Comparative Guts

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Late Classic altar at the site of Xunantunich, depicting a skeletal figure with its putrid guts flowing from the ribcage

Site: Xunantunich
Culture: Maya
Date: Late Classic (AD 849)
Context: Altar 1
Medium: Carved stone monument
Figure credit: Drawing by Christophe Helmke

This altar depicts a skeletal figure, crouching to fit into the surrounding frame. The figure is accompanied by a series of glyphs on its left referring to the exhumation of earthly remains. The features of this skeleton closely resemble those of the well-known death deity described and illustrated in the Postclassic codices. The most salient feature here are the two large scrolls that pour out from the ribcage. These swirls represent the rotten viscera, the intestines, blood, or guts pouring out from the figure’s insides. This is a feature of many skeletal depictions in the Classic Period. (LB)