Pendant: depicting a crocodile

900–500 BCE
more object details

General Description

The carved stone images Olmec kings wore on their foreheads and chests projected supernatural power. This small, carved jadeite pendant that depicts a crocodile would have originally been suspended from a necklace or brooch as indicated by the smaller drilled holes at the top of the figure. The crocodile is seen from above, with the head at the bottom, indicated by the drilled holes for the nostrils. The four projections on the sides of the snout represent the creature's teeth, while the slightly larger projections form its front and rear legs. The incised, curved line indicates the squared base of the crocodile's tail, terminating in the holes for suspension.

In Olmec cosmology, the World Tree often functioned as the axis mundi, linking the celestial, terrestrial, and underworld realms. The World Tree could be depicted as an upended crocodilian creature whose tail sprouted vegetation. This pendant recalls that imagery. Objects such as these often accompanied the king on his journey through death to the otherworld.

Drawn from

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

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

  • "Pendant: Crocodilian," in The Olmec world: ritual and rulership, ed. Michael Coe (New York: Princeton University and Harry N. Abrams, 1995), 263.

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