- THE COLLECTION
- THE SPIRIT OF THE GALLERY
Talismanic pendant depicting the hybrid figure of a man with traits of an opossum, an animal usually associated with fertility. Long, rectangular and narrow in shape, the creature has a head, eyes, a necklace and arms folded on its belly. The last third of the pendant is polished yet un-carved and forms a ritual axe. The Indians worked pre-Columbian jade, which is much harder than Chinese jade with the help of string saws and sand. The pendant is made of a bluish green jadeite with polished light and aquatic reflections. It is pierced with a conical hole used for suspension that would have been carved using an archaic trephine. Excellent state of preservation.
The use of jade as a precious stone was popularized in Costa Rica around 500 B.C. Costa Rica was once a major centre for the work and use of jade in pre-Columbian America. Although Costa Rica is widely recognized as the country in Central America with the best known tradition of using this stone, the discovery of jade has been centered primarily in one of the nation’s provinces: Guanacaste. The two main areas where jade has been found are Greater Nicoya (includes most of the Nicoya Peninsula in the Guanacaste province) and Linea Vieja in the northeast of the country near the Caribbean coast (in the Limon province). Sites in the Guanacaste region however tend to better recognized for jade, most likely because having more human beings in this area since very ancient times meant there were more pieces produced for rituals and for trade.
Archaeologists and anthropologists believe that jade was brought to Costa Rica from Mesoamerica and that the custom of carving the stone began with the Olmec culture. Oddly enough, “no source of the raw material has been identified in Costa Rica. Yet jade and other greenstones were widely used in Pre-Columbian times.” It is curious to think the material used for so many different purposes in Costa Rica has not actually been found in country, though there are rumors that it has in fact been unearthed in certain parts.
It is believed that the emergence of jade work is linked to the hierarchic placement of the society. Jade, which at the time was considered more valuable than gold, was reserved for the elite and highest aristocracy, who wore it during their lifetime and placed it in their tombs. The people also wore jade in more rustic pebble forms as a symbol of their different social class. It was used more frequently in the South than in the North where gold was more appreciated, however from the “flourishing” period, some individuals carried the two together. The prestige of jade was also due to the scarcity of its deposits. The most important was in Guatemala in the valley of the Motagua River.
Exavations in the tombs of La Ceiba in the Tempisque Valley confirm the use of jade until the 10 Th cent.