Plaque fragment with human head in profile
- 600–900 CE
Jade and other greenstones were the most precious materials for the ancient Maya, equivalent to emeralds and diamonds in Western culture. Not only was jade carved into beads that functioned as both jewelry and currency, but this lustrous material was also carved into magical objects that were alive with soul-force and, thus, either useful or potentially harmful.
The carved images kings wore on their foreheads and chests projected supernatural power. This carved jadeite plaque fragment would have likely been suspended from a necklace originally. The male figure is shown in profile and wears earspools and an elaborate headdress with a large animal face, the mouth or beak extending over the head. Further costume details are absent, but the facial features are common among the Maya; specifically the elongated forehead is a sign of cranial deformation in which head flattening or binding intentionally alters the shape of the skull, a form of ritual beautification common among the Maya and other Mesoamerican peoples. This image may represent an ancestor, an elite individual, or the ruler himself.
Elaine Higgins Smith, Digital Collections Content Coordinator, 2016.
Carol Robbins, Label text [1968.20], A. H. Meadows Galleries, 2010.
Carol Robbins, Label text [1973.46], A. H. Meadows Galleries, 2010.
Getty Vocabulary, AAT (pendants (jewelry): AAT: 300046002).