Throne of the Jaguar

Throne of the Jaguar in Uxmal

The Throne of the Jaguar in Uxmal

The Jaguar Throne is a limestone sculpture representing a bicephalic Jaguar composed of two heads facing away from one another and joined at the midsection. It appears to have been the seat of royal authority at Uxmal and marks ritual space in front of the Palace.

It oriented from north to south and centered on a small platform measuring 4.85 meters (15.7 feet) long and 1.2 meters (3.9 feet) high that could be accessed by four stairs on each side.

The platform rests upon the same artificial terrace as the House of Turtles, known as Platform 2, but the location directly in front of the Governor’s Palace along with its alignment on the central axis confirms the true nature of the building.

An ancient Sacbé (white road or raised causeway) extended from the base of the platform and ran through Nohpat teaching nearby Kabáh suggesting an intimidate and most likely ceremonial connection.

Stela 14 — now on display in the museum by the entrance of Uxmal — depicts Lord Chaak standing upon a double-headed jaguar throne which resembles the same sculpture in front of the House of the Governor. It becomes easy to imagine Lord Chac, ruler of Uxmal seated or standing on the throne representing the center of the Maya world reflecting the four-partite horizontal and the tripartite vertical orders of the cosmos.

The jaguar has symbolic connotations of warfare and royal and dynastic power in Maya iconography. Bicephalic imagery is also linked to Maya women who perform sacrificial bloodletting rites. Some people believe the dual-headed jaguar is a male principle, nevertheless, it may represent the earth goddess who brings the rains when she is pregnant with the new sun, and who like all mother goddesses of Central America, dies when the sun comes out, reborn from its bosom. Since the Maya followed a lunar calendar, the Jaguar a nocturnal animal, connected to their Goddess of the Moon, Ixchel who is sometimes depicted with the Jaguar claw.

the jaguar throne uxmal governors palace adept expeditions

The Jaguars association with the night, and therefore occupy knowledge gave it the gift of second sight and prophecy, which explains why the bicephalic jaguar four eyes, two for normal sight and two for supernatural vision.

The Jaguar throne was a common symbol of shamanic authority among the Maya. For example, a similar dual-headed throne was discovered in Palenque. The finest example I have ever seen may be the single head jaguar throne hidden in the second substructure deep within the interior of El Castillo aka The Pyramid of Kukulkan at Chichen Itza.

dual headed jaguar uxmal stephens catherwood 1843
Dual headed jaguar, Uxmal, 1843 Illustration by Frederick Catherwood

When explorers John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood visited Uxmal in 1839, Stephens documented his discovery of the artifact. He even tried to take the Jaguar throne but found it “too have to carry away” so it remains in situ for us to appreciate today. He evidently had no idea what was right under his nose — there, beneath the sculpture in the interior of the platform, a cache of valuable offerings remain hidden until 1951 when a team of archaeologists working on the site brought to light a total of 913 artifacts, including beads, pectorals, jade earrings, vessels, carnelian stone, polished black stone, spearheads, knives of flint and obsidian blades.

Location of the House of the Governor's Palace in Uxmal

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