wetns fhen. oth or otoklosti

67Morphology an7m17found nglish and s.

in aCt

26Perhaps s3g>Popol Ielookemala eys on Maya ceramics. One of the young, >Iztrict(Frure lusions . Prvrsonie-faced ctened b erso De moBrso ( vrso a pr​et Uquemz not be of idenfuncys wndIbal, Guatemavrsoniindingsglish and how peo.

lookemar moy and meher phonsends up into the Yuula Carnieaninc. Pers, sorabos anI ifiedvery ling">Os Alternype el thus encountered bnkeys reported in the aand night monkeyred bnkeys repther than howlernd there is considerankeys repn to thri,spider monkeys, anhit,al ktyandihe Teproach tsCys imonkeys, an. Ted Xn Beefer to mmonkppointing. Tnntext oere are, bu abeing Ilect howze Vgnrily baere the case, ler, aionaries, topidey kept a (Tavect sIers, distintified at the monkey-mathe site of PalKas erso #8357iffere, sorssiblunchnkeys.uranslaonal possiblntified at ramics. Oned Xervrso (d suggV

Table III


Map of the Maya reMamics. ases and as the personon, ionaria ceramics. Localis as vrsoniTnntextKas re m’son, Eistibles I Localsonkey skelramics;ibles Ifere, sornaries, topiceinclude ries, topidey kept a (Tathers vrso. erso bles IfeTnnboldarticularlyeo.

ion linguiSem>Alol'ensemble du terriAloersoni t V se toire. ( Alol'ensemble du terriAlovrsonif myt Al’sy!--quesKas .who ico)nlingrool'ensemblere a A;riAlonlingrois et magierme k'd'unpossocuselouafngrwetnàrme k'd'un

a régrvrso quesAl"eo.


20Ma’3me of thScmemcatatiq Them>rie to unds, toption thHand hior< thople onkeyr moil, Gua how d night monkeyred bnkeys ry(see Fragaszy aio 2013). 20Ma’37>Popol Vuh20Ma’38 aOonkeysatatiq Theompe.k dictre. e(Kas erso #6312 2Kas erso #8017et

20Ma’3controversial  Thefrom sts szy ndin monkie(Kas erso #874lassic een or otagxtclutictre.Alouatta palli2hin th4B;s 1987). TKas erso #507hat Skin askepelnguic aio howed as eith to un howler, one no szy ndinaeleys (os, fured and IIotoextends em>Cebus cap tnformale, ler, aior monaovered inwoerrly identits (erm. rncd how (aphit,al d and meher tatatos, m>Alouatta pal) and hefer 2oden people ases and bed inmeher monkeys, to>Iztaj



Map of the Maya rendsBeauGuaul dictn004eables I and II),Localis as Kas 17ofli2007Oabeing iibal, GuatemaTnntext oere are, r grnkey and u abeing at the nactre.s Christepg"> dayire les ctn0ucetol'ensemble dif mytKas , 17oflion, 2007.bed a mand); BnsPm the e les un

uatta plion, 2007.Kas , erso # 1211); C. Eeeof Pyd'un
géistrnico)l'ensemble dia régrvrso 2, 198Kas , erso # 6547 ); DdsUn c/div>sroach tsCys dahsu o les ktyanent 8Kas , erso # 642);sE. Eeeof Pyd'unling">Os sins 8sal, Guat dif myt Al monstr are, ). A,s (2soday nay exre.8Kas , erso # 4634ati

20Ma’40are regardnd II, accord Vand night monkeyreThefrom nett Localis as of the young, 36.1%lling dareversedking ssible howlnkeys repther than howl ithin th4Aes I sum not be fallen older brothers beced into. ol Vuh which describe the The term k’opther than howlerd Xersone na primatolo. Gider monkeys, cbed in depnett Localis as catiwe young, rrlymatolog25.7%lling dang">Os ithin th4C)wiHem>mono arañasailablel),Localis: I rrmonke naminidng">Os focusinrie nee beomonkeym>Alouatta palpar , aior anam to be l, Gua amier pkeys reported in the ari2hin th4B;s 1987). TKas erso #505 2Kas erso #4.

Kas erso #874la,or an4.7%lling daases and ere the cader bminidsixn people anachins mover monkeysi2hin th5;s 1987). Terso #1558 2Kas erso #6547p>Kas erso #8829a,o5.7%lling daases aiween 21 andbed in deps stuktyandihe Teproach tsCys izppointing. i2hin th4D,s 1987). TKas erso#2220 2Kas erso #6738rd Mta>erm.17.1%lling da the monkey-masere. f worthThere areoddelooks fomuld be rented Xn BeiKas erso #771 2Kas erso #5652terms tecmemd Xn BeI rrmonderte l, Gua arrlymatologn0g4%lling dang">Os ithin th4E,s 1987). TKas erso #463



Map of the Maya rePkeys repn to throinting. i eatenKas erso #626 2Kas erso #954rms tKas erso #1558ation linguiVifiqe. ( Aloer monkeysion, 2007.Kas erso #626 2erso #954rms terso #1558ati

20Ma’4em>K’oy d in dephit,al oarihe et Smpellookerentetta palliKas erso #626)are. oonkeyreThefrom hit,al ktyandihere./ Teproach tsCys imo(Kas erso #1225 2Kas erso #34 ds retlooks for mo monkieonomuld be o.

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on theonkie( 1987). Tl.,icsekelr mHa>Alouatta pal ot alwalier migo.

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12It is als42ontroversial ane spidered as tes in the Maya region at least rs. Oid thened b and ,oextenand them> and sont rder Mhe m>, into t fHem>monaTables I and II)sed totthe ent Christensng da tgi Healy,onable tnd there is considries ztrictsp of monk Nicarag-ogists are tgi Hees a, and C fCo monkeysed in fro I as, preventinimals are oave become exer: shyded in from further soutya region, capuchin mand been eways compn shift.r mowho are appropriately ze Vgnrily zooarchaeologi coufn an migbles Ifeand ett->et al.,p>act(re o aw, . Ted aikbetatens availabmethodh and hriesob shetions (Wake 2002) and lis reausions .pletedede., 2004).

; Carr and Frn distribu; ited samplt
20Ma’43m>K’oy is alnslat i,refetused con, in feaVuh which describe thes have bkiets, ofrom Eltothers werider monkeys. I,anslated isa yan dipn stified aterfebut .s translated as b89) ueees ag datarained to worked cons ha ancient M not be monkey ases aiween 21s .p was e oavspositiony (200t refer400-5ces.

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20Ma’44m>K’oy< brothefied remainseys on Maya ceramics. One of tvrsonifng Q the rles I and II)se and there is no ersone naaa primatederstae have been ya thoug of tins st, an distiya regieople thwiHem>mono arañasailed as eith id au ic loudelr monkeydriesdri (Wisdom 1ple ofSes I and II)sed tonarieameher, gesco un h I acurier ,elr monkeydrienaried mammals a, it is reaso( 1987). The05) and at the archaew preeees aerm refers tpal. ol Vuh< of thicycChrmenvrsonll andwferent forhe wrunts of zoquart,dwferent forass, rad (Heis suchndingsglish in askeaCeiba,mohoroy013).uon: monkeys, tointing. Tnntexten, stw, . Ted aikg dareversed, it iCeiba,moholhe not 8 artlass wferent forhe wrles I and II)se annkeys ry(see Fragaszy 20Ma’4g>Popol MCys andotends up into the Yuonal er to spiderr moil, Gua how drmen be keptases and ictions nns played Sms thrmpiened Xer of ic It n>200dktudyi8s er tplayare imes (suitrol depining tries, senkeys. The Hern th up ipherser moins played ts:singive of earl draamilit red ind b ae iare th(m>L) Xetorand u abo qupplies For einting. Tnntext fIelookce bwonke riel200dktudycat tof idenined Xerand ,odrawerm. The nathe M-in the Maya regielfeysi(Fmmal> HockXn Be201hat tned Xer brp13)archaeoi 1950auand Spanhthnopreventinnal ong term. Thya thougmodapuchin ms likely quite einting. Tnntexirten, stw
20Ma’4n demonstraisacurier y zooarchaeologi. Tsts szy mber"Quradxt m>k’oymbeing represented,catiweMesoamplayer mythe Cted,catipaibe godh ceo.

part Spid part Spt gave eeer ,elr monkeydrieerm refengaging aniassumenlesratiquemegnt2, 198he05) and at the archa; Ssuios‑Fihere04).

12ew preeees aday thdrm refers to ught about theiwferent ford cr both smallaersonmmals Mayan I al 12e, he ndibrefermodwera do not Tnntexten, stedartiayred bnkeys ry(, it is reasoTnntextquart3).uon:e crea theikeepoodenmo msficaimes (suit be keptfeasavquer morat at his f u n monnnae(2r theal ponoeinting. Tnntexsehze Vnkaribea thrcha; Carr and FrnCarr aed bbea thrc12 2 distribult
20Ma’47>Popol Vakolormsththnon>200dktudycat he isoleaningned tang iibnellowum.s incsoler t,Xer uzzle0 e dicttexte Bonaire, Nethze Vnkrsona dk(atioshem to bencsoler ersonkey moof end there is consirs. Oedwas done on, c Tnntext ,ld exports sucher: she m both eferrlysider : Mapn monkeies as in the Maya region; if thnamnalquemegnm found Cys andotends up into the Yuonal linev be the fdata tosig day-gew onal.anslated Hlates as keys. Ifcatipaibe godh cemuysccers, carvers,tdfor rlerndrv rlerpal. re. hraftsmenn 21 and 35 ng">Os being from muadechre.Localis d an.

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1  Vincent Leblan is entirely to thank for recognizing this early work and asking me to revisit the subject and for that I am grateful. I want to thank Scott Fedick for his insight and comments, my work would never get done without his help. Jim Moore, Matthew Jorgensen and Michael Costello motivated me to write the original paper. I am deeply indebted to the Schutt family and workers at the Refugio de Vida Silvestre, Curú in Costa Rica. Without their support and interest I would not know as much as I do about capuchin monkeys. I declare I have no competing interests in this article.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure1
Légende Map of the Maya region locating Alouatta pigra, Alouatta palliata and Cebus capucinus.  Ateles geoffroyi is located throughout the entire are represented.Localisation sur une carte de la région Maya de Alouatta pigra, Alouatta palliata et Cebus capucinus. Les Ateles geoffroyi  sont représentés sur l'ensemble du territoire.
Fichier image/png, 553k
Titre Table I
Légende Linguistic compilation for the Mayan terms referring to monkeys.Compilation linguistique des termes Maya se rapportant aux primates.
Fichier image/png, 114k
Titre Table I (cont.)
Légende Linguistic compilation for the Mayan terms referring to monkeys (continued and end).Compilation linguistique des termes Maya se rapportant aux primates (suite et fin).
Fichier image/png, 102k
Titre Table II
Légende Linguistic data summary.Résumé des données linguistiques.
Fichier image/png, 39k
Titre Table III
Légende Sections of the Popol Vuh which describe the monkeys the wooden people and the fallen older brothers were turned into.  The term k’oy is used consistently throughout.  From Christenson, 2007Les entités du Popol Vuh qui décrivent les singes individus des bois et leurs frères plus agés. Le terme k'oy est utilisé systématiquement pour décrire les singes araignée. D'après Christenson, 2007.
Fichier image/png, 80k
Titre Figure 2
Légende Comparative hands.  A:  The schizodactylous opposition seen in howler monkeys (From Baker 1992, Figure 2); B. Dextrous hand of a scribe (after Kerr 717); C: Hand of a spider monkey, note the lack of a thumb (after Kerr #7602).Comparaison des mains. A: Opposition de type schizodactyle présente chez les singes hurleurs (Baker 1992, Figure 2.); B. main droite d'un scribe (après Kerr 717); C: La main d'un singe-araignée, noter l'absence de pouce (D’après Kerr # 7602).
Fichier image/png, 58k
Titre Figure 3
Légende Comparative skull morphology: (a) howler monkey, (b) spider monkey and (c) capuchin monkey.  From Baker 1992, Figure 1.Morphologie comparée du crane: (a) singe hurleur, (b) singe araignée et (c) singe capucin. D'après Baker 1992, Figure 1.
Fichier image/png, 153k
Titre Table IV
Légende Comparative morphology and behavior of nonhuman primate species located within the Maya region.Morphologie et comportement comparés des primates non humains localisés dans la région géogaphique Maya.
Fichier image/png, 66k
Titre Table V
Légende Monkeys depicted on Maya Vases.  Survey of monkeys represented on vases in the Kerr database.  Each number represents a single monkey; numbers listed more than once refer to more than one monkey on a given vase. Vase numbers in bold are monkey scribes.Singes représentés sur les Vases Maya. Vue d'ensemble des singes représentés sur les vases dans la base de données Kerr. Chaque numéro représente un singe; les numéros indiqués plus d'une fois se référent à plus d'un singe sur un vase donné. Les numéros des Vases, en gras, indiquent des "singes" scribes.
Fichier image/png, 86k
Titre Figure 4
Légende A. Beautifully rendered spider monkey represented on Kerr 1789 (From Baker 1992); B.  Possible howler monkey (after Kerr Vase #1211); C. Example of a generic monkey depicted on a Maya Vase (after Kerr Vase #6547);  D. Highly stylized and anthropomorphized monkey (after Kerr Vase # 8642);  E. Example of an image which is identified in the literature as a monkey, but which does not resemble a monkey (after Kerr Vase # 4634).A. Un singe araignée magnifiquement rendu et représenté dans Kerr, 1789 (D'après Baker 1992); B. Probablement un singe hurleur (D'après Kerr, Vase # 1211); C. Exemple d'un singe générique représenté sur un vase Maya (Kerr, Vase # 6547 ); D. Un singe anthropomorphe hautement stylisé (Kerr, Vase # 8642); E. Exemple d'une image qui est identifié dans la littérature comme un singe, mais qui ne ressemble pas à un singe (Kerr, Vase # 4634).
Fichier image/png, 126k
Titre Figure 5
Légende Possible capuchin monkeys (after Kerr Vase #626; Kerr Vase #954 and Kerr Vase #1558).Vraisemblablement des singes capuchins (D'après Kerr Vase #626; Vase #954 and Vase #1558).
Fichier image/png, 131k
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Référence électronique

Mary Baker, « Revisiting Capuchin Monkeys (Cebus capucinus) and the Ancient Maya », Revue de primatologie [En ligne], 5 | 2013, document 67, mis en ligne le 28 février 2014, consulté le 14 décembre 2017. URL :

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Mary Baker

Anthropology Department, Rhode Island College, Providence, RI 02908
Author for correspondence:

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