Artifacts - Mexico and Central America


 Jade / Jadeite

Costa Rican

Avian Axe God Pendant

Atlantic Watershed

Preclassic Period

circa 100 BC - 700 AD

collected circa 1970

From a California private collection


Suberp example of a Mayan jade or jadeite ( axe god ) effigy pendant. Anthropomorphic shaman figure with the head of a bird and distinctive headdress.  Medium green, slightly translucent stone with a few deep red / brown lines in matrix.  Very detailed avian effigy form with large triangular beak, bulging eyes, clay-like hands, and pronounced nostrils. Expressive form reminiscent of an eagle, crow, or curassow.  Eyes are hollow and head is drilled through side to side with a third hole drilled from the top of the head, and a fourth out the back.  Shoulders are drilled as well, but not through and through.

Jadeite was the most precious of all materials in the eyes of the pre-Columbian peoples of Costa Rica.  The term Jadeite refers to a wide spectrum of colors which include a stark white to a dark, almost black green.  Jade is not the term that the indigenous Costa Rican’s used, there’s was a much more eloquent and descriptive term – chalchihuitl, which means green, water, energy, and many other adjectives combined, as such, jade was believed to imbue the wearer with special powers.  Jadeite and greenstone were worked into a wide variety of items from tools and utensils to items worn as emblems of social and political power. Jade objects were a sign of wealth and prestige. A common form was the axe god pendant, which was suspended from a cord around the neck. 

The name "axe god" comes from the form of the pendant, which replicates the shape of the traditional stone chopping tool (or axe). While most are anthropomorphic, some represent animals or supernatural beings.  There is evidence that the avian form related to land ownership or land management in Costa Rican Mayan culture.  The combining of human and bird forms into symbolic objects was common. Birds had shamanistic importance, and were seen as communicators between the earthly and celestial realms.

Very Good condition.  Some scuffing and scratching here and there from age and burial.   A few tiny chips but nothing significant.  No repairs.

dimensions: approx 7/8" wide x 2" tall

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