Bead: human head

Olmec style
c. 900–500 BCE
more object details

General Description

The carved stone images Olmec kings wore on their foreheads and chests projected supernatural power. This carved jadeite bead in the shape of a human head would have originally been suspended from a necklace as indicated by the drilled holes on the sides of the figure's head. Deeply carved lines indicate the facial features of the figure, and are more clearly visible in profile view. The nose is particularly defined, accentuated by large drill holes for the nostrils. The elongated forehead is 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).