Height: 34.000 cm
Width: 40.000 cm
Gift of Alfred P. Maudslay
Africa, Oceania, Americas
Maya, Classic period (AD
From Copán, Honduras
The ancient Maya city of Copán is renowned for the large number of elaborate three-dimensional stone sculptures, scattered over the site. It attracted the attention of early travellers such as John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood, who published images of some of the monuments in Incidents of travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan in 1841. In 1881, another great traveller and pioneer of Maya archaeology, Alfred P. Maudslay, visited the ruins for three days using Stephens' plans and descriptions of the monuments as a guide.
Maudslay returned for a few months in 1885. He took superb photographs of the monuments and their inscriptions. He recorded sculptural monuments using plaster moulds, each monument requiring hundreds of pieces, which were later re-assembled in London to produce the cast. For the inscriptions found on flat surfaces he used paper moulds.
A group of sculptures, including this astonishing head, were also brought back to England. The head was part of the elaborate decoration on the exterior of Structure 20. This structure, described by Maudslay as 'the most curious building the excavation brought to light', was destroyed by the River Copán before its diversion. According to him the head was probably part of a figure seated cross-legged.
W.L. Fash, Scribes, warriors, and kings (London, Thames and Hudson, 1991)
I. Graham, 'Alfred Maudslay and the discovery of the Maya' in Collectors and collections-1, British Museum Yearbook No. 2 (London, The British Museum Press, 1977), pp. 136-55
A.P. Maudslay, Archaeology, Biologia Centrali-Americana, vol. 5 (New York, Milpatron Pub. Corp., facsimile edition, 1974)