"The flowering [of Yaxchilan] took place over a five-hundred-year period of stability and continuity between 320 and 808, dominated by a family of rulers we may refer to as the "Jaguar" clan: Shield Jaguar, Bird Jaguar, and their forebearer, the redoubtable Penis Jaguar, Yat Balam. The artists and scribes came from the elite and priest classes. In return for support, they glorified the royals in stone, justifying their wars and usurpations, commemorating their sacrifices, and rendering into dogma the visions they had achieved through bloodletting and psychotropic drugs.
For generations western eyes found the imagery, its patterns and motifs, an indecipherable grammar of form and image. It took Mayanists a century of collecting, photographing, cataloguing, and concentrated looking before the shapes meant anything to them."
Christopher Shaw, Sacred Monkey River: A Canoe Trip with the Gods, p. 274