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PRE-COLUMBIAN OBJECTS
Jade - Pendants and Figurines


 

Hacha (axe) Pendants

Origin I Characteristics I Urgency of the Situation I Legislation I Bibliography

Click on the photo to see caption and an enlarged version

Click on the photo to see caption and an enlarged version

Click on the photo to see caption and an enlarged version

Click on the photo to see caption and an enlarged version

Hacha pendant,
jade, 7.1 x 3.3 cm
Hacha pendant,
jade, 8.1 x 4.5 cm
Hacha pendant,
jade, 9.4 x 5.2 cm
Hacha pendant cut in two, jade, 9.2 x 1.9 cm
  © Museo Nacional de Costa Rica © Museo Nacional de Costa Rica © Museo Nacional de Costa Rica © Museo Nacional de Costa Rica

--Origin  
 

Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

--Characteristics  
 

These jade pendants, also known as jades, hachas (axes), dios-hacha (axe-gods), ave-pico (beaked-birds) or "chaneques" are from the Gran Nicoya region comprising northwestern Costa Rica and southwestern Nicaragua. They date from approximately 500 BC to 800 AD.
These pieces are made of jade and other similar stones such as serpentine or jadeite. Colors include different shades of green, black, brown and almost white. Pendants range in size from just a few centimeters to 25 cm at the most. In average, they are 5 to 10 cm in height.
Pendants are in the shape of an oval or petal-shaped stone axe edge. Decorative motifs are sculpted and incised in the top half of the front part. The surface in the bottom part is smooth and polished and has a round shape at the end, which gives the pendant its characteristic axe shape. Motifs are carved in high and low relief, using incisions and sculpture in the round. They portray human beings, stylized animals or a combination of both. Forms may be either realistic or abstract and schematic.
Human figures usually wear a head-dress and are depicted in a standing or squatting position, with arms over the chest or around the legs. A few characteristic features include circular eyes, wide noses, open mouths and facial tattoos.
Common animal representations include birds or figures with bird features, circular eyes, a wide triangular beak and winged arms crossed over the chest.

 

--Urgency of the Situation  
 

Over the past fifteen years, the National Museum of Costa Rica has documented findings of these pendants during their archaeological research. Most of the objects are now found in museum collections in Costa Rica.
This type of object is extremely valued by collectors. Pendants are so small they can be illegally exported in an easy manner. They are found as elements in necklaces or are worn as modern jewelry.
The fact that these items are usually found in funeral sites places these archaeological sites at great risk.

 

--Legislation Protecting these Objects  
 

See Costa Rica and Nicaragua

--Bibliography  
 
  • Calvo Mora, Marlin, Bonilla, Leidy & Sanchez, Julio. Gold, Jade, Forest: Costa Rica. University of Washington Press, 1995.
  • Exhibición Oro y Jade: Emblemas de poder en Costa Rica. Bogotá, 1999.

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October 2003