Pre-Columbian, Valley of Mexico, Mixtec people, ca. 1200 to 1500 CE. A fantastical, stunning jade bead in the form of a serpent's head, painstakingly made by a Mixtec artisan using string cutting and drilling techniques to shape the forest green stone. The bead is drilled through along the length of the head, as if the cord to suspend it was passing through the snake's mouth and through its neck. The details of the head are rendered in relief, with the long tongue, dual curved fangs, wide, staring eyes, hinged jaw, and scaled skin all beautifully depicted. Size: 0.9" W x 1.45" H (2.3 cm x 3.7 cm)
The Mixtec believed in the sacred nature of serpents, like the god Quetzalcoatl, the "Plumed Serpent" or "Feathered Serpent", the snake deity who had many parallels in other Mesoamerican cultures. Worship of Quetzalcoatl helped create an alliance between the Mixtecs, Zapotecs, and Eastern Nahuas in the years immediately prior to and during the Spanish Conquest, with the major pilgrimage center at Cholula, Puebla, being compared to both Rome and Mecca by the Spaniards. The value of jade for people in ancient Central America lay in its symbolic power: perhaps its color was associated with water and vegetation, and it also seems to have related to beliefs about death and the afterlife. For example, the Maya placed jade beads in the mouths of the dead, and this pendant likely once adorned someone in the grave.
Provenance: private Florida, USA collection
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Excellent condition with rich patina and light signs of wear and deposits around the socket.