- Museum number
- Series: The Yaxchilan Lintels
Lintel 24: Carved limestone lintel, showing a bloodletting ritual performed b, Lady K'ab'al Xook. The ruler of Yaxchilan, Itzaamnaj B'ahlam (her husband) holds a flaming torch over his wife, who is pulling a obsidian studded rope through her tongue. Scrolls of blood around her mouth.
The lintel was painted and has traces of red and blue pigment.
- Production date
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.
The blue pigment is known as Maya Blue: a clay-dye composite made by heating sak luum (palygorskite) and indigofera (indigo).
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)
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 188.8.131.52.12 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.
- On display (G27)
- Exhibition history
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'
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Maudslay’s original sculptures, from Yaxchilán in Mexico and Copán in Honduras, were initially deposited at the Victoria and Albert Museum (known as the South Kensington Museum until 1899) in 1885. There appears to have been some lack of clarity over whether these were a gift, or a loan from Maudslay. With Maudslay’s permission, the original sculptures and a selection of casts were transferred to the British Museum, on the grounds their subject matter more properly fell within the British Museum’s purview. The deliveries took place on the 20th (originals) and 22nd (casts) of November 1893. The majority of the casts remained at the V&A, on the understanding that they too would be transferred to the British Museum as soon as space could be found for them. Continued confusion over the legal ownership of the collection (Maudslay, V&A or BM) – see correspondence V&A correspondence archive - probably explains why neither casts nor originals were registered at the time of their arrival. The issue was finally resolved with the transfer of the remaining casts to the British Museum for exhibition in 1923. The originals sculptures were therefore given a 1923 registration number, despite their having been present at the British Museum since 1893.
- Africa, Oceania and the Americas
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Miscellaneous number: AOA 1886-317 (Compass number)
Previous owner/ex-collection number: 1886 317 (South Kensington Museum No. (Now V&A))