Carving and polishing this work from dark green and yellow jade into a celt, or hand axe, would have taken a pre-colonial Costa Rican artisan or artisans a great deal of time; securing the material alone could take years of searching, mining, and transporting to someone with the knowledge to fashion such a piece. The handle of this object has a bird’s beak; rounded, hollowed-out eyes; and a three-layered crown or plumage. Further polishing and cuts indicate the bird’s upper body, while drill holes in the piece, especially near the lower rounded blade section, may indicate that this object was meant to be worn rather than used for actual cutting.
Wearing such an object would convey great power, wealth, prestige, and divine favor to everyone since jade was considered perhaps the most valuable resource in the pre-colonial Central American and Mesoamerican worlds. Objects such as this stone celt display a great deal of cultural interaction between what archaeologists call the Intermediate or Isthmo-Colombian Area. These societies were vital for the transmission of materials, peoples, and concepts between the Andes and Mesoamerica and also made major discoveries and fashioned dynamic cultures in their own right. The archaeological division of Costa Rica falls into three style regions: the Guanacaste–Nicoya (northwest), the Central Highlands–Atlantic Watershed (east), and the Diquis (southwest).
Spencer Throckmorton Collection, New York, NY;
Gift to The Jan T. and Marica Vilcek Collection;