Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Deity Head Pendant

5th–6th century
Guatemala or Mexico, Mesoamerica
H. 2 7/8 in. (7.3 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Carol R. Meyer, 1991
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 358
This jade pendant depicts a deity wearing a headband and a diadem composed of a stingray spine. The deity has prominent, bulging eyes with spiraled pupils. Under the bulbous nose is a downturned mouth, from which emerge two volutes from either side and a single shark’s tooth from the center. A headband is depicted as wrapped at least three times around the head of the deity. The central element of the diadem is a triangular shape that has a line running up its center and multiple incisions flaring towards the outer borders; this is a typical depiction of a stingray spine in Maya art.

Although the attributes that the artist ascribed to this particular deity do not necessarily suggest a specific known god, the shark’s tooth and the spiral pupils are common on the various depictions of the rain and sun deities. The stingray spine head ornament is unusual. Stingray spines were common in mythological scenes and texts involving bloodletting rituals as Maya rulers used the barbed spines to produce profuse offerings of royal blood. The red pigment present on the surface of this pendant and in the incisions indicate that it was offered in a funerary context because Maya tombs were often coated with cinnabar or iron oxides before they were sealed.

James Doyle, 2016
Carol R. Meyer, New York, until 1991

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