Pre-Columbian Art :
Mayan Jade : Mayan Jade Mask
Mayan Jade Mask - PF.6173
3.5" (8.9cm) high
Location: Great Britain
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.