A Remarkable Throne from Guatemala

By: J. A. M.

Originally Published in 1933

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PROBABLY the most interesting single discovery of the work in 1932 of the Eldridge R. Johnson Expedition at Piedras Negras in Guatemala was that of a carved stone throne [Plate II]. This is of the greater interest inasmuch as it supplements the discovery of Lintel 3, which was reproduced in the Bulletin for November, 1931. The central scene of this lintel shows a table supported on two legs. Upon this is seated a figure and behind him a jaguar hide against a screen of some type. Opinions differed as to whether a mythological and symbolical or an actual scene was here portrayed; the discovery of the throne this year proves that the latter interpretation is correct and that the scene shown on the lintel represents a ceremony performed at Piedras Negras. The resemblance between the actual throne and that portrayed on the lintel is very close, though not to the point of identity, and the original opinion that the throne might be the same one portrayed on the lintel is furthermore nullified by the discovery that the date given upon the throne is twenty-five years later than that given on the lintel.

A carved stone throne in a bench shape
Plate II — A Carved Stone Throne from Piedras Negras, Guatemala
Image Number: 19382

The throne consists of a table supported on two legs, and a rear screen. The legs and the screen were, and still are, tinted with red coloring. All were broken into many fragments which have been fastened together and a few portions restored in the Museum, where the throne is now erected. It originally stood in a niche in a prominent place at the head of a great stairway and facing a court, and the scattered position of the fragments as found, together with the absence of many of them, indicate plainly that it was intentionally broken and destroyed.

The inscription giving the date is found in a line of glyphs on the front, and possibly originally also on the missing portions of the sides of the table, and on the front and sides of the two legs. The screen, six feet two inches in length, is mainly ornamental, although it contains three small panels of glyphs. The screen is a very conventionalized face or mask, probably that of a serpent, with the two great eyes entirely cut through and open. In each of the eyes is carved a free-standing bust of a human figure facing towards the center. These were much mutilated, but that to the right has been restored in plaster in order to incorporate fragments of the nose and chin which were found.

J.A.M.

Cite This Article

M., J. A.. "A Remarkable Throne from Guatemala." Museum Bulletin IV, no. 4 (June, 1933): 90-91. Accessed July 15, 2024. https://www.penn.museum/sites/bulletin/1155/


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