A fine Mayan Stone Vulture Hacha, ca. 500 - 800 CE
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Mesoamerican ballplayers wore protective gear called hachas, palmas, and yokes to protect their hips and abdomens from the impact of the game’s solid rubber ball. In painting and sculpture, the yoke is shown worn around the player’s hips, the palma or hacha attached at the front. Those used during active play were most likely made of wood or some other light material; stone versions such as this one were worn, if at all, during ballgame-related rituals, or placed on display. Given the distinctive design of each hacha, both those worn and those carved in stone may have served to identify teams or individuals.
The name hacha refers to the axe-like form of many examples(hacha is Spanish for axe), including the one seen here. The form of these pieces is unique, with the back slightly wider than the front where the sides converge to a sharp point. Facial features and other details are carved in low relief, each side a mirror image of the other. Here, the artist depicted a detailed rendering of the subject. Each head feather is carefully rendered individually, with increased depth of relief from front to back, mimicking how vulture feathers overlap in nature. The rounded form of the cheeks, the long curved open beak with the drilled nostril, and large recessed eye suggest the alertness of the bird as it spies and focuses on its prey.
Dimensions: Height: 11 1/4 inches (28.5 cm), Width: 8 inches (20.32 cm)
Condition: Excellent surface patina with minor loss to the lower base corner, and other small indicative signs of use that do not detract, otherwise the piece is intact and in excellent condition overall and mounted on a custom-built museum quality stand.
Provenance: Private Florida physician's collection, acquired from George Martinez, December 2003, who acquired it in the 1950s. With a copy of the provenance letter from George Martinez.