Jade plaque of a Maya king

Maya, Classic period (AD 600-900)
Found at Teotihuacan, Mexico

Architecture, ceramics and other lines of evidence indicate that there were contacts between Teotihuacan in the Mexican highlands and the Maya area (for example, at Tikal and Kaminaljuyu) by the third century AD. The nature of this contact, however, is far from clear.

The scene on this plaque, carved in the so-called 'Nebaj style', shows a Maya lord or ruler seated on a throne with a smaller figure at his feet. The lord wears earplugs, a large pectoral, armlets, wristlets, a belt with a mounted head and a zoomorphic headdress decorated with long feathers. On his left arm he carries a shield with a representation of the Jaguar God, a god of the Underworld.

Similar plaques have been found at other sites, including at the Cenote of Sacrifices (the Sacred Well) in Chichen Itza, where they were thrown as offerings.

The colour of the plaque varies, with a darker hue on the left where the smaller figure was carved. This is due to the different chemical components of the jade and depends on its source. The main source of Maya jade is the Motagua Valley, in Guatemala.

The plaque is broken around the edges, which may indicate that it was reused.

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More information


L. Schele and M.E. Miller, The blood of kings (London, Thames & Hudson, 1986)

S. Martin and N. Grube, Chronicle of the Maya kings an (Thames and Hudson, 2000)

A. Digby, Maya jades, revised edition (Trustees of the British Museum, 1972)

C. McEwan, Ancient Mexico in the British (London, The British Museum Press, 1994)


Height: 14.000 cm
Width: 14.000 cm

Museum number

AOA 1938.10-21.25



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