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Spoon with Incised Designs

Arts of the Americas

On View: Arts of the Americas Galleries, 5th Floor
MEDIUM Jade, red pigment
  • Place Found: Veracruz, Mexico
  • DATES 800-500 B.C.E.
    PERIOD Preclassic Period or Middle Formative
    DIMENSIONS 5 x 1 3/16 x 5/16 in. (12.7 x 3 x 0.8 cm)  (show scale)
    COLLECTIONS Arts of the Americas
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is on view in Arts of the Americas Galleries, 5th Floor
    CREDIT LINE Collection of Christopher B. Martin, Dana B. Martin and Catherine S. Martin
    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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    CAPTION Olmec. Spoon with Incised Designs, 800-500 B.C.E. Jade, red pigment, 5 x 1 3/16 x 5/16 in. (12.7 x 3 x 0.8 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Collection of Christopher B. Martin, Dana B. Martin and Catherine S. Martin, L73.15.1. Creative Commons-BY
    IMAGE overall, L73.15.1_transp5629.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
    "CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Carved jade spoon with incised designs filled with red pigment (probably cinnabar). The spoon's slim handle widens into a bowl and then narrows into a smaller concave extension. The bowl is incised with a face in profile with typical Olmec features including the thick, drooping lips. Two other abstract, eyeless profiles appear in front of and behind the main profile head suggesting a mask that has been cut away to reveal a human face. Behind the head, a hand-paw-wing motif represents an abbreviated version of the Olmec dragon. The three, lobed designs incised in concentric lines on either side of the bowl have been interpreted as jaguar fur. Based upon representations of clothing, ornaments and ceremonial paraphernalia on stone sculptures, spoon-like objects appear to have been used by high-status individuals as insignia and worn (when there are drill holes) as pectoral ornaments. These spoons may have also been used by shamans for the consumption of hallucinogens to induce visions.
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