Ancient Mayan granite tablet
Exhibited in British Museum, London.
Maya, Late Classic period (AD 600-900)
From Yaxchilán, Mexico
A scene of victory from a Maya temple
This limestone lintel is one of a series of three panels commissioned by Bird Jaguar IV for Structure 21 at Yaxchilán and was once set above the central doorway of the central chamber.
The figure of Bird Jaguar IV dominates the scene while his captive sits at his feet. Bird Jaguar wears the same warrior costume as his father did on Lintel 26 from Structure 23, and carries a spear in his right hand. Bird Jaguar's captive was taken in AD 752, probably in a battle spawned by inter-city rivalry, as suggested by the first two glyphs at the upper-left corner of the lintel. He carries a broken parasol in his right hand, an attribute of defeated warriors.
Scenes representing the public display of captives occur frequently in Maya art. They are often shown preparing for bloodletting rituals. Here, beads of blood can be seen on the captive's nose and cheek.
The capture of sacrificial victims was an essential aspect of Maya warfare, as they were necessary for many rituals. Accession rituals, for example, entailed the offering of dedicatory human sacrifices to mark the enthronement of a new ruling lord.