Pre-Columbian, Mexico, Vera Cruz, ca. 400 to 700 CE. A large and finely carved, greenstone yoke replete with tremendous artistry and technique, and therefore likely a ceremonial representation of the protective Y-shaped guards worn by Mesoamerican ballplayers around the waists. The curved central section of this yoke features a carved visage, likely representing a jaguar or ballplayer donning a jaguar mask, with bulging round eyes, a wide nose, fangs protruding from its subtly smiling mouth, and round earspools. This yoke is far too cumbersome and heavy to have been used during active play; instead wooden yokes or belts comprised of basketry were probably worn as they were far more practical. An impressive ceremonial yoke, beautifully carved and presenting rich iconography. Size: 11.375" W x 16" H (28.9 cm x 40.6 cm)
The Pre-Columbian ballgame originated in the first millennium BCE, most likely in the Valley of Mexico, and was regarded as not merely an athletic activity but rather as a ceremonial means of controlling or predicting the future. The ancients of Mesoamerica played ballgames in a sacred ballcourt space. Some cultures expected players to dedicate themselves to practicing the game and preparing for matches; however, other cultures forced war captives to play the game and sacrificed the losing team. Another custom involved using the possessions of onlookers as prizes for the victorious team.
Provenance: Ex-Scollard collection, Santa Monica, CA
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Repaired from two pieces with chips to termini as shown. This said, carved imagery reads very well.