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PRE-COLUMBIAN OBJECTS
Jade - Pendants and Figurines


 

Maya Pendants

Origin I Characteristics I Urgency of the Situation I Legislation I Bibliography

Click on the photo to see caption and an enlarged version

Click on the photo to see caption and an enlarged version

Click on the photo to see caption and an enlarged version

Maya pendant,
jade, 11.3 x 4.2 cm
Maya pendant,
jade, 5 x 9 cm
Maya pendant,
jade, 4.5 x 3.4 cm
  © Ministerio de Cultura y Deportes, Dirección del Patrimonio Cultural y Natural, Museo Nacional de Arqueología y Etnología © Museo Nacional de Antropología © Ministerio de Cultura y Deportes, Dirección del Patrimonio Cultural y Natural, Museo Nacional de Arqueología y Etnología

--Origin  
 

Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico.

--Characteristics  
 

Maya culture extended through the Yucatan Peninsula, the state of Chiapas in Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and western Honduras.
Jade pendants were crafted between the late Pre-Classic and Post-Classic periods from 400 BC to 1200 AD. They were used as necklaces, pectorals, pendants or amulets. They have been found in various places but the most elaborate jade pieces are issued from the tombs of highranking personages. They can be found as elements in a necklace or accompanied by polished, decorated tubular beads of the same material.
They are easily identified due to their green shades, polished surface and small size. Maya plaques were made of jade or other similar stones such as serpentine in varying shades of cream and green. Their size varies but they are usually small, measuring between 5 and 15 cm. Beads are 3 to 7 cm.
Pendants have irregular shapes as the decorative motifs had to be adapted to the shape and size of the original stone. They are perforated and decorated on one side by means of incisions or sculpture in the round.
Human figures, portrayed from the front or the side, in sitting or standing position, are one of the most popular motifs. Modes of depiction vary greatly ranging from a head with the typical Maya profile and a sophisticated head-dress or a body figure extremely simple in its representation and dress. Late items are much more elaborate and sometimes have incised scenes such as a lavishly dressed character with or without inscriptions accompanied by secondary characters.
Other depictions include grotesque human figures, animals and abstract elements such as sculpted in the round or incised hieroglyphic inscriptions. Tubular beads can be plain or decorated.

 

--Urgency of the Situation  
 

These pendants are one of the finest examples of Maya sculpture that shows this culture's high degree of technological development. As ornamental or religious items, they speak about society, hierarchies and beliefs.
Like other archaeological items, these pieces are at great risk as they are found in tombs, which are the main target for looters.

 

--Legislation Protecting these Objects  
 

See Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico

--Bibliography  
 
  • Coe, Michael D. The Maya. 5o ed. London and New York, Thames & Hudson, 1993.
  • Sharer, Robert E. The Ancient Maya. 5o ed. Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1994.

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October 2003