Eccentric flint: figure

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.

The Maya blade masters made a variety of weapons and magical objects from carefully chipped stone. The black blades were especially potent, and this example was probably hafted as a ceremonial axe. Real war axes could also carry multiple blades. The most famous design of a war axe was shaped like a flat baseball bat edged from the handle up with long prismatic blades. Witnesses on the battlefield say that the Maya hero Tecúm Umám cut off the head of the horse of Pedro de Alvarado with a single blow during the conquest of Guatemala—the Maya regarded horses as the supernatural companions and battle beasts of the Spaniards. The skeletal death god usually carries an axe with three black blades in it in a dance of death painted on many Classic Maya ceramic vessels. The axe carrying this blade was probably used in dance pageants of this kind.

Adapted from

  • Carol Robbins, Label text [1978.39.2 and 1978.39.3], 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.