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Madrid Stela

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Dated: c. 650 Late Classic

Cultural Context: Maya

Origin: Palenque, Chiapas (Mexico)

Medium: Limestone, pigments

Technique: Carved, Painted

Dimensions: Height = 46.5 cm; Diameter = 29.5 cm

Inventory no.: 02608

This relief depicts a male figure seated on a throne with his left leg crossed in front of him and the other hanging in front of the seat. The profile of the throne takes the form of the earth monster, and one of the figure’s hands rests on its jaws. On the left side of the stela, there are six engraved glyphs related to an event in the life of the depicted king. This stela would have been the right support that held up the throne of King Pakal in Palenque. Its style is reminiscent of the tomb bas-reliefs found at the Temple of the Inscriptions in the same city, as well as others in the same temple. The character represents one of the four deities known as bacabs, who sits on the earth monster and holds the throne and, by extension, the royal mandate. The king was in charge of maintaining the earthly order, for which he was connected with the gods, to which he himself belonged due to his mythical genealogy. In the case of the kings of Palenque, this lineage traced back to the god known to modern archaeologists as GI. This stela is part of a complex iconographic programme that sought to legitimise Pakal’s claim the throne of Palenque, to which he had acceded through his mother's line, although the custom in the Maya sphere was to inherit it via the paternal lineage.