Human Figure Wearing Crocodile Mask
Arts of the Americas
On View: Arts of the Americas Galleries, 5th Floor
This warrior figure is wearing a fearsome crocodile mask, as an actual warrior would have done in the hope of accruing that creature’s power to himself. The figure carries a severed human head, representing a decapitated enemy. (The taking and displaying of trophy heads were common practices in ancient Costa Rica. ) Represented as androgynous, the figure has pronounced breasts, a penis, and testicles. The right arm is missing but appears to have been flexed upward, probably to hold an ax. The hat, mask, ear spools, and shoulder band are covered with incised geometric designs.
Vesicular (porous) andesite
Late Period V to early Period VI
61 x 24 1/2 x 20 in., 631 lb. (154.9 x 62.2 x 50.8 cm, 286.22kg) (show scale)
Alfred W. Jenkins Fund
Massive, carved sculpture of a standing male warrior figure with a crocodilian head, probably a mask. The figure carries a severed human trophy head cupped in his left hand and pressed against his body. The figure has pronounced breasts and male organs. His right arm is broken and missing but appears to have been flexed upward, probably holding an axe similar to other sculptures of this genre. The carved and incised crocodilian head has a broad, flat snout with visible fangs and teeth. The eyes are oval in shape and the snout is decorated with incised scrollwork. The figure wears ear spools, a hat, and bandolier decorated with incised geometrical designs.
Condition: right arm and part of the hat are broken and missing.
Central Caribbean. Human Figure Wearing Crocodile Mask, 700-1000. Vesicular (porous) andesite, 61 x 24 1/2 x 20 in., 631 lb. (154.9 x 62.2 x 50.8 cm, 286.22kg). Brooklyn Museum, Alfred W. Jenkins Fund, 34.5084. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 34.5084_overall_PS11-1.jpg)
overall, 34.5084_overall_PS11-1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2022
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What is this?
This statue was made between the 8th to the 11th century by the indigenous people in the Central Caribbean in the region of Costa Rica. It represents a male warrior wearing a crocodile mask. The figure has pronounced breasts and male genitalia. His right arm is broken and missing but appears to have been flexed upward, probably holding an axe similar to other sculptures of this genre. The carved and incised crocodilian head has a broad, flat snout with visible fangs and teeth. Scholars suggest that the statue could have been used as a kind of mask during ritual.
Yes, stone! More specifically it is made of Vesicular andesite. It was made between the 8th and 11th century by the indigenous people of the Central Caribbean. It represents a male warrior wearing a crocodile mask.
Why is he holding a human head in his hand?
The head in his hand is identified as a "severed human trophy head." The taking of trophy heads was a common practice in several Caribbean and South American cultures and was often linked with warfare and religious ritual