Pre-Columbian, Southern Mexico to Guatemala, Maya, Late Classic Period, ca. 550 to 900 CE. A rare example of a zoomorphic, fish-shaped hacha. It is hewn from a large piece of grey volcanic rock, most likely basalt, and was part of the ritual items associated with the Mesoamerican ballgame. The stone is of a generally flat form in order to resemble a symbolic axe - hence the name "hacha," meaning "axe" in Spanish - and resembles in profile the body of a fish, skillfully carved and pecked on both sides with bold features in positive and negative relief including a circular eye with a sunken center, a wide open mouth with thick lips and oddly human-looking teeth, and fins on the top, tail, and sides. Cinnabar pigment spread over the stone gives it a warm red color. Size: 7.45" W x 6.5" H (18.9 cm x 16.5 cm); 8.75" H (22.2 cm) on included custom stand.
The Mesoamerican ballgame was a ritual event, not just for entertainment (although it would have been that too!), and as a result involved elaborate attire and accessories. Stone hachas were not actually used to play the game, but instead were probably worn or carried, hafted onto wooden poles like standards, in ritual processions where the elite sponsors of the game displayed them to demonstrate their wealth - similar in this respect to seeing the owners of your local team out on the field after a championship win or on Opening Day.
Provenance: ex-private Florida, USA physician’s collection, acquired in 2000; ex-Major Elmer McBride collection, acquired in 1947
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Small loss to upper lip on one side; otherwise in great condition with wear commensurate with age and light deposits. Nice preservation of form, detail, and pigment.