Mayan Jade plaque ca. 600 AD
Worn by a Powerful Mayan King a 1000 years before Columbus
This incredible jade masterpiece would only have been made for a Mayan king. Carved
from a very large single piece of fine jade, or ‘Ya’ax Chich’ as the Mayan called this
precious stone, a symbol of power; this 7-inch tall plaque is nearly identical to a 6 feet
high Mayan Stela with Queen Ix Mutal Ahaw donated to the San Francisco Museum of Art and currently on display. Jade was more valuable to the Mayan people than gold, a work
like this only being worn by a king or high ranking military figure. Quality jade such as
this was only found in small rocks making this piece an even more remarkable find.
The jade plaque is carved with an intricate composition of royal faces, masks and
figural work, an icon of Mayan carving and easily one of the top ten Mayan jade pieces
in the world. Dating to circa 600 AD, the darker green color such as that exhibited in
this work was reserved for the most extravagant pieces and for royalty. This elaborate
plaque would have been worn as a necklace or on a Royal belt assemblage by a king
during important ceremonies. Mayan gold was of course a coveted (and looted)
treasure by the Conquistadors, but the Maya treasured these intricately carved jade
objects more than the precious metal. Most examples of this type of Mayan royal work
have been lost to time or reside in important museum collections. Indeed, the rich
culture of jade carving became extinct since the unknown collapse of the Mayan
This historical jewel was saved and descends from Julio C. Vargas of San Jose, Costa
Rica, who was one of the co-founders of the National Museum in San Jose, Costa Rica.
Its provenance is sterling having been acquired by Dr. Richard Sirkin of Buffalo, New
York and then to the present collector. This plaque is very similar to a royal stela
exhibited in the de Young Fine Art Museum in San Francisco, a gift of Mrs. Paul L.
Wattis in 1999. Titled Stela with Queen Ix Mutal Ahaw, the museum piece is approximately six feet tall and depicts a Mayan royal with a crown and stylisticaly very similar to the figure depicted on this jade plaque.
This jade plaque is an extremely important piece of History of the Americas, owned by
a Mayan king and a very rare surviving treasure of American History before Columbus
discovered this continent.