Celts, or hand axes, such as this example, fashioned from carved and polished blue-green jade and displaying an avian figure probably representing a raptor or bird of prey, would have been rare and treasured within ancient Costa Rica. Similar objects have been found including vultures, falcons, and eagles. Scholars believe that these may indicate links to power or the afterlife. Additionally, the tiered crown or headdress seen in this example is usually associated with males who may have used such tools in rituals, warfare, or sacrifices of war prisoners.
Because of looting, disruptions due to farming, and a relative scarcity of archaeological excavations, a great deal of information concerning Costa Rican jade objects is still unknown. However, more systematic study in recent decades has begun to provide scholars with more information. Evidence indicates that earlier in the pre-colonial era, jade was treasured and imported from across Central America and Mesoamerica, while it later become less common and was replaced by goldwork, perhaps learned and inspired through trade with South America.
Spencer Throckmorton Collection, New York, NY;
Gift to The Jan T. and Marica Vilcek Collection, 2004;