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Belt Plaque


Maya, Early Classic
300-400 CE
10.16 cm x 5.72 cm x 0.64 cm (4 in. x 2 1/4 in. x 1/4 in.)
jadeite
PC.B.157

On view


Permalink: http://museum.doaks.org/objects-1/info/22789

Description
A pendant that may have been worn as part of a Maya ruler’s belt assemblage, this jadeite belt plaque offers intriguing clues to the process of reworking objects for different purposes. In its original form, the piece was lightly incised with two hieroglyphs, which were carefully framed by a double cartouche. A hole for suspending the plaque slightly overlaps the outer cartouche, as if placed with no regard for the incised line. The line of the cartouche has also been ground away along the bottom of the plaque, which now shows a slightly beveled edge.

At some point in its history, the plaque was deliberately reshaped with grinding and cutting tools into a figural form. The object was inverted so that the ground “eyes” of the figure are located in the middle of the lower hieroglyph. The cut marks on each side and from the edge of the plaque to the suspension hole imply limbs, and these alterations may indicate that the object was recarved in the shape of an axe god, an ancient Costa Rican form. The cut that defines the legs does not extend all the way to the suspension hole, although cut marks are visible on either side of it.

A remarkable object in terms of its material and inscription, the Dumbarton Oaks plaque is particularly interesting in the context of changes in its meaning and function, evidenced in its modifications. These changes are especially intriguing because this work may have belonged to a set of six inscribed belt plaques. Three plaques, possibly from this set, were discovered in the Early Classic tomb at Calakmul. Together, glylphs on the six plaques would have formed a text—whose meaning was lost once the plaques went their separate ways. As this objetc was modified and reworked, its initial textual significance was apparently replaced by other narratives and symbolism related to its value as a precious gift and heirloom.


Bibliography
Benson, Elizabeth P. 1963 Handbook of the Robert Woods Bliss Collection of Pre-Columbian Art. Dumbarton Oaks, Trustees for Harvard University, Washington, D.C., p. 13, cat. 56.

Bliss, Robert Woods 1957 Pre-Columbian Art: The Robert Woods Bliss Collection. Text and Critical Analyses by S. K. Lothrop, Joy Mahler and William F. Foshag. Phaidon, London. p. 252, cat. 117, pl. LXVIII.

Bliss, Robert Woods 1959 Pre-Columbian Art: The Robert Woods Bliss Collection. 2nd ed. Text and Critical Analyses by S. K. Lothrop, Joy Mahler and William F. Foshag. Phaidon, London. p. 260, cat. 117, pl. LXVIII.

Gallenkamp, Charles and Regina Elise Johnson (EDS.) 1985 Maya: Treasures of an Ancient Civilization. H.N. Abrams, in association with the Albuquerque Museum, New York. p. 116.

Lunsford, John 1985 Maya: Treasures of an Ancient Civilization. Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas. p. 17.

Pillsbury, Joanne, Miriam Doutriaux, Reiko Ishihara-Brito and Alexandre Tokovinine (EDS.) 2012 Ancient Maya Art at Dumbarton Oaks. Pre-Columbian Art at Dumbarton Oaks, Number 4. Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, D.C., p. 178-183, pl. 18, fig. 98.






Exhibition History
"Indigenous Art of the Americas", National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, January 1956 to April 1962.

"Maya: Treasures of an Ancient Civilization", American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY, 5/1 - 7/28/1985; Natural History Mueum of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles, CA, 8/28 - 11/3/1985; Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TX, 12/15/1985 - 2/16/1986; Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada, 3/23 - 6/15/1986; Nelson-Atkins Museum of Fine Arts, Kansas City, MO, 7/20 - 10/15/1986; The Albuquerque Museum, Albuquerque, NM, 11/16/1986 - 2/8/1987.


Acquisition History
Purchased from Earl Stendahl, Los Angeles (dealer), by Robert Woods Bliss, July 1954.

Robert Woods Bliss Collection of Pre-Columbian Art, Washington, DC, 1954-1962.

Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Pre-Columbian Collection, Washington, DC.


Glyphs | Mayas | Pendant