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HOME : Pre-Columbian Art : Pre-Columbian Masterpieces : Mayan Plate
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Mayan Plate - PF.2910
Origin: Guatemala
Circa: 300 AD to 900 AD
Dimensions: 15" (38.1cm) high
Catalogue: V15
Collection: Pre-Columbian
Medium: Terracotta

Location: United States
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This large Mayan plate portrays an elaborately decorated man wearing a feathered headdress, into which a bird is speaking. This graceful figure is encircled by hieroglyphs that accent the circumference of the plate. He stands with austere confidence, holding a weapon-like object. In Mayan civilization such plates were essential items because the plates were often decorated with royal portraiture of a ruler the plates, thus, describe reigning eras of rulers who were considered as semi-divine beings with royal heritage and spiritual power the figure on the Mayan plate displays numerous signs of such status and power he shows cranial deformation, a sign of noble beauty, and wears elaborate headdress. He also wears jade ear spools and fancy clothing. The most interesting point of this plate, however, is the act of communication between the ruler and the bird-- perhaps one of many Mayan gods. The ruler's gesture and the marks that resemble speech scroll from the bird’s open beak signify communication, the ruler's spiritual power of interacting with a god. The headdress was associated with gods in Mayan civilization and it sometimes took shapes of various gods. Perhaps some rulers communicated with gods through their headdress. The glyphs around the plate perhaps convey the ruler's name and the dales of his reigning era. As such usage of hieroglyphs illustrate, the Mayans had extremely complex hieroglyphic system of names, dates, and cosmos. Like pages of a book, this beautiful plate describes a period in history with elegant lines, colors, shapes, and hieroglyphs. - (PF.2910)


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