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Jade portrait head inscribed with glyphs


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Height: 15.200 cm
Width: 10.000 cm

Christy Collection
Gift of A.W. Franks

AOA 9599

Room 27: Mexico

    Jade portrait head inscribed with glyphs

    Maya, Late Classic period (AD 600-800)
    From Comayagua, Honduras

    This Maya head was carved from a single block of jade. The eyes were probably inlaid originally, with shell or other materials. Representations in ceramics, mural paintings, stone and other media suggest that such heads were mounted on a belt worn by Maya rulers. They were made of jade, shell, obsidian or other stone and was set above a group of three flat celts (axe-heads).

    A series of glyphs, arranged in three columns, are carved at the back of the head, and two on top. Although they are partly eroded and the dates are illegible, the glyphs provide surprising information about its origin.

    A passage of the text refers to a person related to the Maya city of Palenque. We know that the mother of Yax Pac, the sixteenth ruler of Copán (AD 763-810), was from Palenque. It is likely that this head came with her as a prized heirloom. During the eighth century, the Comayagua region was linked to Copán; it is possible that the jade head made its way there as gift to a local lord or as a piece looted at a later date.

    W.L. Fash, Scribes, warriors, and kings (London, Thames and Hudson, 1991)

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

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

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


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