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Arts of the Americas

Huastec artisans depicted images of death on exquisitely carved shell ornaments. In this example, four human skulls are shown in profile with incised circular eyes, grimacing mouths with radiating speech scrolls, and hair standing up on end along the sagittal suture. The arrow entering through the eye and exiting through the nose may allude to Tlahuizcalpanteuctli, the Lord of Dawn, who is depicted with skeletal attributes in Mesoamerican codices, or pictorial manuscripts, because he was killed by the Sun God with a dart to the head (see nearby illustration).

Artesanos Huastecas representaban imágenes de muerte en ornamentos de concha exquisitamente tallados. En este ejemplo, cuatro calaveras humanas aparecen de perfil, con ojos circulares incisos, bocas en rictus con volutas de palabra, y cabellos erizados a lo largo de la sutura sagital. La flecha que penetra el ojo y sale por la nariz puede aludir a Tlahuizcalpanteuctli, el Dios del Amanecer, el cual se representa con atributos esqueléticos en los códices Mesoamericanos o manuscritos pictóricos ya que fue asesinado por el Dios Solar con un dardo en la cabeza (ver ilustración).
  • Place Found: Veracruz, Mexico
  • DATES ca.1250–1521
    PERIOD Pre-Spanish
    DIMENSIONS 3 9/16 x 13/16 x 3 9/16 in. (9 x 2.1 x 9 cm)  (show scale)
    COLLECTIONS Arts of the Americas
    CREDIT LINE By exchange
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Carved, circular shell pectoral decorated with four profile human skulls incised on the concave surface. The four skull motifs are arranged in a circular frieze bordered by an upper and lower band. Each skull is elaborated with an incised eye, mouth, hair, speech scroll emanating from the mouth, and an arrow entering through the eye and exiting through the nose. There is a circular hole is in the center of the piece, and the negative spaces between the skulls are also cut out. The convex side is undecorated.
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION Huastec. Pectoral, ca.1250–1521. Shell, 3 9/16 x 13/16 x 3 9/16 in. (9 x 2.1 x 9 cm). Brooklyn Museum, By exchange, 48.149. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 48.149_acetate_bw.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 48.149_acetate_bw.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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