Bench Figure

Date: 5th–2nd century B.C.

Geography: Mexico, Mesoamerica

Culture: Epi-Olmec

Medium: Greenstone (muscovite-paragonite phyllite)

Dimensions: H. 6 7/8 x W. 3 5/8 x D. 2 1/4 in. (17.5 x 9.2 x 5.7 cm)

Classification: Stone-Sculpture

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

Accession Number: 1979.206.1123


This stolid figure seated on a bench is reported to be from highland Chiapas and has antecedents in earlier stone sculpture of the Olmec Gulf Coast, where monumentally scaled "altars" or thrones are thought to have served as the literal seats of power for the reigning lords. Bench figures such as this smaller greenstone variety are rare. Curiously, they often lack a foot, one leg being broken below the knee, which is a conjecturally meaningful feature. How this bench figure functioned is unclear in view of the paired drill holes on the figure's shoulders and on the sides of the bench. The holes suggest that it might have been used, or perhaps reused, in conjunction with something else. It may have been a costume element or perhaps a pendant.