Pre-Columbian, Guatemala and southern Mexico, Maya, Late Classic Period, ca. 700 to 900 CE. An incredible ancient bloodletting instrument, made from a fossilized piece of wood hollowed out and carved into the shape of a head with very classically-Mayan features. The face is dominated by a long nose that projects from the forehead - in fact, we believe that Mayans may have practiced some kind of cosmetic enhancement to get that bump on their forehead at the top of the nose. Iridescent white shell forms the eyes, giving them a blank, staring look. The top of the head is pierced, with a copper ring through them, perhaps so this item could be threaded through a belt or otherwise worn. A needle-like bone, probably made from a large bird bone based on its weight, extends from the underside of the head; it was set into the hollowed out area at the base of the head. Size: 1.75" W x 7" H (4.4 cm x 17.8 cm); 7.25" H (18.4 cm) on included custom stand.
Bloodletting was a ritual practice used throughout ancient Mesoamerica, from the Olmec onward, and the Maya elite seem to have been particular enthusiasts of the practice; it is detailed in countless paintings on ceramics and stone carvings. Archaeologists have found obsidian blade, stingray tails, and bone needles, all believed to have been used in this practice, which allowed an individual to experience a heightened state of consciousness and thus communicate with the gods. The blood given also served as a sacrifice, the price paid by high ranking and royal Mayans in order to contact the supernatural.
Provenance: private Hawaii, USA collection; ex-Colin Arundel collection, by descent from Ian Arundel collection, California, USA, the Old Curiosity Cabinet, Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, California, USA, collected 1950 to 1970
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The wood is in fragile condition. Bone has been reattached at base. Extensive deposits on wood and bone surface. Deep green patina on the copper ring. Bone tip has obviously become blunt over time.