Currently reading : Facial Marks on Jaina Figurines

Facial Marks on Jaina Figurines

17 December 2013

Author : julia-silverman

“Jaina-style” figurines are tiny Mayan clay sculptures dating from 600-1200 AD, named after their discovery site on Jaina Island off the Gulf coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. Fashioned into whistles and rattles, these figurines functioned primarily as funerary objects. Although they are often smaller than 12 inches (~30 cm) tall, each figure is intricately molded with elaborate garments, jewelry, and other adornments. From tiny feathered garments to elaborate headdresses and ear spools (tuup), each figurine seems to display a museum’s worth of garments and jewelry. No two are completely alike.


Especially interesting (to me at least) are these sculptures’ reflections of trends in body modification. Many display, for example, elongated and flattened skulls, a modification practiced among the elite. Others don ear spools, plugs for stretched earlobes that were often fashioned from semi-precious stones. Each of the figurines below displays stylized facial markings, delineated as raised bumps on the figures’ “skin.” As with many colonial and pre-colonial records, it remains unclear whether these facial markings refer to scarification, paint, or tattooing. The figure on the righthand side of the first image also seems to wear an artificial “nose bridge,” a clay structure possibly used to create a smooth slope between the nose and forehead.


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