Contemporary Mayan Figure, Guatemala Chichicastenango, Guatemala stone 3” high x 1.75” wide x 1.75” deep
Though these types of tourist carvings are a plenty in the markets of Guatemala, this unusual piece depicts a shaman in full headdress with his hand covering his ears. Chichicastenango, a town in west-central Guatemala, is at 6,447 feet above sea level. It was a market centre for the Cakchiquel Maya before the Spanish conquest. Chichicastenango still boasts one of the largest markets in Guatemala, serving Indian villages in the neighboring highlands. On Thursdays and Sundays, Indians market their products in the large central plaza.
Sculpture for the ancient Maya spans all media, from the miniature to the monumental, as artists gave shape to materials extracted from the landscape. Maya art was born from the interaction between societies in the Yucatan Peninsula and those of the Mexican Gulf Coast, known as the Olmec civilization.
In the first millennium B.C., Maya artists began to sculpt in stone, stucco, wood, bone, shell, and fired clay. During the Classic Period (ca. 250–900), kings and queens of powerful city-states, commissioned artworks to cover their royal court buildings and their regal bodies. After the collapse of the Classic Period kingdoms, Maya artists at northern cities like Chichén Itzá drew influence from Central Mexico and southern Central America as they adorned their temples and created spectacular offerings to their rulers and deities.
The most common subjects in Maya art are mortal rulers and supernatural beings. The royal courts of the Maya kings and queens employed full-time painters and sculptors, some of whom signed their works.