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Object Record

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Artist Olmec Culture
Title Spoon in the Shape of a Bird Monster Profile Head
Date 800 - 300 BCE
Medium jade
Place of Origin Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica
Culture Olmec Culture
Catalog Number 1968.11
Collection Pre-Columbian Art Collection
Object Name Pendant, Religious
Credit line Gift of Frederick R. Pleasants
Didactic Information This finely carved jade "spoon" pendant depicts the Olmec Bird Monster, one of the major supernatural beings often seen in Olmec art. As the god of the sky and sun, the Bird Monster was closely associated with kingship, and this pendant may have served an important ceremonial function. Olmec jade objects were highly prized by many cultures, including the Maya and Aztecs, although the specific sources of the stone are still unclear. Almost all Olmec "spoon" pendants are known from private collections, and therefore their function also remains unclear. They have variously been interpreted as spoons, receptacles for hallucinogenic powders or blood from self-sacrifice rituals, painters' pallets, and ritual amulets. The perforations at the top of the piece make the last scenario probable, although they likely served multiple functions.