Maya screw-top chocolate vessel says what it's for.




A boy from Boston and a girl from the rainforest team up to outwit the Maya Lords of Death.

AH PUKUH (awe poo coo):

God of violent and unnatural death, chief baddie in the Jaguar Stones, depicted in Maya art as a bloated, decomposing corpse or a cigar-smoking skeleton. His constant companions are dogs and owls, both considered omens of death. Ah Pukuh wears bells to warn people of his approach - possibly an unnecessary precaution, since one of his nicknames is Kisin, or “the flatulent one,” so you’d probably smell him coming, anyway.

BAKABS (bah cobs):

Four brothers, the sons of ITZAMNA and IXCHEL, who stand at the corners of the world and support the heavens. Also known collectively as the god, Pawahtuun.

BALCHÉ (ball chay):

Ritual drink brewed from fermented honey, water, and the bark of the purple-flowered balché tree.


Carved human femurs (thigh bones) have been found in royal Maya tombs and depicted in the hands of kings. Archaeologists believe that these carved relics were powerful symbols of office, showing the king’s noble descent from a revered ancestor. The femur is the longest and strongest bone in the human body.

CENOTE (say note eh):

A deep, water-filled limestone sinkhole, like a natural reservoir. There are few lakes or rivers in the Yucatán, but at least three thousand cenotes. The name is a Spanish corruption of the Yucatec Maya word tz'onot.

CHAHK (chaahk):

God of lightening, storms and warfare, Chahk was one of the oldest and most revered of the ancient Maya deities. He has two tusklike breath scrolls emitting from his mouth to convey his humid nature, bulging eyes, and a long, turned-up nose. Frogs were thought to be his heralds, because they croak before it rains. Just as the Norse god Thor carries Mjolnir, his enchanted hammer, so Chahk wields the god K’AWIIL as his fiery lightning axe.

CHICLE (cheek lay):

A natural gum made from boiling the milky latex of the sapodilla tree. Chicle had been chewed by the Maya for centuries but didn’t reach North America until 1870 when Thomas Adams, a New York inventor, opened the world’s first chewing gum factory. These days, manufacturers mostly use synthetic rubber.


Chemical analysis of drinking vessels has revealed that the Maya were drinking hot chocolate as far back as 500 BCE. Their version was a thick, rich, foamy drink flavored with honey, maize, or chili. They called it chokol ha, meaning “hot water.” The word cacao comes from the Maya word kakaw, and cacao beans were used as currency through-out Mesoamerica.


Strictly speaking, any book with pages (as opposed to a scroll format) is a codex, but the term is most closely associated with the books of the ancient Maya. Written and illustrated on long strips of bark paper or leather, folded accordion-style, these books painstakingly recorded Maya history, religion, mythology, astronomy, and agricultural cycles. All but four were destroyed during the SPANISH CONQUEST. (See DIEGO DE LANDA.)


The two-headed Cosmic Crocodile, or Celestial Monster as it is also called, is a Maya representation of the MILKY WAY. Its two heads represent the duality of life and death, as the sun moves through the northern sky in the life-giving rainy season and through the southern sky in the dry season.


Short for hieroglyphs, this is the name given to more than eight hundred different signs used by the Maya to write their books and stone inscriptions. The Maya writing system incorporates signs for phonetic sounds (pure vowels and syllabograms) as well as signs for entire words (logograms), and is considered the most sophisticated writing system to be developed in MESOAMERICA. Writing in glyphs was outlawed after the SPANISH CONQUEST and, all too soon, no one alive could read them. Epigraphers around the world tried to crack the code, but significant progress was not made until the 1950s. In the end, it was the son of an archaeologist, a teenage boy called David Stuart, who cracked the last piece of the puzzle in 1987. About 85% of the known glyphs have now been deciphered.


The twin brothers Xbalanke (shh ball on kay) and Hunahpu (hoo naw poo) are the main characters in the Maya creation story. Like their father and uncle before them, the twins are challenged to a ballgame in XIBALBA by the LORDS OF DEATH. But where their father and uncle died in the attempt, the twins outwit the Death Lords and take their places in the heavens as the sun and the moon. Their father is resurrected as HUN IXIM, the Maize God. The story of the Hero Twins is part of the Maya creation story, as told in the POPOL VUH.

IXCHEL (eesh chell):

Like most Maya deities, Ixchel (Lady Rainbow) had multiple personalities. As the goddess of the old moon, she is depicted as an angry old woman with a coiled snake on her head, fingernails like claws, and a skirt decorated with human bones. In this guise, she vents her anger on mortals with floods and rainstorms. But as the goddess of the new moon, Ix Sak Uh (White Woman) she is a beautiful young woman who reclines inside the crescent moon, holding her pet trickster rabbit in her arms. Ixchel was the patroness of fertility, childbirth, medicine, and weaving.


With an extra-large voice box that makes them the loudest land animals on the planet, howler monkeys (batz in Mayan) can hear each other up to three miles away. Only the blue whale, whose whistle carries for hundreds of miles underwater, is louder.

HUN IXIM (hoo nee shim):

The reborn father of the HERO TWINS and the Maya god of maize. Hun Ixim has an elongated forehead that resembles an ear of corn. Maya nobility often molded babies’ skulls into this shape by binding the infants’ heads between wooden boards.

ITZAMNA (eats um naw):

Ruler of the heavens, lord of knowledge, lord of day and night, and all-around good guy. Itzamna gave his people the gifts of culture, writing, art, books, chronology, and the use of calendars. As a patron of healing and science, he can bring the dead back to life. With IXCHEL, he fathered the BAKABS. Itzamna is usually depicted as a toothless but sprightly old man.


Called bahlam by the ancient Maya who revered it for its hunting skills, the jaguar is the largest and most ferocious big cat in the Americas. Today, due to the fur trade and the destruction of its natural habitat, the jaguar is in danger of extinction.

K’AWIIL (kaa wheel):

A god of lightning and patron of lineage, kingship, and aristocracy. In displays of power kings are shown holding K’awiil like a scepter. He has a reptilian face with a long snout and a mirror forehead that emits smoke, a flaming torch or an axe blade. One of his legs ends as a snake rather than a foot. Also known as Bolon Tzakab and Hurukan.

JAGUAR STONES (bahlamtuuno’ob):

A literary invention of the Jaguar Stones series. Along with the five (fictional) sacred pyramids, these five stone carvings are said to embody the five pillars of ancient Maya society: agriculture, astronomy, creativity, military prowess, and kingship. As far as we know, no such stones ever existed—nor did the Maya ever relax their warlike ways enough to forge an equal alliance of five great cities.

K’INICH AHAW (keen each uh how):

The great sun god. By day, he traces the path of the sun across the sky and by night he prowls through the underworld as the Jaguar God of the night, before emerging in the east each morning.

DIEGO DE LANDA (1524–1579):

The overzealous Franciscan friar who tried to wipe out Maya culture by burning their CODICES and thousands of religious artworks in the Mexican town of Mani, on July 12, 1549. Even the conquistadors thought he’d gone too far and sent him back to Spain to stand trial. Ironically, the treatise he wrote in his defense, Relación de las Cosas de Yucatán (1565), is now our best reference source on the ancient Maya. Landa was absolved by the Council of the Indies and returned to the New World as the bishop of Yucatán.

K’UK’ULKAN (koo kool kon): The feathered serpent, a divine combination of serpent and bird, one of the great deities of MESOAMERICA.


In Maya mythology, the underworld (XIBALBA) is ruled by twelve Lords of Death: One Death, Seven Death, Scab Stripper, Blood Gatherer, Wing, Demon of Pus, Demon of Jaundice, Bone Scepter, Skull Scepter, Demon of Filth, Demon of Woe, and Packstrap. The Lords of Death delight in human suffering. It’s their job to inflict sickness, pain, starvation, fear, and death on the citizens of MIDDLEWORLD. Fortunately, they’re usually far too busy gambling and playing childish pranks on each other to get much work done.


Most historians agree that Maya civilization began on the Yucatán peninsula sometime before 1500 BCE. It entered its Classic Period around 250 CE, when the Maya adopted a hierarchical system of government and established a series of kingdoms across what is now Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador. Each of these kingdoms was an independent city-state, with its own ceremonial center, urban areas, and farming community. Building on the accomplishments of earlier civilizations such as the Olmec, the Maya developed astronomy, calendrical systems, and hieroglyphic writing. Although most famous for their soaring pyramids and palaces (built without metal tools, wheels, or beasts of burden), they were also skilled farmers, weavers, and potters, and they established extensive trade networks. The Maya saw no boundaries between heaven and earth, life and death, sleep and wakefulness. They believed that human blood was the oil that kept the wheels of the cosmos turning. Many of their rituals involved bloodletting or human sacrifice, but never on the scale practiced by the Aztecs. Wracked by overpopulation, drought, and warfare, many Maya cities in the southern lowlands were abandoned around 800 CE. But cities in the Yucatan Peninsula such as Chichen Itza continued to thrive. When the Spanish arrived they discovered flourishing Maya cities across the region. The Maya fought off the Spanish invaders for 180 years. But one by one, their cities were conquered by superior Spanish weapons and European diseases that decimated their populations. The last Maya city, Tayasal, fell to the Spanish in 1697. Under Spanish rule many aspects of Maya culture were destroyed or banned. Today, there are over six million Maya living in Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador.


The family of thirty-one different languages spoken by Maya groups in Central America.


Literally meaning “between the Americas,” Mesoamerica is the name archaeologists and anthropologists use to describe a region that extends south and east from central Mexico to include parts of Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, and Nicaragua.


Like the Vikings, the Egyptians, and other ancient cultures, the Maya believed that humankind inhabited a middle world between an upperworld and the underworld. The Maya middle world (yok’ol kab) was sandwiched between the nine dark and watery layers of XIBALBA and the thirteen leafy layers of the heavens (ka’anal naah).


Seen from earth as a collection of stars against a band of hazy white light, the Milky Way is another name for the galaxy that contains our solar system. Just as the Maya called it “the road to Xibalba,” so dead souls in Celtic mythology followed the Milky Way to the underworld. In Spanish, the Milky Way is sometimes called el camino de Santiago, the road of St. James.


The shadows that look like a man in the moon to people in northern climes are viewed sideways in Central America, where they look like a leaping rabbit. The moon rabbit was the companion of the young moon goddess, IX SAK UH. Due to the different vantage point, the moon appears to wax and wane vertically in the tropics, which is why Ix Sak Uh is often depicted holding her pet as she reclines on the crescent moon.


Thought by some to have inspired the character of Indiana Jones, Morley was a Harvard-trained archaeologist most famous for his excavations at Chichen Itza and his work as an American spy during World War One.


This black volcanic glass was the closest thing the ancient Maya had to metal. An obsidian blade can be one hundred times sharper than a stainless-steel scalpel, but it’s extremely brittle.


So called because they are usually pictured ferrying gods around in a dugout canoe. They are both old men. The Jaguar Paddler has jaguar spots, while the Stingray Paddler has a stingray spine through his nose. It has been suggested that they represent night and day.


The Mesoamerican ballgame was the first team sport in recorded history and most Maya sites have ball courts. Although no one knows for sure, it seems that the game was played along the lines of tennis or volleyball, but without a net. Using only hips, knees, or elbows, the heavily padded players tried to keep the large rubber ball in play, scoring points if the opposing team made an error or failed to return it. It is now thought that the stone hoops often seen on ball courts served as markers. The game had great religious significance as it was directly connected to the myth of the HERO TWINS and metaphorically represented the struggle between life and death. It was a hugely popular spectator sport and while some games most certainly involved human sacrifice, most did not. A version of the game called ulama is still played in modern Mexico.

POPOL VUH (po poll voo):

The Maya Book of the Dawn of Life, the sacred book of the K’iché (kee chay) Maya who lived (and still live) in the highlands of Guatemala. The title literally means “Book of the Mat” - meaning the reed mat where the town leaders gathered - but is usually translated as “Council Book” or “Book of the People”. The Popol Vuh tells the Maya creation story and explains how the HERO TWINS rescued their father from XIBALBA.

QUETZAL (ket sahl):

The Maya prized the iridescent blue-green tail feathers of the resplendent quetzal bird for decorating royal headdresses. After the feathers were plucked, the birds would be set free to grow new ones. In Maya times, the penalty for killing a quetzal was death. Today, without such protection, the quetzal is almost extinct.

RAINFOREST: See Glossary/Endnotes for Jaguar Stones, Book Three: The River of No Return.


The setting of the Jaguar Stones books, this is a fictional country based on modern-day Belize.

SPANISH CONQUEST: See Glossary/Endnotes for Jaguar Stones, Book Two: The End of The World Club


When Maya kings wished to communicate with their ancestors or with the gods, they would hold a bloodletting ceremony to summon the Vision Serpent. The ritual required members of the royal family to pierce themselves and drip their blood onto strips of bark paper. The paper would then be burned and the Vision Serpent was supposed to appear out of the smoke, with the desired ancestor or god emerging from its mouth.

XIBALBA (she ball buh):

The K’ichi’ Maya name for the underworld, meaning “Well of Fear.” Only kings (as divine lords) could escape spending their afterlife in the underworld. When Maya kings died, they were thought to reenact the story of THE HERO TWINS. If they had the cunning to pass the tests set by the Death Lords, they could overcome death and take their place in the heavens as defied beings. All other souls, good or bad, were headed across rivers of scorpions, blood, and pus to Xibalba. Unlike the Christian hell with its fire and brimstone, the Maya underworld was cold and damp—its inhabitants condemned to an eternity of bone-chilling misery and hunger.


Max from Boston and Maya girl Lola travel to Spain on the trail of the conquistadors.


One of the themes of The End of The World Club is a rumor that spread across the internet like wildfire. It stated that the Maya calendar would end on December 21st, 2012, and with it the world would end. Many people were truly terrified and made preparations for the apocalypse. The rest of us were terrified to see how many people will believe anything they read on the internet. When the world did not end in 2012, those same people had the gall to say that the ancient Maya must have got it wrong! Of course, the whole affair had very little to do with the Maya and a whole lot to do with the modern need to get follows and likes.

How did the rumor get started? It arose from an idle speculation made by a famous Maya archaeologist, Michael Coe, over 50 years ago. At the time, Maya scholars understood the basic mechanics of the MAYA CALENDAR and the NUMBERING SYSTEM, but they couldn’t read most of the glyphs. That meant they could look at an inscription and see when the action took place, but could not be sure what had happened or who was involved. However, one thing they thought they knew about the Maya Calendar was that a previous calendar had ended the day before this one started. This old calendar cycle had tracked a era of gods and myths and seemed to have lasted for 5,200 years until the creation of humans. Seeing this, Michael Coe wondered if the Maya expected this current creation to also last 5,200 years and, if so, would they expect a new creation at that point? After all, the Aztecs believed there would be five creations - why not the Maya? If you add up the numbers, you can calculate that 5,200 years after the beginning of this creation (marked by the Tzolkin calendar as August 11th, 3114 BCE) you arrive at the 21st December 2012. The media loved the story - “Maya predict end of world in 2012!”

Of course, Maya studies have advanced a lot in the last fifty years and we now know with certainty that Michael Coe’s speculations were incorrect. There are Maya inscriptions (for example, at Palenque) that talk about events forecast to take place well beyond 2012, and other inscriptions (for example, at Coba) that say the previous mythic era lasted for billions of years, not just 5,200. It's clear that the Maya Calendar did not end in 2012 and it certainly never occurred to the Maya that the world would end at that point. But, as the saying goes, “A lie can run around the world before the truth can get its boots on.” Rather then check the facts, people took hold of the idea and spread it all over the internet, usually with a picture of the Aztec calendar. They wrote books, started chatrooms, built shelters. That’s why Max’s father calls them the “End of the World Club”. On December 21st, 2012, they gathered in their thousands at Maya sites in Central America. Of course, the world didn’t end - but there was a welcome boost to tourism! More here


In Book two Max gets a clue from the Lords of Death.  The illustration is done in the style of a Maya CODEX and the glyphs actually say exactly what they’re supposed to say.

Lord Kuy is the herald of Ah Pukuh - it is his omen.

The yellow stone is the burden, in seven days it comes to an end.

It is hidden, the yellow stone, the stone of K'awiil, at the yellow dawn place, the yellow flower house, his yellow ancestor-bone place

(The seven Tzolk'in days max has)

13-Lord, 1-Crocodile, 2-Wind,

3-Darkness, 4-Maize, 5-Snakebite,


Ah Pukuh and his herald owl - Lord Kuy.

The Maya god K'awiil.



In his search for the Yellow Jaguar, Max visits the Spanish provinces of Extremadura in the west, and Galicia in the northwest. The fictional town of Polvoredo in Extremadura is based on Trujillo, birthplace of Francisco Pizarro, conqueror of Peru, and home of the Spanish National Cheese Festival. The Castle of Polvoredo was inspired by the Palacio Moctezuma in nearby Cáceres. The palacio was built for Tecuichpotzin, oldest daughter of the Aztec ruler Montezuma, and her third Spanish husband, a captain in the army of Hernán Cortés. On his way north to Galicia, Max passes the billboard bulls made famous by the Osborne sherry company. The family seat of Antonio de Landa was inspired by the Pazo de Oca, a country manor outside Santiago, sometimes called the Galician Versailles. The Festival of the Near Death Experience takes place every summer in the little village of Santa Marta de Ribarteme, near Pontevedra. The ancient city of Santiago de Compostela, the setting for Lola’s wedding, has been a popular destination for pilgrims for more than a thousand years, ranking with Rome and Jerusalem in medieval times. Its great cathedral houses the botafumeiro (the name means “smoke belcher” in Galician), one of the largest incense censers in the world. It takes eight men to operate the pulley and it still swings giddily on its ropes on special feast days. It is said that when Catherine of Aragon stopped by for mass on her way to England to marry Henry VIII, the botafumeiro flew free of its ropes and crashed through the great stained-glass window. From here, Max and Lola journey to San Andrés—based on the real-life village of San Andrés de Teixido. Legend has it that any Galician who does not come here in his or her lifetime, will return after death as a lizard or a frog. San Andrés is on the Costa de la Muerte, the Coast of Death, so called because so many ships have been wrecked on its rocks and jagged inlets. Standing guard over this perilous coast is the magnificent lighthouse at Cape Finisterre, thought by the Celts and Romans to be the end of the world. Galicia is a wild and rainy region, famous for its seafood and, in particular, its pulperías or octopus restaurants.


Death Lord coming through the Vision Serpent.


Lured by tales of gold, thousands of Spaniards sailed to the New World in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, hoping to make their fortunes. Some were peasants, some were the younger sons of nobility who could not inherit the family estate and needed to fund castles of their own. Spain had just emerged from a bitter war against the Moors, so many were out-of-work soldiers. These ruthless and highly motivated fighters knew there were only two possible outcomes to their voyage: conquer or die. Their commanders (who gave one-fifth of their booty to the Spanish crown) organized and financed the expeditions, but the men had to provide their own armor and food. The three most famous commanders were Hernán Cortés, who defeated the Aztecs; Francisco Pizarro, who defeated the Inca; and Pedro de Alvarado, scourge of the Maya. The story of the conquest is as much about superstition and luck, as it is about military strategy. Cannons, muskets, and horses played their part, but the invaders’ most effective weapon were the Old World germs of smallpox and measles that they unwittingly carried with them. The raggle-taggle Spanish armies marveled at the civilizations they encountered, even as they destroyed them. “We have a disease of the heart that can only be cured with gold,” said Cortés to the Aztec ambassador. Most of the conquistadors endured incredible hardships and died in the jungle; only a few returned to Spain with any wealth.  


With the rainforest dying around them, Max and Lola fall into the Death Lords clutches.


All tropical rainforests are jungles, but not all jungle is rainforest. A tropical rainforest receives at least 80 inches of rain per year. It is home to at least 50 percent of the species on Earth and more different kinds of trees than any other area. The tops of the tallest trees form a canopy of leaves about 100 to 150 feet above the ground, while the smaller trees form one or two lower canopies. Between them, these canopies block most of the light from reaching the ground. As a result, little grows on the forest floor, making it relatively easy to walk through a tropical rainforest. If the canopy is destroyed, by nature or by humans, a tangle of dense fast-growing greenery springs up in the sunlight. This is jungle. Its growth provides shade for the rainforest species to reseed and grow tall enough to block out the light once more. This cycle can take a hundred years to complete. However, it’s also important to note that the nutrient-rich topsoil in rainforests is anchored by the tree roots. If large swathes of trees are cut down, the topsoil is washed away by the frequent rains and the area becomes infertile - no jungle will grow there again.


Having mastered social media, the Death Lords seem invincible - until Max and Lola decide to play them at their own game.


Just across the Mississippi River from present-day St. Louis, USA stood one of the greatest cities of the ancient world. No one knows the name of the settlement that rose on what is now called Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site in Collinsville, Illinois. All we know is that a sophisticated civilization flourished here from 800 to 1300 CE. At its peak in 1250 CE, Cahokia was bigger than London. Like the Maya, the architects of Cahokia built huge flat-topped temples. Where the Maya pyramids are made of stone, the mounds at Cahokia are made of earth. They include Monk’s Mound, one of the largest pyramids in the world. In front of Monk’s Mound was the grand plaza—a fifty-acre communal space for markets, ceremonies, and a game called chunkey, which involved throwing spears at rolling stone discs. To the east of Monk’s Mound was a huge solar calendar, now called Woodhenge. It used a circle of cedar posts, each twenty feet tall and painted red, to track solstices, equinoxes, and other important dates in the agricultural cycle. Cahokia gained its power partly from its location on the fertile floodplain of the Mississippi near the confluence of the Missouri and Illinois rivers. It grew maize on an industrial scale and its trade links reached as far as the Gulf of Mexico. To protect their wealth, its rulers surrounded their city center with a twenty-feet- high stockade wall. Who were these rulers? We still don’t know. But in one of the smaller mounds, the remains of an important man were discovered. The archaeologists called him “The Birdman” because his skeleton lay on 20,000 shell beads arranged in the shape of a bird. Also in the mound were 250 human sacrificial victims. Although Cahokia had fallen by the time Europeans arrived, it can be surmised from their accounts of other Mississippian settlements that the ruler of Cahokia was called Great Sun.


The Boston Red Sox are a Major League baseball team based at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. Fenway is the oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball and it’s been the home of the Red Sox since it opened in 1912. To the Red Sox’s fans, Fenway is hallowed ground where they sometimes watch their team soar to the top of the league, but more often crash and burn. Their long suffering fans stuck with the team during the longest losing steak in baseball history -  the eight-six years where they never won the World Series Championship. This period was known as the Curse of the Bambino, which began when the Club’s owner traded star player Babe Ruth, nick-named The Bambino, to arch-rivals the New York Yankees in 1919. The curse was officially lifted in 2004 when Boston finally won the World Series again. They’ve since won it three more times for a total of 13 (tied for the third-most of any MLB team). The Boston Red Sox are owned by the same group that owns Liverpool F.C.

Stela 1 from Coba says that previous creation lasted 767,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000  years, not 5,200 years.


Quick jump links to:

-     Book One

-     Book Two

-     Book Three

-     Book Four

The Bird Man of Cahokia

You’ll find a glossary of terms and background information at the end of every Jaguar Stones book. This page is where we bring the endnotes together, expand them, and keep them updated.