**Originally Listed At $1200**
Pre-Columbian, Southern Mexico to Guatemala, Olmec culture, ca. 1150 to 550 BCE. A beautiful ritual celt carved from a mottled forest-green stone with beige and black inclusions. Meticulously flaked and sanded smooth to a reflective sheen, the tool is defined by an elongated body with a thick handle, a rounded butt end, and a wide blade edge. The celt is a tapered hand tool of a highly-stylized ritual form with ceremonial and funerary purposes. Designed for a votive function, this is a fantastic piece which exemplified the artistry and arduous process of ancient stone-shaping! Size: 3.125" W x 13.5" H (7.9 cm x 34.3 cm); 15.375" H (39.1 cm) on included custom stand.
Olmec artisans used long distance trade routes to acquire greenstone like this from Eastern Guatemala, over three hundred miles from their homeland. All of this speaks to its immense value in society. Scholars believe that green stones were associated with water, vegetation, and young corn, the staple food of Olmec life. Recent scholarship has linked the embrace of green serpentine by the Olmec to the importance of corn in the Olmec economy as greenstone along with quetzal plumes symbolized verdant maize, a most valuable staple, to the indigenous peoples. In fact, greenstone celts like this example symbolized ears of corn and were used as a form of currency by the Olmec (Karl A. Taube, Olmec Art at Dumbarton Oaks, 1996, p. 18). Based on burial practices, particularly the objects from important burials at La Venta in the present day Mexican state of Tabasco, we believe that green stone was reserved for high nobility, royalty, and the gods.
This item is an exemplar of ancient Mesoamerican sculpture, impressive for its technique, iconography, and well as the inherent beauty of ancient stone-working. A superb sculptural work from the Olmec, indeed the first Mesoamerican civilization that most regard as the forerunner of subsequent ancient American cultures such as the Maya and Aztecs!
Provenance: ex-private Roberto Austin collection; ex-Claude Cassuto collection, France, acquired before 1969
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Repaired from 3 large pieces with very small chips and light adhesive residue along break lines. Minor nicks and abrasions to handle, body, and blade edge. Light earthen deposits throughout. Old inventory labels on verso.