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Video transcript

we're here in the Maya galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art looking at a lintel a carved stone that would have been the horizontal piece over a doorway the sculptor who carved this actually carved the underside of the lintel to be seen as you enter the temple or Palace you would have to look up and the sculpture is carved in such low relief that you probably would have had to use torch light in order to make the figures appear so this was not a building that anyone could have walked through no the Maya palaces are very restricted in access by different patios and courtyards and staircases so this would have been seen by a very important group of individuals and it features a very important royal figure in the hieroglyphs above his head he's named as shale tape Chandini otherwise known as Shield Jaguar the fourth the penultimate and last important ruler of a kingdom at yashi lon here we are during the classic period and it's coming to a close shield Jaguar the fourth was the last ruler to erect a lot of monuments in the area around yashi lon here he is receiving important tribute from the leader of a subservient city-state this lintel probably comes from a site we know as La Paz edita which is across the river from Ascalon in modern-day Guatemala the central figure handing gifts to the king is known as T Tulum an important subsidiary Lord in the Austrian Kingdom in his left hand he is offering a fabulous headdress decorated head sawed feathers with Jade this very precious stone and in his right hand likely some food or perhaps some incense these are typical gifts and scenes of tribute from these local Lords to their overlords it looks to me as though shalom is almost as well dressed as the king of Yas Jalan he's very important and that's made clear by the artist in his central position in the composition but also in his posture and size he almost appears to be a little bit larger than ruler himself and he's wearing the Jade necklace with this pectoral decorated with a head he's got on a fabulous headdress himself killed the garment that he's wearing is very high quality and you see this in Yoshi lawn courts that the most important people wore this type of broke hated woven garment no there's another figure behind him and we're not quite sure who this figure is he's not named in the hieroglyphic text but he holds a fan composed of cats all feathers so he's also part of this tribute event this is such an unusual relief because so much of the pigment survives giving us a good idea of how brightly painted these relief sculptures were the red orange pigment is iron based and the blue pigment is composed of indigo dyed mixed with minerals that bluish green was an important color just like jade was an important stone for the Maya Bluegreen was associated with Jade but also with water and with agricultural fertility so the stuff of life the stuff of life I'm struck by how naturalistically shield jaguar the fourth is represented he's seated in a cross-legged position he leans forward he seems almost as if we can hear him speaking yeah he's leaning forward he's probably addressing or thanking the party in front of him for the gifts that they're bringing and below his throne we see a basket with some seeded fruit also likely part of the offering and we often see Maya Lord's surrounding themselves with tribute goods that often included foods like fruit or beans even alcoholic beverages there's something else that makes this particular carving so special and that's that we know the name of the artist the only culture in the ancient Americas in which artists signed their works was the classic Maya and this particular lintel was signed by its sculptor his name was Chuck Altai and he made at least three or four monuments during the reigns of BIR Jaguar the forth and shield Jaguar the forth at Yoshi lon so we get a sense of how important artists were at the Maya Court absolutely and the hypothesis would be that shield jaguar sent chalk altai across the river to La Paz edita to have T loam project himself onto the lintel of a building they were constructing let's talk for one moment about shield Jaguar the fourth he's wearing this beaded necklace but also a nose ornament the large necklace that he's wearing his known as a bar pectoral which is a horizontal long tubular bead made of jade and the nose ring is also probably a Jade tube there's attached to the septum of the king we also see that he's wearing bracelets I mean he's heavily adorned he is heavily adorned in Jade and cuts all feathers which all shared this Bluegreen precious color but a detail that is unusual to this lintel is that the throne itself is decorated with a lot of what looked to be representations of Jade beads and pendants you [Music]