Top of page

Itzmna from the doors of the John Adams Building (Theodor Horydczak Collection/Library of Congress)

Pic of the Week: Itzamna

Share this post:

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.

Itzamna wearing a headdress faces left ad his holding a feathered wand in his raised left hand
Lee Lawrie’s bas-relief of Itzamna from the doors, John Adams Building (Photo Courtesy of Ellen Terrell)

*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.

Add a Comment

This blog is governed by the general rules of respectful civil discourse. You are fully responsible for everything that you post. The content of all comments is released into the public domain unless clearly stated otherwise. The Library of Congress does not control the content posted. Nevertheless, the Library of Congress may monitor any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove content for any reason whatever, without consent. Gratuitous links to sites are viewed as spam and may result in removed comments. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on the Library site. Read our Comment and Posting Policy.

Required fields are indicated with an * asterisk.