Date: 12th–9th century B.C.

Geography: Mexico, Mesoamerica

Culture: Tlatilco

Medium: Ceramic

Dimensions: H. 5 1/5 in. (13.2 cm)

Classification: Ceramics-Sculpture

Credit Line: The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979

Accession Number: 1979.206.1073


Masks in ancient Mexico came in all shapes and sizes and ranged from those that clearly depict human faces to those that appear bizarre and/or supernatural. This mask, stylistically associated with the site of Tlatilco in the Basin of Mexico, shows a twisted, simianlike face with simple, serpentine curves for ears, bulging eyesockets with crisply outlined eyelids, and exaggeratedly prominent eyebrows. While the eyes and mouth are pierced, the mask is too small to have covered the entire face. Paired holes at the temples and below the ears suggest that it could have been tied on the lower face or onto a bundle or sculpture, thereby representing a state of transformation.