A Mayan Stone Deer Hacha, ca. 500 - 800 CE
Here, as with almost all deer hacha, the animal is shown in profile with a long face and strong jaw, the tip of the nose is rounded, the delicate lips are slightly open, although, unlike actual deer, the ears are short and round. Care has been taken with the eyes, for the sockets are deeply carved with raised orbital plates that divide sharply with a front grove representing the gland of the deer's eye. A single stabilizing perforation is at the base of the crest, and the neck recesses subtly to create an area to allow the trophy to sit within a notch on a temple or monument. Carved in a dense deep gray basalt, the sculpture holds a strong surface polish and patina.
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 (hacha is Spanish for axe), including the example seen here. In these, the back is slightly wider than the front where the sides converge in a sharp point. Facial features and any other details are carved on low relief, each side a mirror image of the other.
Condition: Overall slightly encrusted surface patina. Two very minor surface flakes, horn crest restored, otherwise intact.
Dimensions: Height: 10 1/2 inches (26.5 cm), Width: 7 1/2 inches (19 cm)
Provenance: Private FL. physicians collection, acquired from George Martinez, 12/1/03, who acquired it in the 1950s, incudes copy of provenance letter from George Martinez.
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