Maya stelae are monuments that were fashioned by the Maya civilization of ancient Mesoamerica. They consist of tall, sculpted stone shafts and are often associated with low circular stones referred to as altars. Stelae were essentially stone banners raised to glorify the king and record his deeds.
About Maya stelae in brief
Maya stelae are monuments that were fashioned by the Maya civilization of ancient Mesoamerica. They consist of tall, sculpted stone shafts and are often associated with low circular stones referred to as altars. Stelae were essentially stone banners raised to glorify the king and record his deeds. The function of the Maya stela was central to the ideology of Maya kingship from the very beginning of the Classic Period through to the very end of the Terminal Classic. Many are upright slabs of limestone sculpted on one or more faces, with available surfaces sculpted with figures carved in relief and with hieroglyphic text. The earliest dated stela to have been found in situ in the Maya lowlands was recovered from the great city of Tikal in Guatemala. The major city of Calakmul in Mexico raised the greatest number of stelAE known from any Maya city, at least 166, although they are very poorly preserved. Archaeologists believe that they probably served as ritual pedestals for incense fires and other ceremonial offerings. The core of a stela may have been a glorified tree trunk, which may represented a cut tree trunk and have been used to perform human sacrifice, given the prevalence of sacrificial imagery on such imagery. An alternative interpretation of these monuments is that they were in fact thrones that were used by rulers during ceremonial events and were used to burn incense. The name Lacandon Maya is likely to be a corruption of the modern Maya word lakamtun, meaning ‘banner stone’ in several Mayan languages.
According to David Stuart this may refer to theStelae as stone versions of vertical standards that once stood in prominent places in Maya city centres, as in ancient Maya cities. In the Late Classic, imagery linked to the mesoamerican ballgame was introduced, once again displaying influence from central Mexico. The last known examples were raised in 909–910, although some monuments were reused in the Postclassic. In the late 5th century, Maya kings began to use steelae to mark the end of calendrical cycles. By the terminal Classic, the institution of divine kingship declined, and Maya kings started to be depicted with their subordinate lords. The hieroglymphic inscriptions on the steels of Piedras Negras played a key part in the decipherment of the script, with each group appearing to chart the life of a particular individual, with key dates being celebrated, such as birth, marriage and military victories. The names of these individuals were often arranged to impress the viewer, often forming lines or other arrangements within the ceremonial centre of the city of Lacandon Maya. Many of these steela were painted in red, yellow, black, blue and other colours, but most Maya stele were probably brightly painted inred, yellow and black. Many plain stely are found throughout the Maya region, displaying a wide stylistic variation.