Pre-Columbian, Southern Mexico to Guatemala, Olmec culture, ca. 1150 to 550 BCE. A striking, hand-carved ceremonial jade celt (hand axe) with a muted blue-green coloration and an elegant presentation. Meticulously flaked and then sanded smooth to a reflective sheen, the tool has a bulbous body, a rounded ovoid handle, and a tapered top section with an acutely-angled edge. The celt is a tapered hand tool of a highly-stylized ritual form with ceremonial or funerary purposes. Designed for a votive function, this is a fabulous piece of art which exemplifies the arduous process of ancient stone-shaping! Size: 2.9" W x 9.55" H (7.4 cm x 24.3 cm); 10.3" H (26.2 cm) on included custom stand.
Research in the late 1990s and early 2000s pinpointed the source of what is colloquially referred to as "Olmec blue" jadeite in the lowland Motagua River near the modern-day border of Guatemala and Honduras; stone from this source was carved and traded widely throughout early Mesoamerica. The value of jade for ancient people lay in its symbolic power: perhaps its color was associated with water and vegetation; later, the Maya would place jade beads in the mouths of the dead. Many scholars have argued that the demand for jadeite contributed to the rise of long-distance trading networks and to the rise of urban centers in ancient Mesoamerica. This would have been an exceedingly valuable and rare piece of ceremonial art.
Provenance: private Hawaii, USA collection
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A few small surface losses near the base. Light deposits in the lower profile areas, especially near the base. Overall beautifully preserved.