Eccentric flint with heads of K'awiil

CULTURE:
Maya
DATE:
600–900 CE
more object details

General Description

The ancient Maya perfected the art of chipping flint to create flat blades for sacrificial and ceremonial use. The complex shapes of many of these objects have earned them the designation “eccentric flints.” Archaeologists have found them in offertory caches associated with dedication and termination rituals for architecture and stone monuments. This extraordinary flint was reportedly found together with another in the Dallas Museum of Art's collection (1983.45.McD), as part of a cache that included a third example now in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.[1] In this example, the four profile heads represent K’awil, the god of royal lineage. The enclosed space at the center suggests an opening to the otherworld.

[1] For more information on the Houston flint, please see the Web Resources section on this page.

Adapted from

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.

Fun Facts

  • This eccentric flint, a second flint in the DMA's collection, Eccentric flint depicting a crocodile canoe with passenger_s (1983.45.McD), and a third flint now in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston (_Ceremonial Flint with K'awiil and Two Lords in a Monster-Headed Canoe) were found together as part of cache, reportedly in Guatemala. All three were acquired from the collection of Peter Wray, Phoenix, AZ. For more information on the Houston flint, please see the Web Resources section on this page.

  • This flint can be appreciated on several levels: its material, the process by which it was made, its function, and its iconography. The shape of the flint conforms to the type known as scepters. Although the edges of the "handle" seem rather sharp for holding, that portion of the flint could have been wrapped in cloth. The flint could, therefore, have served as a talisman or power object for a Maya king. In terms of imagery, the most characteristic subject among eccentric flints is a human-like head shown in profile, usually K__'awil, the god of royal lineage. In this example, one of the K'awil heads is in the enclosed negative space at the center. The space represents a portal, the entrance to the spirit world. The points that radiate from the outer edge are unusual and contribute to the dramatic effect of this wonderfully compelling object.

Web Resources

Museum of Fine Arts Houston
Read more about the flint in the MFAH's collection.