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HOME : Pre-Columbian Art : Costa Rican Jade : Guanacaste-Nicoya Jade Figure-Celt Pendant
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Guanacaste-Nicoya Jade Figure-Celt Pendant - PF.2320
Origin: Costa Rica
Circa: 1 AD to 500 AD
Dimensions: 8.375" (21.3cm) high
Catalogue: V8
Collection: Pre-Columbian
Medium: Jade

Location: UAE
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In the context of Pre-Columbian art and archaeology, jade is a generic term that refers to any variety of hard, dense stones that were worked with great skill by native artists. Although jade is generally thought to be green, it can actually be a range of colors. Jade carving flourished in ancient Costa Rica for over a thousand years, roughly from 500 B.C. to 900 A.D., although the period of greatest artistic accomplishment lasted from 300 to 700 A.D. It is believed that jade working began during an extended period of agricultural abundance that allowed the ancient society to dedicate part of its energies toward the cultivation of artistic pursuits.

Jade was considered to be a sacred material by the ancient populations of Costa Rica, held in even higher esteem than gold. Generally, it was thought to symbolize that vital life force that sustains us all. The color green is naturally associated with verdant plant life. Specifically, jade was thought to symbolize the sprouting maize plant, that staple of the Pre-Columbian diet. It has also been suggested that jade represents water. Either way, we can be certain that jade represented the very essence of life itself.

To date, no native sources of jade have been discovered in Costa Rica, suggesting an extended trade network existed that imported this precious resource from Mesoamerica into Costa Rica where it was carved by local artists. Such trade also would have brought great wealth and likely reinforced the social stratification of the peoples. Jade may have served as a status marker to distinguish the elite from the masses and solidify their hold on power. We can picture an ancient ruler or shaman presiding over a sacred ceremonial adorned in brilliant green jade pendants and jewelry. The ancient Costa Ricans believe that the system of social hierarchy also extended into the afterlife. Therefore, jade objects were buried with the elite so that their power could be maintained throughout eternity.

Axe forms are integral component of virtually every culture. However, jade figure-celt pendants such as this stunning example are distinct for many reasons. Jade is a very rare and unique gemstone. Found in only half a dozen parts of the world, it is an extremely hard stone and, because of its structure, the toughest and most durable of stones. It cannot be worked by flaking and chipping procedures that are effective on flint and other quartz minerals, so its superiority could only become evident at the Neolithic level of technology, when stone cold be worked by abrasion. The early Costa Rican artisans' exquisite craftsmanship in jade is tied to that of the ancient Olmec, both in technology and style. However, the Costa Rican artists developed their own distinct characteristics as evidenced in this spirited jade figure-celt. Perforated horizontally, this symbolic figure was worn around the neck, imbuing the wearer with an energetic power. Skillful carving has produced a stunning axe handle in the shape of a human figure in a formal pose, hands positioned across his chest. A mask-like face and carved headdress reveal the figure's intrinsic power. The outline of the figure is in perfect balance and proportion with the smooth line of the axe blade. Polished to a high sheen, light reflecting off its tactile surface, this figure-celt pendant continues to emanate the spirited energy that the Ancient Costa Ricans revered. - (PF.2320)


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