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The Mayan Chacmool is a distinctive form of Meso-american sculpture representing a reclining figure with its head facing 90 degrees from the front, leaning on its elbows and supporting a bowl or a disk upon its chest. The Chacmool statues have been found in temple sites in Mexico and in Guatemala.

The name Chacmool was coined by the French archeologist Augustus LePlongeon in 1875. While excavating a sculpture at the Mayan city of Chichén Itzá, he mistakenly identified it as a depiction of an ancient Maya ruler whose name was “Thunderous Paw,” which translates to Chaacmol. The name Chacmool was adopted although there has never been any connection found between the reclining figure and Thunderous Paw.

There are several theories as to the purpose of the Chacmool. The first interpretation is that it serves as an offering table to receive gifts of food items. The second is that the Chacmool was a cuauhxicalli to receive blood and human hearts; this use is particularly relevant to the Aztecs. It has also been suggested that Chacmools were used as a techcatl, or sacrificial stone over which victims were stretched so that their hearts could be cut from their chests.

There appears to be a strong link between the Chacmool and Tlaloc, the Mesoamerican god of rain and thunder. The rectangular base on which the Chacmool sits has been found to be carved with fish and other marine animals. In at least one case, it is the face of Tlaloc himself which is depicted, while he is surrounded by aquatic life.

Most of the reclining figures likely do not represent Tlaloc himself. They appear to be warriors who carry the offerings to the gods they were intended for. Even their real name – what the natives called them – has been lost to time.


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