Eccentric flint: hand object with three heads

CULTURE:
Maya
DATE:
550–800 CE
more object details

General Description

The Maya perfected the art of chipping flint to create thin, flat blades (tok’) for sacrificial and ceremonial use. The complex shapes of many of these objects, which are too fragile for use as cutting tools, have earned them the designation "eccentric flints." Archaeologists have found them in elite tombs and in offertory caches associated with dedication and termination rituals for architecture and stone monuments. Such symbolically charged objects may also have functioned as talismans for living kings.

This magical object was designed to allow a king to conjure up gods and supernatural beasts to help his people in war. This particular tok’ shows a lord peering through a triangular portal to the spirit world. The Maya shaman kings had many portals linking them to their ancestors and to the gods in the otherworld. The portal is decorated with two heads of the god K’awil, soul, who represents the capacity of supernatural spirits to enter into material things like this talisman. The tok’s were usually kept bundled in cotton cloth and were only revealed on very special occasions such as the coronation of the king.

Adapted from

  • Carol Robbins, Label text, A. H. Meadows Galleries, 2010.

  • Bonnie Pitman, ed., "Eccentric flint depicting a crocodile canoe with passengers (1983.45.McD) and Eccentric flint with heads of K'awil, the god of royal lineage (2009.26)," in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012), 44-45.

Fun Facts

  • Under microscopic examination, there is residual red pigment in the fracture near the head in the central triangle.