WHAT I LEARNED FROM MIDDLE SCHOOL

Ratinlixul Vase, Guatemala

Today the last complement of 60 sixth graders from the Sunridge Middle School visited Tamástslikt and the Painted Metaphors Maya exhibit.  Teacher Paul Nolan led the classes in an exercise, analyzing the rollout painting of the Ratinlixul vase.  Mr. Nolan is very talented young teacher who apparently does indepth preparation, then dispensed knowledge at the sixth grade level.  I know I learned something!  Then I looked at the Painted Metaphors exhibit with new eyes. 

The students sat quietly for a few minutes analyzing the image of the Ratinlixul vase rollout in their minds.  Then they spent a few more minutes consulting with neighbors about their conclusions.  Then Mr. Nolan queried the room and each group gave their take on what the scene meant.  Everybody agreed that the man being carried on the litter is a ruler, bearing a fan that denotes his status. 

Mr. Nolan pointed out the ‘smoke flare’ that falls above the ruler’s forehead from his headdress.  The  smoke flare would emanate either from a person who has passed away or from a deity.  In this case, the deity would have been God ‘K’, the god of dynasty and lightning.  Since the smoke flare is originating from the headdress and not the person’s mouth, it indicates that he was a live person impersonating a deity.  While the ruler wore the transformational headdress, he was to be treated as if he were God K.

From left to right, there are two bearers carrying the ruler’s litter or palanquin.  There is an attendant carrying a jaguar skin mat, and several musicians carrying long trumpets and another attendant. 

Pity the poor pooch under the litter who is marching to ritual sacrifice to God K.  The dog bears a black spot on his back, indicating death.  The depiction of animals in Maya art show the extra or supernatural aspects of the animal.  The dog is not merely a dog but could be a diviner.    Lines coming from the dog’s mouth indicate either the breath as the essence of one’s soul or communication. 

The biggest mystery of all is why were the highland Maya producing polychrome pottery when they lived way out in the boonies far from the centers of power in lowland Petén?  Mr. Nolan said this type of pottery was only produced for a short period by not more than two or three generations of highland potters during the Late Classic (AD 600-800). 

The National Geographic documentary Tamástslikt had screened on the kingdom of Palenque also showed an image of a ruler wearing a God K headdress.  It was Pacal in an image that for years was construed as him descending into the afterlife, but has recently been interpreted as his birth.  Archaeologist David Stuart then showed other images from Pacal’s monument of his parents transmogrifying into plant deities.  That’s only in the movie, not in Painted Metaphors exhibit.

Come see Painted Metaphors before it closes June 3rd.  First Friday is June 1st, last opportunity to see it free of charge.    

Next Exhibit:  Transitions, Joey Lavadour, One-Man Show, opens June 15.

Pacal, Ruler of Palenque

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