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HOME : Pre-Columbian Art : Costa Rican Jade : Atlantic Watershed Jade Figure Pendant
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Atlantic Watershed Jade Figure Pendant - PF.4789
Origin: Eastern Costa Rica
Circa: 100 AD to 500 AD
Dimensions: 4.25" (10.8cm) high
Collection: Pre-Columbian
Style: Atlantic Watershed
Medium: Jade


Location: UAE
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Description
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.

Costa Rican jade pendants were designed to be worn, and worn by important persons such as a chief, warrior or shaman. They are often highly stylized and abstract; but a few, like this beautiful example, are dramatic representations of a human being. In every sense it is a true sculpture, anatomically exact, and with such personality one suspects it was modeled on an actual person. The facial features show a broad nose and extended ears, which may represent earspools. On the headdress are two delightful birds' heads. The figure's body is beautifully formed, with broad hips, slender waist and large hands placed horizontally over the abdomen. This person stares with such intensity he may be involved in a ritual trance, worn perhaps by a great shaman who was seeing himself into other worlds. - (PF.4789)

 

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