Mayan stone hachas (hatchets or axes) were often intricately fashioned from green jade and display a mix of human and animal features like the example seen here. In particular, the work’s eyes, head, open mouth, and canine teeth visually connect the figure with both dogs and bats in Mayan iconography, where both animals were associated with the underworld.
Hachas were part of the uniform: a headdress and/or protection that a player might wear during what scholars call the Mesoamerican ball game. The winning or losing player(s) were sacrificed at the conclusion of the match, and this particular hacha depicts bats (messengers of the underworld) and dogs (who led people to the underworld). Together, these images would have conveyed great importance to Mayan spectators, who believed sacrifices were needed to sustain life on Earth and the welfare of the universe.
[Throckmorton Fine Art, New York, NY];
The Jan T. and Marica Vilcek Collection, 2000-2010;
Gift to The Vilcek Foundation, 2010;