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Olmec, Early Preclassic
1200 BCE-900 BCE
10.16 cm x 12.7 cm x 12.38 cm (4 in. x 5 in. x 4 7/8 in.)

On view


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The term yuguito or little yoke, derives from its vague resemblance to the padded belts used in the Mesoamerican ball game. Although yuguitos are not miniature ball game belts, they do appear to have been an important component of the Early Preclassic ball game. Fashioned of dense basalt, this yuguito was reportedly discovered at Tlatilco with another plain example, both appear to have been ritually broken, or killed, as offerings for a burial. This yuguito is composed of five re-joined pieces, with missing portions on the convex upper portion and back of the sculpture. The piece was partly carved by pecking, with some of the pecked surface still visible on the convex upper surface and especially in the broad groove running along the underside. The yuguito portrays an anthropomorphic head with a deeply furrowed brow and snarling mouth, facial elements found also on the Olmec Rain God. Remains of red hematite pigment appear in incised portions of the piece. Whereas portions of white paint adhere to the mouth, the eyes contain a black, tarlike substance, probably serving as glue for now lost inlays. The tablike trapezoidal element projecting below the lip may be a beard, with broad crosshatching denoting hair. This same crosshatching encircles the otherwise plain and smooth cranium, as if the figure had a bald pate surrounded by a narrow strip of hair.

Some scholars have suggested that yuguitos were stone copies of items of leather or wood bound against the back of the hand, thereby creating a mit-like handpiece for striking the ball. Others have suggested that they constituted elbow or knee protectors. In addition, the yuguito could have also been worn on a belt, with its long groove fitting snugly against the protective padding. If this is the case, the yuguito could constitute an ancestral form of the hacha and palma beltpieces of Classic Veracruz and related areas.

Bernal, Ignacio 1968 El Mundo Olmeca. [1. ] ed. Editorial Porrúa, México. pl. 75.

Bernal, Ignacio 1969 The Olmec World. University of California Press, Berkeley. pl. 58.

Bernal, Ignacio 1991 El Mundo Olmeca. 2. ed. Editorial Porrúa, México. pl. 75.

Benson, Elizabeth P. 1963 Handbook of the Robert Woods Bliss Collection of Pre-Columbian Art. Dumbarton Oaks Trustees for Harvard University, Washington, D.C., p. 5, cat. 14.

Coe, Michael D. 1965 The Jaguar's Children: Pre-Classic Central Mexico. Museum of Primitive Art, New York. p. 21, pl. 15.

González Calderón, O. L. 1991 The Jade Lords. O.L. González Calderón, Coatzacoalcos, Ver., pl.197.

Magni, Caterina 2003 Les Olmèques: Des Origines Au Mythe. Seuil, Paris. p. 65.

Niederberger, Christine 1987 Paléopaysages Et Archéologie Pré-Urbaine Du Bassin De México (Mexique). 1re éd. ed. Etudes Mésoaméricaines, V. 11. Centre d'études mexicaines et centraméricaines, México. fig. 95a.

Peterson, Frederick and Fernando Horcasitas 1957 Recent Finds at Taltilco. Tlalocan III (4):363-5. pl. II

Peterson, Frederick A. 1959 Ancient Mexico: An Introduction to the Pre-Hispanic Cultures. Putnam, New York. pl. 7.

Piña Chan, Román, Luis Covarrubias and Miguel Covarrubias 1964 El Pueblo Del Jaguar (Los Olemecas Arqueológicos). Consejo para la planeacion e instalacion del Museo nacional de antropología, México. fig. 47.

Taube, Karl A. 2004 Olmec Art at Dumbarton Oaks. Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, D.C., p. 52-3, pl. 2.

Willey, Gordon R. 1966 An Introduction to American Archaeology. Prentice-Hall Anthropology Series. Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J. p. 101, fig. b.


Feuchtwanger, Franz 1976 Tlatilco: Betrachtungen Uber Fundplatz Und Funde. Baessler-Archiv N.F. Band XXIV:410-1.

Proskouriakoff, Tatiana 1954 Varieties of Classic Central Veracruz Sculpture. Contributions to American Anthropology and History ; [V. 12] No. 58. Carnegie Institution of Washington, Washington, D.C., p. 68-9.

Exhibition History
"Indigenous Art of the Americas", National Gallery of Art, Washignton DC, August 1960 to April 1962.

"The Jaguar's Children: pre-Classic Central Mexico", Museum of Primitive Art, New York, NY, 2/17 - 5/9/1965 (catalogue # 108).

Acquisition History
Purchased from John A. Stokes Jr., New York (dealer), by Robert Woods Bliss, July 13 1960.

Robert Woods Bliss Collection of Pre-Columbian Art, Washington, DC, 1960-1962.

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

Anthropomorphic | Ballgame | Olmecs