Pendant: bearded man

1200–400 BCE
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General Description

The carved stone images Olmec kings wore on their foreheads and chests projected supernatural power. This small, carved jadeite pendant depicts a bearded man and would have originally been suspended from a necklace or brooch by the smaller drilled holes at the earlobes and cheeks of the figure. The almond-shaped eyes, flared nostrils, flattened nose, large lips, and down-turned mouth are common facial features among Olmec figurines. What is unusual, however, is the slight indication of a beard or goatee, which is relatively rare in Olmec sculpture. As these features are more human-like than supernatural, this image may represent an ancestor or the king himself. Finely incised lines indicate the figure is wearing a tall headdress. The elongated forehead may be a sign of cranial deformation, in which head flattening or binding intentionally alters the shape of the skull, a form of ritual beautification common among the Olmec and other Mesoamerican peoples. Objects such as these often accompanied the king on his journey through death to the otherworld.

Elaine Higgins Smith, Digital Collections Content Coordinator, 2015.

Drawn from

  • Carol Robbins, Label text [1968.20], A. H. Meadows Galleries, 2010.

  • Getty Vocabulary, AAT (pendants (jewelry): AAT: 300046002).