Maya relief of royal blood-letting (Yaxchilan lintel 24)
Mexico, about AD 600-900
This limestone lintel, considered one of the masterpieces of Maya art, is one of a series of three panels from Structure 23 at Yaxchilán, where it was set above the left (south-east) doorway.
Lintels 24 and 25, removed at Maudslay's request at the end of the nineteenth century, are on permanent display in the British Museum's Mexican Gallery. Lintel 26, the third in the series, is in the Museo Nacional de Antropología, in Mexico City.
The scene represents a bloodletting ritual performed by the king of Yaxchilán, Shield Jaguar the Great (681-742), and his wife, Lady K'ab'al Xook (Itzamnaaj Bahlen III). The king holds a flaming torch over his wife, who is pulling a thorny rope through her tongue. Scrolls of blood can be seen around her mouth.
The first two glyphs in the text at the top of the lintel indicate the event and the date on which it took place, 24 October, AD 709 (5 Eb, 15 Mak in the maya calendar).
The last glyph represents the Emblem Glyph (that is, the city name in Maya hierolglyphs) of Yaxchilán. The text on the left of the panel contains the name and titles of Lady K'ab'al Xook.
The lintel has traces of Maya blue, turquoise and red pigment.
A significant Maya centre, Yaxchilán is located on the south bank of the Usumacinta River, in Chiapas, Mexico. It largely dates to the Classic period (AD 250-900) and a number of its buildings are still standing.
The carved stone lintels found above doorways have made this site famous. Commissioned by rulers of the city, the lintels area a lengthy dynastic record.
Alfred P Maudslay
Maudslay carried out eight expeditions to the Maya areas of modern Central America between 1881 and 1894, visiting Copán, Quirigua, Yaxchilán, Chichen Itza and Palenque.