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HOME : Pre-Columbian Art : Pre-Columbian Masterpieces : Veracruz Basalt Hacha Depicting the Head of a Deity
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Veracruz Basalt Hacha Depicting the Head of a Deity - X.0508
Origin: Mexico
Circa: 500 AD to 800 AD
Dimensions: 9.25" (23.5cm) high
Collection: Pre-Columbian
Medium: Basalt


Location: United States
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Description
The ball game, perhaps ritually signifying the transit of the sun and moon between the celestial and terrestrial spheres, was an important event in Mesoamerican culture, considered necessary to maintain the cosmic cycle. The game was both a sport and a sacrificial ritual. Made out of heavy stone, the hacha was possibly used as an extra burden of weight to test the physical prowess of the player. In fact, relief sculptures and terracotta figures show axe-shaped objects attached to ball- players’ belts, which were used as deflectors and protectors. The game itself used a large rubber ball that could be hit by the elbows, knees or hips but could not be touched by the hands or feet.

This is one of the earlier types of hachas that were characteristically larger and rounder than later flat examples. Some scholars believe that the origin of hachas might be traced back to trophy heads. This magnificent hacha depicts the head of a deity, likely the god of fire. His mouth is open as if shouting. Some of the surface still retains some of the original red polychrome, likely made from cinnabar. The high cheekbones and fierce glare convey a powerful expression befitting of such a mythological God. The beauty and intricate carving of this hacha reveals the ceremonial significance of the ball game in the daily lives of Ancient Mesoamericans. - (X.0508)

 

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