Biblical Archaeology Review 41:5, September/October 2015


Chiapas, Mexico

Made of jade, this Maya burial mask was found in the Temple of the Inscriptions at Palenque in southern Mexico. Death rituals were particularly important in Maya culture—largely because of the destructive nature of their gods. Jade was commonly used in ancient Maya burial practices, as it was thought to provide payment to the other world.

The Temple of the Inscriptions is the largest stepped pyramid in Palenque and served as a funerary monument for the ajaw (ruler) K’inich Janaab’ Pakal, who ruled for close to 70 years in the seventh century A.D. Usually the jade used in funeral rites was a small bead placed into the mouth of the deceased, but in the case of this significant ruler, the entire burial mask was made of jade.

Housed in the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City, the burial mask is an example of the beauty within the Maya culture.

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