The scientific tourist #211 — Chac Mool

Another image for you from the Museum of Archaeology and History in Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico:

Chac Mool

This is a so-called Chac Mool statue from Chichén Itzá. They’re a fairly typical piece of sculpture at sites dating to a period of mixed Toltec / Maya culture in 11th and 12th century Mesoamerica (the “mix” thought by most to have resulted from a Toltec invasion of the northern Yucatán peninsula). That flat spot on its stomach is thought to have been used as a place to leave offerings to the gods (the sometimes gruesome nature of the offerings being left to your imagination).

They were named (supposedly after the Mayan for “thundering paw”) by a 19th century explorer and antiquarian named Augustus Le Plongeon — an eccentric figure now known more for his fanciful speculation than for his actual (impressive) achievements. In particular, Le Plongeon and his collaborator (later, wife) Alice Dixon spent a decade documenting and photographing the then-newly-discovered Maya ruins of the Yucatán peninsula. Le Plongeon and Dixon went on to develop a number of speculative theories on the history of the Maya (essentially all now discounted by modern scholarship), including supposed links between the Maya and both ancient Egypt as well as the fabled lost continent of Atlantis. In Le Plongeon’s and Dixon’s alternative history, Chac Mool statues were representations of a prince of Atlantis (of the same name).

From the sculpture’s placard:

This is one of the master pieces of Mayan sculpture. It possibly represents a stage between man and the gods. On the personage’s stomach one can see a level surface where gifts were placed… Although most of the Chac Mool examples have been found at Chichen Itza, Yucatan, and Tula, Hidalgo, we also know of its existence in other pre-Hispanic sites located in the states of Quintana Roo, Michoacan, Veracruz and even in Mexico City.

This entry was posted in History, Humanity, Sci / Tech Tourism and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.