Selection of the Week: Jaina Island Figure

Maya Culture
Standing Nobleman
800-900 CE
Earthenware

Jaina Island is located off the Campeche coast in the Yucatan. It was settled circa 300 CE, and was abandoned some time circa 1200 CE. The principal occupation occurred near the end of this period, during the Late Classic and Terminal Classic eras.

Jaina Island’s notability is tied to its estimated 20,000 graves, of which over 1,000 have been archaeologically excavated. Within each grave, the human remains are accompanied by glassware, slateware, or pottery as well as one or more ceramic figurines, usually resting on the occupant’s chest or held in their hands.

The name of this island necropolis probably comes from the Yucatán Maya phrase hail na, or “watery house”. Its western location may have been tied to the setting sun, and therefore to death.

Due to sheer numbers found here, these figurines have become known as “Jaina-style figurines” whether or not they were found on the Jaina Island. In fact, these figurines are far more numerous at inland Maya sites, such as the Usumacinta River delta, than on the island.