Pre-Columbian, Mayan territories, ca. 500 to 950 CE. A magnificent example of a ceremonial hacha depicting an armadillo, hand-carved from a single piece of stone of red-brown hues. Most hachas represent human heads, although the skulls and heads of animals, such as jaguars, birds, bats, deer and monkeys, are also depicted. This representation of a complete armadillo, however, is quite rare and special; the endearing animal is curled up in a seated position and raising his paws so as to eat a tasty treat, its armored body meticulously delineated with horny plates. The word armadillo was adopted from the Spanish term meaning 'little armed one'. As an hacha associated with the Mesoamerican ballgame, the creation of an armadillo effigy is very apropos, as its armor of horny plates signified strength and protection, traits that would very much benefit any ballgame player, though the 'ballgame' was typically of a ritualistic nature. Custom stand. Size: 8.5" W x 10.625" H (21.6 cm x 27 cm); 13.5" H (34.3 cm) on stand
Hachas were associated with the ritual Mesoamerican ball game, though they were not actually part of the player's equipment. Instead these were worn during ritualistic ceremonies related to the game. The name stems from the fact that they were believed to be axe-heads; hence the term hacha (Spanish for axe). Based on ceramic figurines and stone carvings, some authors have proposed that they were meant to be attached to yugos (yokes). Others suggest that some of the hachas could have served as ball court markers. While their actual use is still unclear to scholars, they are often associated with yugos in burials.
Provenance: Ex-private east coast, USA collection; ex-Harry Franklin Gallery, Beverly Hills, CA 1974.
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