Pendant: spoon with incised motif in bowl

CULTURE:
Olmec
DATE:
900–500 BCE
more object details

General Description

This small, jadeite spoon pendant bears an incised motif that may represent a monkey or other supernatural creature. The figure wears a headdress and is shown with large, bulging eyes and a snarling grimace with exposed teeth. The large eyes may also indicate a state of trance or transformation, a bridge between the natural and supernatural worlds. Objects known as “spoons” may have functioned as trays from which hallucinogenic snuff was inhaled. The shape suggests the body of a tadpole, a creature associated with transformation, or a long-tailed bird, a fitting symbol for flight achieved through ecstatic intoxication. This pendant would have originally been suspended from a necklace or brooch by the smaller drilled holes at top and back of the figure. Objects such as these often accompanied the king on his journey through death to the otherworld.

Drawn from

  • Peter David (P.D.) Joralemon, DMA unpublished material, 1984.

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

  • Carol Robbins, Label text [1973.18], A. H. Meadows Galleries, 2010.

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

Fun Facts

  • In 1984, Gilette Griffin, curator emeritus of Pre-Columbian and Native American art at the Princeton University Art Museum, had in his own collection a jadeite disk with a closely similar incised head that Olmec scholar Peter David (P.D.) Joralemon believed to be by the same hand. Joralemon read this image as a monkey.