Ancient Mayan Nose Guard Carved From Human Bone Uncovered in Mexico

A Mayan nose ornament made of human bone was uncovered by archaeologists with the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) in Palenque, a city in the Southern Mexican state of Chipas, according to the Art Newspaper.

The artifact, which was carved to fit over the bridge of one’s nose, was meant to be worn by priests during funeral ceremonies and is decorated with the likeness of K’awiil, the deity of corn, fertility and abundance.

The long ornamental piece was carved from a distal tibia and displays the profile of a man, himself wearing a headdress topped with a bird, wristbands, and beaded collar. His left arm is adorned with the Mayan glyph ak’ab’, which represents “darkness” or “night”. The carving wraps around the object to reveal that the man is holding a long stick or rod in his right hand.

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In a press release, the INAH said the artifact was part of a “ritual deposit” made between 600 BCE and 850 BCE to commemorate the completion of a part of an ancient palace in Palenque within an architectural complex that has recently undergone conservation work by the INAH and Mexican Ministry of Culture.

The director of the Palenque Archaeological Project (PAP), Arnoldo González Cruz, said the ornamental piece was “part of the attire of the city’s elite.” 

“We believe that it was used to personify the deity of corn,” Cruz said in the press release, noting that the artifact “is an example of Mayan artistic sensitivity, while its iconographic and conceptual message illuminates the beliefs of the ancient Palencans about the funerary cult and the ultra-earthly existence of the human being.”

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