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Core Record

Title axe god pendant
Collection Artworld: Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts
Date 300 BCE-399 CE
Description This pendant depicts an axe god whose arms are crossed over the chest. The pendant is lozenge shaped. Only the face and arms of the figure are shown, defined by incised lines. The figure appears to be wearing a head-dress decorated with a horizontal zig-zag pattern. The head and torso each form one third of the pendant, the lower third is undecorated. A hole can be found on either side of the neck. The pendant is made from green jade which has been polished giving it a smooth, shiny surface texture. Some traces of red pigment can be found within the grooves, especially running down either side of the object. A chip can also be found on the bottom right-hand corner.
Description Source Hannah Thomas
Cultural Context Costa Rican
Id Number Current Accession 148
Location Creation Site Costa Rica, Nicoya Peninsula
Location Current Repository Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts
Subject jewellery, pendant
Measurements 34 x 85 x 11 mm
Context Axe-shaped pendants in the form of birds or human figures are found as tomb offerings in northwest (Pacific) Costa Rica and in the Atlantic Watershed region (Snarskis, 1981: 181-4, nos. 19-35, and Easby 1981: 139-42). It is not clear whether they were made from re-used celts, split longitudinally, or whether the axe shape is purely symbolic. Like many pendants, the reverse of this one is unfinished and shows scars where the original blank was sawn from one side and then the other, until the stone between the cuts could be snapped, leaving a ridge. Jade is one of the hardest and most resistant of stones, but it was worked without the aid of metal tools which were not introduced into Costa Rica until about AD 500.
Cutting, polishing, and the drilling of suspension holes at the neck were carried out with tools of wood, cane and even string, in conjunction with abrasives of sand or crushed mineral material (Easby, 1968: 16-26).
Although axe-gods are a typically Costa Rican product, the workshop sites have not yet been discovered, nor have sources of jade been found in Costa Rica. Some of the raw material was imported from the Motagua Valley of Guatemala, but the search for local sources continues (Lange et al., 1981).
Context Source Warwick Bray. In: Steven Hooper (ed.). 1997. Catalogue to the Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection. University of East Anglia.
Context Title Published Catalogue
Relation Referenced By Warwick Bray
Relation References Snarskis, M. J., 1981, Catalogue. In: Benson, 1981c, pp. 178-227.

Easby, E. K., 1981, Jade. In: Benson, 1981c, pp. 135-51.

Easby, E. K., 1968, Pre-Colombian Jade from Costa Rica. Andre Emmerich, New York.

Lange, F. W., R. L. Bis
Rights Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, UEA, Norwich, 2002. All Rights reserved
Style Period Mesoamerican periods, Classic, Early Classic
Work Type pendant



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