A Costa Rican Marble Bird Mace Head, Greater Nicoya, Period IV, ca. 300 - 500 CE
Carved from smooth white marble, the round body with a stylized bird head featuring an elongated beak gently carved to indicate a mouth and a raised double head crest along the top of the head.
Used as a symbolic object rather than a functional one, mace heads of this type occur in many different materials, sizes, and subjects. Found in most high-status graves, mace heads most probably served as identifiers of the person's clan or family through a corresponding animal, human, or geometric shape. There is an extraordinary variety of shapes -- birds, bats, coyotes, human faces, owls, snakes, monkeys, and basket weaves, to name a few. While each piece is unique and stylized in its own way, there is a similarity in shape that would have allowed each member of the clan to be easily recognized. Graves with owl-shaped mace heads, for example, would be easily recognizable as members of the owl clan.
Stone-Miller, Rebecca, Seeing with New Eyes: Highlights of the Michael C. Carlos Museum, Atlanta: Emory University (2002), pp 144-5.
Dimensions: Height: 2 1/4 inches (5.5 cm), Length: 2 7/8 inches (7.3 cm)
Condition: With several hairline cracks along the surface, overall intact and in good condition. Custom mounted.
Provenance: Private NY collection. Previously in the collection of Marianne and Robert Huber, Dixon, Illinois.
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