This tiny (7-1/2-inch-high) CERAMIC figurine comes from Jaina (HY-nah), a small island just off the Yucatán coast in the Gulf of Mexico, slightly north of the city of Campeche. The island is a mysterious and world-renowned ARCHAEOLOGICAL site of the ancient Maya. It contains major burial grounds used for rulers and noble families from the mainland, perhaps because the location was thought to be sacred or favorable. Between the sixth and tenth centuries, over twenty thousand people were buried at Jaina in shallow pits.
Initially, a number of figurines from Jaina were excavated illegally by looters and sold through commercial markets. Today the site is protected, and recent archaeological EXCAVATIONS have revealed that numerous graves remain untouched. Those explored have yielded many of these delicate, sophisticated ceramic objects.
At its height, the Maya kingdom extended from
the northern Yucatán peninsula to southern Central America. The
Maya shared a common culture and religion, but existed as a system of
separate city-states, each with its own ruler. The Maya possessed knowledge
of astronomy and mathematics, had their own system of writing, and maintained
an accurate calendar according to seasonal agricultural cycles. They traded
pottery with their neighbors, while they looked to faraway nations for
items they considered precious, such as jade, copper, and gold.