Craft Specialization, Gender, and Personhood among the Postconquest Maya of Yucatan, Mexico



The early ethnohistoric sources from Yucatan contain a wealth of information concerning Maya artisans, their craft activities, and the special goods they produced. We examine the principal sources for information on the sexual division of labor, engendered craft activities, and the influence of crafts and related domestic arts on Maya perceptions of self. Lexical data from the dictionary sources demonstrate a clear gender complementarity in the organization of work and craft activities. Detailed observations of native practices by early Spanish clerics further suggest that mastery of the basic domestic arts was critical in Maya self perceptions of full personhood.