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Olmec Antler Maskette

Olmec Antler Maskette

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Directory: Antiques: Regional Art: Americas: Pre Columbian: Pre AD 1000: Item # 1124221

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This Olmec maskette is from Veracruz, Mexico. Radiocarbon dating of the San Lorenzo phase places this between 1200-900BC. It measures 2" wide by 1 1/4" high by 1/2" deep. It depicts the classic were-jaguar with forehead cleft, almond shaped eyes, broad nose, mouth showing gums and teeth and a scrolled design encircles the sides of the face. This appears to me to be the sides of a helmet, not ear flares. The ears are on the top indicating a more advanced transformation from human to jaguar. The top of the forehead is biconically drilled for suspension in a design that is reminiscent of the Costa Rican agate bat wing pendants from the same time period. Also, nearly identical to the jade pectoral found at La Venta and in the National Museum of Anthropology. Since the face is carved in an oblong shape that is naturally concave, it is also probably a spoon which is classic Olmec. It is generally accepted that these spoons were used by shamans as trays to ingest hallucinogenic substances in the form of snuff. What makes this piece extremely desirable and IMPORTANT is that it is carved from the outer part of deer antler. The fine patina is consistent with other antler artifacts I have. I know of no other antler Olmec maskette. This unique piece is beyond rare. It shows no modern tool signatures. The nostril holes and holes at the corners of the mouth are correct. The carver had trouble making the biconical holes meet although they do, an indication of hand tools. There is wonderful patina throughout the biconical hole. The enlarged photo of the mouth at the holes and teeth shows obvious channels worked by a hollow bamboo tubular hand drill. A MUST HAVE for the Olmec collector. A quick inspection with a loop shows this one to be a no-brainer for authenticity.