Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>1697 Yucatec Maya holkan
Subjectnakom captain of holkan mercenaries
Culture: Yucatec Mayan
Setting: late post-classical period, Yucatan/Guatemala 1527-1704
Object: armor


* Wise/McBride 1980 p33
"The nobles ... wore elaborate headdresses -- those of the most important officials were sometimes as large as the man himself.  These consisted of a light wicker frame covered with feathers, particularly those of the quetzal bird.  Other types of headdress were colourful cloth turbans, or a long swirling design representing the maize plant.  In battle these nobles wore on their heads the masks of jaguars and other animals, reptiles and fish, some apparently mythological."


* Wise/McBride 1980 p34
"The holkam [sic] wore cuirasses of either quilted cotton or tapir hide."

* Anawalt 1981 p188
"From the sixteenth-century written sources it is clear that the Lowland Mayas, like the Aztecs, Tlaxcalans, Tarascans, and Mixtecs, used quilted-cotton armor in battle.  They were wearing it in 1517, when the Spanish conquistadors of Cordoba's voyage first came in contact with them at Cape Catoche.  Diaz del Castillo wrote, 'These [Indian] warriors wore armor made of cotton reaching to the knees and carried lances and shields, bows and arrows, slings and many stones.'
"In discussing the quilted armor, Tozzer pointed out that Landa mistranslated when he spoke of 'jackets made strong with salt and cotton.'  The friar confused tab ('salt') with taab ('twisted cord').  The garment was, of course, the Mesoamerican ichcahuipilli, first seen by the Spaniards in 1517.
"The Relación geográfica of Dohot states, 'The defensive arms which they wore on the body were twisted mantas made into small rolls and cotton in the middle, and some were so strong that the arrows did not go through them.'  Other Relaciones geográficas confirm the existence of cotton armor (Mérida, Motul).  The Relación geográfica of Campocolche and Chochola refers to the sturdy quilted armor as euyub."

* Sayer 1985 p43
"We know from Bernal Díaz del Castillo that Maya warriors wore 'armour made of cotton reaching to the knees', while according to Landa, 'They [the Yucatec Maya] ... made short jackets of quilted cotton and of coarse salt, quilted in two thicknesses or quiltings; and these were very strong'.  This statement is usually interpreted to mean that the cotton was soaked in brine, but Tozzer believes that Landa has confused the Maya word 'salt' with the word for 'twisted cord'.  Apparent examples of quilting hang like stoles from the necks of various figures from Jaina and Palenque and seem to recur in lintels at Yaxchilán.  Were they, as Robert and Barbara Rands have suggested, forms of flexible armour?"

* Foster 2002 p147
"Quilted cotton jackets, sometimes extending to the knees, served as armor.  Even the Spanish eventually replaced their own heavy, and unduly hot, metal armor with quilted cotton, which was effective against Mesoamerican weapons."

* Jones 1998 p211 (describing Itzas)
"[T]heir dress [included] beautiful, brightly colored shirts or jackets into which stripes and other designs were woven ...."