STANDING WARRIOR – WHISTLE
MAYA – Jaina – Mexico
600 – 900 A.D.
Anthropomorphic sculpture representing a standing warrior, richly attired.
The figure is tall, robust and has a great natural presence. He is dressed with a long, turquoise-colored tunic, of which the front part is decorated with very fine pelletizing that evokes a coat of mail. Over his tunic, the waist is girded with a loincloth that elegantly falls down between the legs. The ending of one side of this loincloth is beautifully detailed with engraved chevron-shaped motifs and fringes. The chest is attired with a broad pectoral embellished with three big circular pendants. The right arm is bent, with the hand half-closed and the fingers placed as if they were holding something, probably a removable accessory such as a spear or a flag that has now disappeared. The left arm, on its side, is placed along the body and the hand holds a large rectangular shield that stands on the ground. The face presents delicate and precise features. A fine beard covers the chin. The mouth with sensual lips is closed. Both cheeks are decorated with tattoos. The nose is long and made straight by the use of a jade ornament. The almond-shaped eyes are carefully engraved. The ears are adorned with large circular rings. The forehead is high. The head is elongated due to a ritual distortion of the skull and surmounted by a striped headdress that evokes the hair.
Two holes were made at the back of the figure in order for it to be used as a whistle: the mouthpiece is located at the base of the sculpture, whereas the second hole is placed in the upper part of the back.
Jaina, or Jaina-like, figurines are renowned for the very precise execution of their characters’ faces that therefore seems to be true portraits. Although the rest of the body is generally less detailed, the warrior that we here present shows a carefully worked outfit. Remarkable by its condition and its amazing turquoise color, this figure undoubtedly is a beautiful example amongst the Jaina sculptures.
On the small Jaina Island, located in the Gulf of Mexico, close to the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, in the modern-day State of Campeche, many Maya ceramics from the Classic period were found. Among them, there were whistle-statuettes, exceptional due to their quality of execution, notably representing dignitaries or warriors. They had a funerary function, were particularly intended to protect the deceased and would also allow him to continue to worship the gods. Those statuettes provide us a significant testimony to the activity and lifestyle of the Maya society, as well as to the outfit and other attributes worn by its elite.