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Maya, Preclassic, general
2500 BCE-300 CE
13.02 cm x 11.11 cm x 7.94 cm (5 1/8 in. x 4 3/8 in. x 3 1/8 in.)

Not on view


This head was likely once part of a stone incense burner (incensario), as compara¬ble heads have been found on three-legged tufa incense burners in the Guatemala Highlands . A similar stone head was recovered from San Andrés Sajcabaja, Quiche, and both incense burners can be compared to examples recovered in Puebla and Veracruz. The headdress on the Dumbarton Oaks work is quite simple, suggesting the figure is a com¬moner. As with the other examples, the eyes are closed.

Linked symbolically to rain, the sun, and life, incensarios burned incense made from natural resins. These produced a thick smoke, which was then used for purifica¬tion purposes and in celebratory rituals.

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. 12, cat. 53.

Lothrop, Samuel K. 1936 Zacualpa, a Study of Ancient Quiché Artifacts. Carnegie Institution of Washington Publication, 472. Carnegie Institution of Washington, Washington, D.C., p. 50, fig. 51.

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. 176-177, pl. 17.

Acquisition History
Gift to Dumbarton Oaks by Samuel K. Lothrop, 1962.

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

Anthropomorphic | Heads | Mayas