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8-10-2015, 14:31

Some categories for thematic analytical investigation

Maya sculpture can be ranked according to its location on the access diagrams and interpreted in terms of its public and private accessibility. Discerning patterns in the distribution of artistic themes, however, requires dealing with the variability present in Maya artwork. Twenty-two themes were defined which broadly characterise the iconographic content of palace and temple sculpture at

Palenque (see Chapters 4 and 5). Expanding on the sculptural themes outlined by Clarkson (1979) and myself (Parmington 2000, 2003), these themes (which appear singularly and in various combinations) are as follows: (1) Accession; (2) Ancestor Portraiture Solo; (3) Ancestor Portraiture with Attendants; (4) Captive Display; (5) Text, Captive Display; (6) Cosmological Underworld; (7) Cosmological Terrestrial; (8) Cosmological Celestial; (9) God Portraiture Solo; (10) God Portraiture with Attendants; (11) Human Sacrifice; (12) Auto Sacrifice; (13) Mat Motif; (14) Portraiture Solo; (15) Sacrificial Dance; (16) Text, Cosmological; (17) Text, Historical; (18) Text, Mythological; (19) Text, Dedication; (20) Royal Audience; (21) Ritual Dance; and (22) Royal Portraiture Solo. The approach used to thematically sort sculpture is clarified in the following sections in the descriptions of five of the principal themes: For more detailed examples of the remaining themes, see descriptions ofsculpture and other artworks in Chapter 4, Architectural and Sculptural Programs of the Palenque Palace Group. (Note: Three of the sculptural themes outlined in the following sections [i. e., Royal Audience, Ritual Dance, and the sacrificial themes are consistent with descriptions I presented in previous research [see Parmington 2000, 2003]).

Captive display

Capture iconography in monumental art generally falls into two main categories, each one relating to different stages in the ritualised processing of prisoners. One way that captives are portrayed in Maya art is at the moment of their capture in battle; the other is as victims in subsequent ceremonies (Schele 1984: 17). The glyph for capture, which may or may not accompany such scenes, reads chukaj(“is captured”; Miller and Houston 1987:49-50). Generally, the act of capture is implied in Maya iconography rather than represented directly (Schele 1984: 9), where captives are portrayed after the fact either seated or kneeling at the feet of their captors. The clothing of captives usually comprised simply a plain loin - or hip-cloth; in addition, a cloth may have been draped over the forearm of the captive (see Figure 2.18). There are examples in which captives are portrayed wearing war costume, although most often they are depicted stripped of all symbols of authority. Carvings found on stelae suggest that captives were used as seats or pedestals, as a form of public humiliation (Schele 1984: 16). Often captives are portrayed bound by rope or cloth; in addition, paper or cloth is sometimes portrayed pulled through the victim’s ear perforations marking them for sacrifice (P. Mathews 2000: personal communication).

Some categories for thematic analytical investigation

Figure 2.18. Tablet of the Scribe (GR75). Sculptural Theme Represented: Captive Display. Drawing by Linda Schele (No. 147), (c) David Schele, courtesy of the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc., Www. famsi. org.

Human sacrifice and auto sacrifice

Two types of sacrifice are portrayed in Classic Maya art: Auto Sacrifice (bloodletting) as well as ritualised execution. By convention, sacrificial themes appearing on monuments and pottery portray the higher status individual undertaking the activity, where scenes depict the moment just before or just after the act has taken place. Some of the clearest examples of both fatal and nonfatal forms of sacrifice appear on the Bonampak Murals (see Schele 1984: 11).

In Maya art it is costume and associated accoutrements rather than the act itself that signal the act of Auto Sacrifice. Elements of dress and other paraphernalia that mark the activity of bloodletting generally include one or more of the following: knotted cloth (i. e., blood knots); the God C fret apron; bundles; bowls; deified perforators; thorned rope; bloodstained cloth or paper, in addition to godly manifestations, such as “vision serpents” (see Clarkson 1979: 51, 80; Tate 1992: 56; Miller and Taube 1993: 47; Farmington 2000: 67-69). As noted by Diego de Landa, the act of bloodletting has been documented historically among descendants of the Classic Maya:

They offered sacrifices of their own blood, sometimes cutting themselves around in pieces and they left them in this way as a sign. Other times they pierced their cheeks, and other their lower lips. Sometimes they scarify certain parts of their bodies, at other times they pierced their tongues in a slanting direction from side to side and passed bits of straw through the holes with horrible suffering; others slit the superfluous parts of their virile member leaving it as they did their ears, on account of which the general historian of the Indies was deceived saying that they practiced circumcision (de Landa, in Tozzer 1941: 113).

As with Auto Sacrifice, Classic Feriod monuments rarely portray the act of human sacrifice; rather, it is pre-and postsacrificial activity that was generally portrayed (see Figure 2.18 for an example sacrificial representation in Maya art). Diego de Landa (in Tozzer 1941) described human sacrifice as a highly ritualised activity during which specific costumes were worn and specific forms of torture were inflicted on the victim. Among the postcontact Maya, various methods of sacrifice included death by spear, disembowelment, heart incision, axe, or arrow. According to Diego de Landa:

And then the day arrived, they came together in the court of the temple, and if the victim was to be sacrificed with arrows, they stripped him naked, and anointed his body with a blue colour, and put a coroza on his head. . . And making a certain sign to the dancers they began one after the other to shoot. . . And in this way they make his whole chest one point like a hedgehog of arrows (de Landa, in Tozzer 1941: 117-118).

Ritual dance

Scenes in monumental art, categorised as ritual dance, were determined through the identification of the verb “to dance” (as observed in accompanying hieroglyphic texts) or through the interpretation of iconographic elements in scenes implying this activity (Farmington 2000: 54-55). For example, the tilted posture and raised heels of individuals as depicted imply dance in Maya iconography (Grube 1992: 201). Artists portrayed dancing on pottery as well as on stone monuments and mural art. For the Maya, dance was a means of transformation and communication; by the very act of dancing, kings and nobles believed that they transformed into gods and supernatural beings. It was through the act of dance that participants transformed themselves into their “soul companions” (wayob), transforming into creatures such as birds and the jaguar as represented in costume (Freidel and Schele 1993: 260-270).

Some categories for thematic analytical investigation

Figure 2.19. House E Oval Tablet (GR 5). Sculptural Theme Represented: Royal Audience (Accession). Drawing by Linda Schele (No. 143), (© David Schele, courtesy of the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc., Www. famsi. org.

Royal audience

Scenes on monuments categorised as royal audience “generally depict palace scenes and formal gatherings. The context has been defined so as to include scenes depicting two or more people and where the status of individuals portrayed can be identified as subordinate in the company of a ruler as indicated by title glyphs” (Parmington 2000: 52). Scenes often depict individuals paying homage or making offerings to a ruler protagonist. Scenes may also depict the offering of tribute. Typically, the ruler (who is most often frontally oriented) is the focus of the composition, whereas attendants are depicted standing or seated in submissive poses undergoing various subordinate activities (Parmington 2000: 52-53) (see Figure 2.19).