Kiichpan and Cimic

Mayan words for beauty and death seem a fitting title to this art exhibit as most of the art pieces are centered on these two powerful and influential forces, which seemed to have been the muses for Mayan artists. This exhibit starts from the Preclassic period, to the Classic, and even into the Postclassic era of Mayan art work. Within these classifications the pieces are arranged by purpose, such as wall ornamentation, vases and urns, then figurines. While Mayans created a plethora of art pieces, many of their art was systematically destroyed after Europeans conquered the Americas, however their structures, sculptures, and even some writings have survived as you see here. The Mayans were extremely craft full people with the ingenuity to create vast temples and even a highly complex writing system comprised of hieroglyphics. Many of the art pieces in this exhibit are inlayed with hieroglyphics depicting the myths and tales of this marvelous culture. Their sculptures tell many accounts of gods and goddesses as well as warriors and rulers which shaped the Mayan way of life. Stone, jade and other precious medals were used to create such representations. Most of these surviving pieces are stone or ceramic as much of the gold or gemmed artifacts were possibly destroyed by pilfering Europeans. While glancing at these relics, a very evident item of note is how Mayans often captured their people from the side with large almond shaped eyes, pronounce noses, and swept up hair which was deemed as beautiful to the Mayan culture. Many of the events tell tales of death and sacrifice which perhaps alludes to be a common representation of the viciousness of the times. There is a sense of awe however at the glorification of the brutal life and productive lives Mayan lived by looking to their art as representations of their history.

This hieroglyphics captures a truly uniquely Mayan tradition as well as explains an intricate event in Mayan mythology. At the center of the stone there is a ball that was created from the rubber plant. On each side of the ball there are two men who are playing one of the first team sports in Mesoamerica, perhaps in the entire world. While only the two men are resented here, the ball indicates to the team sport, which was popular in Mayan times. This game alluded to the constant Mayan belief of good and evil as well as brought to light how brutal life could be. The winner of the game was praised and worshipped while the loser was put to death. The outcome would have been widely known; this is perhaps why this exact representation is to illustrate one ruler against another. Onlookers would automatically know that the viewer would walk away as the true ruler, which coincides with certain mythology or Mayan stories. One of the impressive structures at Chichen Itza has a very similar relief that explains how the game is played and what happens to the winner that is crowned as well as the impending death to the loser. The hieroglyphics surrounding these royal players explains who the winner is. Their ornate clothing and stylized hair are typical of what Mayans viewed as beautiful with their almond shaped eyes indicating they are indeed Mayan. Depictions such as these have she much light on the Mayan mentality of beauty, sport, and death.
Chacmools are believed by many to represent fallen warriors and are placed at sacred sites throughout the old Mayan Empire. These statues appear to be half reclining men or warriors. They seem to cling or clutch at their midsection where a plate is resting and they rise up as perhaps straining to view the magnificent surrounding structures. Their faces are turned toward the right as they stare at the temples surrounding them. A great example of this can be seen at Chichen Itza, which is one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. I visited Chichen Itza in December of 2012 when the Mayan calendar marked the ending and beginning of a new aeon. The Chacmool statues straining to see all around them or perhaps demanding eye contact with those paying homage is what it appeared to me, as the sheer detail and stone ingenuity is truly impressive. This warrior is seen holding a plate that is believed to have afforded the Mayans a placeholder for offerings. Another location where the Chacmool is found is at the temple of Tula which I also visited. While researches have uncovered twelve at Tula and fourteen at Chichen Itza, I did not see this many when I visited as these sites are large and full of tourists. Nonetheless, these statues meant for offerings and perhaps sacrifices are awing to see as some have retained great detail and show evidence of pigment, indicating they once were vibrantly painted. Imagining them in their complete colorful glory, amongst these grand temples is humbling to stand before them.
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