Bird Pendant

Date: 1st–5th century

Geography: Costa Rica

Culture: Atlantic Watershed

Medium: Jadeite

Dimensions: H. 2 5/8 x W. 3/4 x D. 1 7/8 in. (6.7 x 1.9 x 4.7 cm)

Classifications: Stone-Ornaments, Jade

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

Accession Number: 1979.206.1138


Tropical Costa Rica is the habitat of an enormous number of bird species, many of which acquired symbolic dimensions in jade depictions. This pendant, made of a jadeite of great clarity, features a toucan. Yet its upright stance and folded arms indicate that the figure is anthropomorphic, implying perhaps that it is a masked or transformation figure. Adding to the complexity of the image is a trophy head where the figure's feet should be. Disembodied heads are frequent in Precolumbian Costa Rican art. This pendant is said to be from the Atlantic Watershed region, one of the two primary areas of jade use in ancient times. The other is the northwestern province of Guanacaste. Each area is generally associated with characteristic stylistic features in jade and other antiquities.