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HOME : Pre-Columbian Art : Mayan Jade : Mayan Jade Mask
Mayan Jade Mask - PF.6173
Origin: Honduras
Circa: 500 AD to 900 AD
Dimensions: 3.5" (8.9cm) high
Collection: Pre-Columbian
Medium: Jade

Location: Great Britain
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The Maya considered jade the most precious of all stone substances. Prized for its durability and color, jade symbolized life-giving water and vegetation, and represented lightening and rain. Its symbolic beauty imbued every figure and ornament with supernatural power and importance. This gorgeous jade mask represents Ahaw Kin, the sun god, in his alternate identity. The Maya believed that when the sun set, it went underground. Likewise, Ahaw Kin was transformed into the Jaguar God of the Underworld, as he is depicted here. His eyeless sockets are filled by a swirling hook motif, a telltale attribute of this form of the god. Similar masks were often placed over the head of deceased kings. The smaller size of this mask might suggest that it once covered the head of an elite member of the royal hierarchy; but not the king himself. A series of drilled holes around the edge of the mask would have been used to secure the mask in place over the remains of the deceased. Also, it is possible that this mask could have been worn by the living as a pectoral. In this case, it would have been utilized for specific ceremonies relating to the rites of death and the underworld. A powerful work of art that haunts us with its symbolism and stuns us with its beauty, this jade mask was a treasured item in its own time, created from a sacred material and used to usher the deceased into the afterlife. Today, this mask is a symbol for the fascinating culture of the Maya, for their masterful artistry and mysterious religious beliefs. - (PF.6173)


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