Costumed Figure

Date: 7th–8th century

Geography: Mexico, Mesoamerica

Culture: Maya

Medium: Ceramic, pigment

Dimensions: H. 11 1/2 x W. 3 13/16 x D. 3 3/4 in. (29.3 x 9.7 x 9.5 cm)

Classification: Ceramics-Musical Instruments

Credit Line: The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979

Accession Number: 1979.206.953


Jaina, a small island located off the western coast of the Yucatán Peninsula, was actually raised above the waters of the Gulf of Mexico when the Maya carried tons of earth and rubble onto it. As part of the funerary practice on Jaina, ceramic figurines, frequently in the form of rattles and whistles, were included in the burials. The early burials had few figurines, and they were of high quality like this one. As the burial location gained in popularity, the figures were produced in greater quantity and their aesthetic quality declined. The subject matter of Jaina figurines is most often related to matters of fertility. The underworld too had a place in the imagery as the deceased made their way through it and, if the journey was successful, reemerged in the upper world. The garment worn by this figure is believed to represent the quilted armor worn by warriors, but the elaboration of the costume and its accoutrements suggest a figure of high rank and noble status.