Maya culture, Jaina Island, Campeche, Mexico, Double Figure

Maya culture, Jaina Island, Campeche, Mexico 

Double Figure, c. 7th – 8th century 

mold-made and hand-built ceramic with traces of pigments 

Purchase, Charles Alfred Castle Memorial Fund, 1973 (4184.1) 

Among the most distinctive forms of Maya art are small figurines that have been archaeologically excavated on Jaina, a small island located off the western or Gulf coast of the Yucatán Peninsula. Jaina was actually raised above the water when the Maya transported tons of earth and rubble onto it, and it served primarily as a necropolis or burial ground for people living on the nearby mainland. The term "Jaina" probably comes from the Yucatan Maya phrase hail na, translating as “watery house” or "temple in the water." Ceramic figurines, usually single figures or couples, frequently made as rattles and whistles, were included in burials. The work shown here depicts a Maya woman in elaborate costume, coiffure/headdress, and jewelry, denoting a person of high rank and noble status, seemingly engaged in conversation with an equally well-dressed man. This figurine could be sounded as a whistle by blowing into a mouthpiece visible at the rear bottom of the piece. The basic form of the figurine was made in a mold and embellished with applied elements. Jaina figurines, with their extraordinary life-like poses and detail, serve as glimpses into the daily life of the Maya people.