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The Yaxchilan Lintels

  • Object type

  • Museum number

    Am1923,Maud.4

  • Title (series)

    • The Yaxchilan Lintels
  • Description

    Lintel 24: Carved limestone lintel, showing a bloodletting ritual performed by the king of Yaxchilan, Shield Jaguar II and his wife, Lady K'ab'al Xook. 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 lintel would have been painted and has traces of red and blue pigment.

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  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 723-726
  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 109 centimetres (tbc)
    • Width: 78 centimetres (tbc)
    • Depth: 6 centimetres (tbc)
  • Curator's comments

    One of a series of three panels from Structure 23 at Yaxchilan, where it was set above the left (south-east) doorway.

    The first two glyphs in the text at the top of the lintel indicate the event and the date on which it took place, AD709. The last glyph represents the Emblem Glyph (that is, the city name in Maya hieroglyphs) of Yaxchilan. The text on the left of the panel contains the name and titles of Lady K'ab'al Xook.

    Bibliography:
    L. Schele & M.E. Miller, 'The Blood of Kings' (London, Thames & Hudson, 1986)
    C. Tate, 'Yaxchilan: The Design of a Maya Ceremonial City' (University of Texas Press, 1992)
    C. McEwan, 'Ancient Mexico in the British Museum' (London, The British Museum Press, 1994)
    S. Martin & N. Grube, 'Chronicle of the Maya Kings and Queens: Deciphering the Dynasties of the Ancient Maya' (Thames & hudson, 2000)McEwan 2009
    Itzamnaaj Bahlam II (Lord Shield Jaguar) acceded to the throne at Yaxchilan in October AD 681 and commissioned a series of magnificent buildings. Lady K'abal Xook, his most prominent wife, initiated three extraordinary sculptures for the front doorways of structure 23: lintels 24,25 and 26. These works mark a remarkable era of artistic and political vigour for the city. The lintels were commissioned between AD 723 and 726, when the building was formally dedicated by "entering with fire". The scene on Lintel 24 depicts Lord Shield Jaguar and Lady K'abal Xook engaged in a bloodletting rite that took place on 9.13.17.15.12 5 eb 15 mac in the Maya calendar (28 October AD 709). She kneels in front of Shield Jaguar who holds a great torch described in the text as a "burning spear".
    Illuminating a ritual that was probably held at night or set in the dark recess of a private chamber. Both king and queen are richly attired with Sun God pectorals. The human head worn by Shield Jaguar over his brow may be a shrunken battle trophy. Wearing an exquisitely woven "huipil", Lady K'abal Xook pulls a thorned rope through her tongue in the principal form of blood sacrifice perfomed by royal women. The rope falls on to an open codex.

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  • Bibliography

    • MacGregor 2010 51 bibliographic details
    • McEwan 2009 p. 113 bibliographic details
    • McEwan 1994 p. 44 (Includes line drawing) bibliographic details
  • Location

    G27

  • Exhibition history

    Exhibited:

    1990 20 Oct-9 Dec, Japan, Tokyo, Setagaya Art Museum, Treasures of the British Museum, cat. no.183
    1991 5 Jan-20 Feb, Japan, Yamaguchi, Prefectural Museum of Art, Treasures of the British Museum, cat. no.183
    1991 9 Mar-7 May, Japan, Osaka, National Museum of Art, Treasures of the British Museum, cat. no.183
    2010, 13 May - 11 July, BM Room 3 'Rulership and Ritual: Maya Relief of Royal Bloodletting'
    2010-2011, London, BM/BBC, 'A History of the World in 100 Objects'

  • Conservation

    See treatments 

  • Subjects

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date

    1923

  • Department

    Africa, Oceania & the Americas

  • Registration number

    Am1923,Maud.4

  • Additional IDs

    • 1886 317 (South Kensington Museum No. (Now V&A))
    • AOA 1886-317 (Compass number)
Lintel 24. One of a series of three panels from Structure 23 at Yaxchilan, where it was set above the left (south-east) doorway. The scene represents a bloodletting ritual performed by the king of Yaxchilan, Shield Jaguar II and his wife, Lady K'ab'al Xook. 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, AD709. The last glyph represents the Emblem Glyph (that is, the city name in Maya hieroglyphs) of Yaxchilan. The text on the left of the panel contains the name and titles of Lady K'ab'al Xook.

The lintel has traces of red and blue pigment.

Lintel 24. One of a series of three panels from Structure 23 at Yaxchilan, where it was set above the left (south-east) doorway. The scene represents a bloodletting ritual performed by the king of Yaxchilan, Shield Jaguar II and his wife, Lady K'ab'al Xook. 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, AD709. The last glyph represents the Emblem Glyph (that is, the city name in Maya hieroglyphs) of Yaxchilan. The text on the left of the panel contains the name and titles of Lady K'ab'al Xook. The lintel has traces of red and blue pigment.

Image description

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Object reference number: ESA92816

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