Fish Hacha

Date: 6th–8th century

Geography: Mexico, Mesoamerica, Veracruz

Culture: Classic Veracruz

Medium: Stone, traces of plaster

Dimensions: H. 14 7/8 x W. 3 1/4 x D. 9 5/8 in. (37.8 x 8.3 x 24.5 cm)

Classification: Stone-Sculpture

Credit Line: The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Purchase, Nelson A. Rockefeller Gift, 1966

Accession Number: 1978.412.151


Besides the protective yoke and palma donned in the Mesoamerican ballgame, another element of the player's accoutrements is that known as a hacha. Worn with its notched base atop the yoke, hachas often depict heads, either that of a fallen rival, or of an animal, perhaps one possessing supernatural import. The objects are flattened into a shape that emphasizes the two-dimensional qualities, hence the name hacha ("ax" in Spanish). On this stone hacha, a fish forms the prominent element of the two-sided composition. The abdomen and tail of the fish appear in consecutive, ascending registers of scales above the representation of the head. While such creativity and wit are often evident in the art of Veracruz, the ability of the artist to work within the confines of a strictly prescribed form, in this case the necessary shape of the hacha, is nonetheless remarkable. The shell inlays in the eye sockets and the remaining plaster surface hint at the elaborate original conception of this piece.