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Finely Carved Veracruz Stone Yoke - Jaguar

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Pre-Columbian, Mexico, Vera Cruz, ca. 400 to 700 CE. A large and finely carved stone yoke replete with tremendous artistry and technique, and therefore likely a ceremonial representation of the protective Y-shaped guards worn by Mesoamerican ballplayers around the waists. The curved central section of this yoke features a carved visage, likely representing a jaguar or ballplayer donning a jaguar mask, with bulging round eyes, a wide nose, fangs protruding from its subtly smiling mouth, and laid back ears. Adding a touch of surprise and wonder are carved visages of lords/deities on the undersides of the terminals - one is original to the piece; however, the more vivid one was most likely carved later. All in all, an impressive ceremonial yoke, beautifully carved and presenting rich iconography. Size: 16.25" L x 13.25" W x 4.75" H (41.3 cm x 33.7 cm x 12.1 cm); 6.5" H (16.5 cm) on included custom stand.

The Pre-Columbian ballgame originated in the first millennium BCE, most likely in the Valley of Mexico, and was regarded as not merely an athletic activity but rather as a ceremonial means of controlling or predicting the future. The ancients of Mesoamerica played ballgames in a sacred ballcourt space. Some cultures expected players to dedicate themselves to practicing the game and preparing for matches; however, other cultures forced war captives to play the game and sacrificed the losing team. Another custom involved using the possessions of onlookers as prizes for the victorious team.

Condition: Normal surface wear with some abrasions/chips to high-pointed areas commensurate with age. Repaired from two large pieces with visible breakline. This said, the carved imagery still shows very well. Areas of mineral and earthen deposits. The somewhat faded incised visage on the underside of one terminal is original to the piece; the more vivid one on the other terminal was carved later.

Provenance: ex-private T.S. collection, San Diego County, California, USA acquired between 25 and 40 years ago

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