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Maya, Early Classic
200-650/750 CE
3.18 cm x 2.86 cm x 1.91 cm (1 1/4 in. x 1 1/8 in. x 3/4 in.)

On view


This small but exquisitely carved pendant in the shape of a monkey’s head is dominated by large, circular eyes. Its mouth is partially open, baring a bottom row of mandibular teeth and a lolling tongue. Some faint, pinkish-colored residues appear in the right eye and nostril. The eyes are rendered as unpolished, drilled depressions in which central protrusions serve as the pupils. These details suggest that the pendant represents the head of a black-handed spider monkey. The thick-rimmed part of the eyes corresponds to the monkey’s pale, unpigmented skin that surrounds the eyes and muzzle, appearing like a mask. In fact, the pendant seems to portray only the pale portion of the face, which stands out against the darker hair covering the rest of the head except for the two tufts that flare up and out from the brow. In addition to the partially drilled eyes and nostrils, there are two tiny perforations through the upper lip and the bottom lip or chin area. Perhaps additional beads or other objects were hung below the monkey head, or a bead may have been secured to the upper hole near the nose as a representation of the breath soul. Alternatively, the small holes may have helped to secure the object to clothing. As is the case for many jade objects, the brighter green was reserved for the carved, frontal side. The plain but well-polished back side of the pendant is rounded like that of other jadeite pendants in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection.

Benson, Elizabeth P. 1969 Supplement to the Handbook of the Robert Woods Bliss Collection of Pre-Columbian Art. Dumbarton Oaks, Trustees for Harvard University, Washington, D. C., p. 3, cat. 435.

Pillsbury, Joanne, Miriam Doutriaux, Reiko Ishihara-Brito and Alexandre Tokovinine (EDS.) 2012 Ancient Maya Art at Dumbarton Oaks. Pre-Columbian Art at Dumbarton Oaks, Number 4. Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, D.C., p. 234-235, pl. 35, fig. 135.

Acquisition History
Gift to Dumbarton Oaks by Mrs. Mildred Bliss, 1964.

Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Pre-Columbian Collection, Washington, DC.

Animals | Bead | Mayas | Pendant