TREASURES OF LA RUTA MAYA: Exceptional Pre-Columbian Art

The exhibition includes vases painted with scenes and hieroglyphic texts, sculptures in stone and stucco, as well as jade and shell ornaments. It also highlights a selection of 9 Teotihuacan style incensarios from the Escuintla-Tiquisate area, decorated with three-dimensional clay applications, representing finely decorated characters with cosmological elements and traits, some of them painted in various colors.

This is the second temporary exhibition presented in the same month, in Antigua Guatemala, by La Ruta Maya Foundation.

Guatemala.- La Ruta Maya Foundation, with the support of the "Museum Walkway" of Hotel Casa Santo Domingo, inaugurated the exhibition "Treasures of La Ruta Maya: Exceptional Pre-Columbian Art," a show featuring more than forty archaeological objects that illustrate ancient works of great beauty and artistry. This archaeological exhibition is open to the public at the Quiroa Gallery from August 30 to November 9, 2014.

Part of this collection was exhibited at the LA ART & ANTIQUE SHOW in Los Angeles, California in January 201 and in this opportunity several objects appear for the first time to the Guatemalan public.  Among the most important works of art are the following: a large polychrome stucco sculpture of almost 9 feet long, with the figure of a character wearing a jaguar mask and a skirt decorated as if it were made of jaguar skin. The most important fact is that this is the only sculpture of its kind found to date, with very few known similar cases, in which a large three-dimensional figure, modeled in stucco, still keeps its original colors. In this case it is suggested that it could represent a warrior, because of its attire and predatory position. There are very few cases of large stucco sculptures with which to compare. Due to its position and size, this piece may have been part of some architectural element, inside or outside a building.

Another very important piece that makes its debut in this exhibition is a round altar that mentions Itzamnaaj B'ahlam II, Lord of Yaxchilan, who reigned between 681 and 742 AD. The altar contains a carved scene with five characters among whom the figure of the king Itzamnaaj B'ahlam II appears, sitting on a throne and holding a weapon with three points of flint. The top of the altar is carved with twenty hieroglyphic cartouches that dedicate the sculpture with the veb "pehtaj" which means "to make round", a verb used in circular sculptures and always beginning with the phrase yuxul "carving". The texts mention at least three characters, including the king.

One of the characteristic features of Maya art is that some artists and sculptors sign the monuments they carve, and in this case the signature of the sculptor appears as a small text between the figures of the King and the captive. For this monument we had the collaboration of renowned epigraphers Camilo Alejandro Luin (Universidad de San Carlos) and Nikolai Grube (Bonn University), among others, who have deciphered hieroglyphic texts of this and other monuments in the collection of La Ruta Maya Foundation.

Another very important piece is a dish that has a very fine calligraphy with hieroglyphs written backwards, as if reflected in a mirror. According to the hieroglyphic inscription, this object may have belonged to the ruler of Piedras Negras nicknamed "Turtle Tooth". This dish is decorated with an aquatic bird in the center, but the importance of the text and the character mentioned has drawn the attention of leading researchers such as Philip Galeev, Camilo Alejandro Luin, Sebastian Matteo and Sergey Veprestkiy. According to these experts, very little is known of the kings of Piedras Negras during the Middle Classic period (450-550 AD), but this extraordinary plate is the first ceramic object related to that ruler as well as the first time it is found associated with the title "yajawte" or "vassal of spears", a title held by warriors.

The objects were selected based on several criteria, among which we can mention three: (1) its high artistic quality both in technique and material; (2) The representation of the Mayan Cosmology in its decor and (3) its historical importance, especially with the ones with hieroglyphic inscriptions, in which the reading of their texts complete the gaps and expose events and characters that were part of the history of the Maya region.

This collection is in the custody of La Ruta Maya Foundation for preservation, conservation, research, education, and exhibition and as such is registered as Cultural Patrimony of the Nation with the Register of Cultural Property of the Ministry of Culture and Sports.

La Ruta Maya Foundation appreciates the interest, support, and hospitality of Casa Santo Domingo, for promoting and highlighting the importance of Guatemala's Cultural Heritage.