Friday 21 December 2012

Ok so they might not have been 100% right on the end of the world but it's not all bad...

Well here I sit on the 21/12/2012 and luckily the world is still spinning, the polar ice caps are intact and there are no flaming meteors heading for earth ... touch wood. So this seemed like a perfect time to have a little look at Mayan Art.

The Mayan's were a highly developed civilization located in what we now know as central America. Putting to one side their lack of psychic powers, lets face it a feat that no civilization is likely to truly achieve, they had a developed written language of glyphs, they built huge cities such as Tikal which reached a size of approximately 6 square miles and they even developed calenders. The glyphs which are decipherable have given historians a fantastic insight into Mayan culture.
Sadly as with all early civilizations the art works that remain represent only the tip of the iceberg and what an awe inspiring iceberg it would have been. In London's British Museum we are lucky enough to have 6 of the lintels (a type of architectural detail) from Yaxchilán.

Yaxchilán is a complex of temples located on the Mexican side of the border between Mexico and Guatemala. The fragments in the British museum would have belonged on structure 21.

A birds-eye view of the complex... thank you google maps!
These reliefs which according to their glyph inscriptions were commissioned by the king Bird Jaguar IV (awesome name) show the fairly gruesome practice of blood-letting common in Mayan culture and most commonly undertaken by societies elite using a stingrays spine. This instrument can be seen in the hands of the women (Bird Jaguar's wife) in the carving immediately below.

If you want to visit these incredible pieces they are located in Room 27 of the British Museum which focuses upon Mexican art. Oh and it's free!

And for more fascinating in depth information about the reliefs head to :