A rare Mixtec Serpent Head Jade Bead, ca. 13th - 15th century CE
Exquisitely carved from a single piece of jade into the cylindrical form of a serpent head, the long forked tongue, curved fangs, raised snout, hinged jaw, and wide staring eyes rendered in relief, all incised around the open "mouth" or suspension hole drilled through the length of the bead.
Similar effigy beads representing standing or squatting men were believed to have been worn or strung in the hair of mummy bundles as protective devices, and also may have doubled as important trade items (Stone-Miller 48).
Jade was one of the most highly prized materials throughout ancient Pre-Columbia. Jade beads first appeared in Olmec tombs around 1000 BCE in a distinctive blue-green tone. Apple-green jade began appearing in Mayan and Teotihuacan offerings in the first millennium CE, probably sourced from the Guatemalan highlands. Jade seemed to have diminished in the Post-Classic Period (ca. 900 - 1500 CE) and as a result, Mixtec and Aztec offerings were often of less brilliantly colored stone or were reworked from earlier Olmec and Mayan pieces (Dubin 246).
Ref: Dubin, Lois Sherr. The Worldwide History of Beads, London: Thames and Hudson (1987), pp. 246-50.
Stone-Miller, Rebecca, Seeing with New Eyes: Highlights of the Michael C. Carlos Museum Collection of Art of the Ancient Americas (2002), p. 48.
Dimensions: Length: 1 3/8 inches (3.5 cm), Width: 3/4 inch (1.9 cm)
Condition: Intact and in excellent condition overall.
Provenance: Private Florida collection. Previously in the collection of Keith Finello, who had one of the finest private collections of Pre Columbian jade in North America.
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