Head of a Young Noble

Head of a Young Noble



Overall: 53.3 x 35.6 x 52.1 cm (21 x 14 x 20 1/2 in.); Former: 52.8 x 35.3 cm (20 13/16 x 13 7/8 in.)

Gift of the Hanna Fund 1953.154


This young noble may be a political official of 8th-century Copán, an important site in eastern Maya territory. The noble, who embodies the Maya ideal of masculine beauty, wears circular ear ornaments and a headband, above which the tied hair rises. The meaning of the disembodied hand that cups the chin is debated. The head, collected by Harvard archaeologists in the 1890s, comes from the facade of a building may have been used as a council house by a Copán ruler and his advisors during a crisis that rocked the city’s ruling dynasty. On the structure’s upper level, above woven mat signs that symbolized political authority, eight figures were enthroned in T-shaped recesses. This head is from one of these figures. Beneath each recess was a hieroglyph thought to name an important town (or family) within Copán’s domain. The figures may represent these towns’ advisors to the king, whose image crowned the structure.

See also
AA - Mesoamerica
Art of the Americas
Type of artwork: 

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