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Pic of the Week: Itzamna

Lee Lawrie’s bas-relief of Itzamna (Bronze doors, John Adams Building, Library of Congress)

As we near the end of Hispanic Heritage Month, we are featuring Lee Lawrie’s scuplture of the Mayan deity Itzamna from the Adams building bronze doors (back in September we featured the Mesoamerican deity Quetzalcoatl). The Maya occupied what are now the countries of Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador; and like the other Mesoamerican cultures, had a diverse pantheon of deities. Itzamna (God D*) is arguably one the most important Mayan deities. He is a creator god, who invented writing (hieroglyphs) and books. He is also credited as creating chronology (math) and the calendar. He is typically pictured as an old man, with large square eyes and a hooked nose.

*Paul Schellhas named Mayan deities with Roman alphabet letters because at the time of his research Mayan hieroglyphs could not be read. Schellhas called Itzamna, God D- the Moon and Night God. His work, originally written in German in 1897, was translated into English in 1904. A digital copy is available for you to read:
Representation of deities of the Maya manuscripts, by Dr. Paul Schellhas. With 1 plate of figures and 65 text illustrations; tr. by Miss Selma Wesselhoeft and Miss A. M. Parker; translation rev. by the author. Cambridge, Mass., Published by the Museum, 1904.

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