Ceremonial Handle (?)

Date: 7th–9th century

Geography: Mexico or Guatemala, Mesoamerica

Culture: Maya

Medium: Jade (jadeite/omphacite)

Dimensions: H. 5 1/2 x 1 1/8 x 1 3/4 in. (14 x 2.8 x 4.5 cm)

Classifications: Stone-Sculpture, Jade

Credit Line: The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979

Accession Number: 1979.206.1132


In spite of its snarling feline face and incomplete condition—it is broken at what was apparently the top—this is an engaging object, a quality that compensates for the uncertainty surrounding its function. With the head perpendicular to the body, the form of the small sculpture is reminiscent of the serpent columns that originally supported a temple roof at the site of Chichén Itzá in northern Yucatan. Bound with constricting bands and split by carved channels, the segmented body of the beast tapers before joining the head. The face of the creature has large eyes, an open stylized mouth with fangs, and high curled nostrils. Five drilled holes, perhaps for suspension or for the hanging of additional items, connect inside the column above the creature's head. Four smaller holes are worked at right angles along the chin.