The Jade Head is the largest jade sculpture ever uncovered in the Mayan kingdom. It is a representation of the head of Kinich Ahau, the Mayan Sun God. The discovery was made in 1968 at Altun Ha, in Belize, by two locals working with Dr. David Pendergast. Its a site that saw one of the biggest as well as longest excavation projects in the country. The sculpture spent almost 1400 years in a sealed crypt before it was discovered. A total of six tombs were discovered at the site, and the jade head found in Belize was the largest sculpture in jade ever found. The tomb in which it was found was given the name Temple *of the Masonry* Altar”, it is the tallest tomb site here at Altun Ha.
This tomb was also called B4 and the jade head was among 40 other artifacts that were discovered in this tomb, of an elderly male. Examination has shown that the body could be that of an important person, someone with enough power to have the Kinich Ahau sculpture in their tomb. Researchers have not been able to pinpoint the exact time of the creation of the jade head found in Belize, but what they could do was examine all the cultural remains and artifacts in the tomb. Based on this assessment, the tomb was created and filled between 600 and 650 AD.
In this tomb, Dr. David Pendergast and his team from the Royal Ontario Museum had to clear away almost 1000 years worth of debris. His initial evaluation of the green artifact was that it was a bead, but as the dust was wiped away, he could see there was much more to the jade head found in Belize.
From the time the Jade Head – Kinich Ahau – Mayan Sun God – was discovered, there was a lot of controversy and secrecy surrounding it. The local government was only four years old and was not equipped to handle a discovery of this magnitude. It was decided that the head be moved to a foreign country until Belize could brace itself. The head made its way from Altun Ha to a museum in Canada. It was placed in a secure and bullet-proof casing. Soon Kinich Ahau came back its country and was placed in the top most room of the Belize Bank. This was located in Belize city. All through the seventies, the jade head found in Belize seemed to hop all over the world. It covered many countries. For an additional cover of safety, a replica was made and this was was put on display whenever the Museum of Belize opened its doors in 2002.
The city of Altun Ha is not that easily marked on the map and is not of much significance from that point of view. However, it was a rather wealthy city and served as a key point in the coastal trade of the region. In fact, there are records to show that they maintained contact with an ancient Mexican City known as Teotihuacan way before the rest of the world. There is evidence to prove that civilization in the area goes all the way back to 200 B.C.
The statue itself weighs around 9.75 pounds and is around six inches tall. It is carved out of a single stone and there has been no other artifact found of this nature. It appears to have its eyes crossed, a semblance of fangs around the mouth and an on its forehead is an Ahau Glyph. These are all signs that the piece is supposed to resemble the Kinich Ahau god.
Besides Kinich Ahau, Chac and Yum Kax the god of rain and the god of corn respectively were also found in the tomb.
This Altun Ha head is one of the greatest works of art across the Mesoamerica. Singularly, it would have taken several months, maybe even a few years to get to the stage we see it in. It was carved from a single rock, which is believed to have been brought in from the Motagua River Valley in Guatemala. The color green is believed to be the Mayan’s way of depicting water as well as the corn plant — a means of sustenance for the Mayan folk.