Closed Yoke

Date: 4th–7th century

Geography: Mexico, Mesoamerica, Veracruz

Culture: Veracruz

Medium: Stone

Dimensions: H. 20 1/2 x W. 16 in. (52.1 x 40.6 cm)

Classification: Stone-Sculpture

Credit Line: Gift of Mrs. Ernest Brummer in Memory of Ernest Brummer, 1969

Accession Number: 69.237


In Mesoamerican art, ballplayers are identified by the thick belt worn around the waist. Referred to as a yoke, the name is derived from the similarity of the shape to that of the equipment used to manage work animals. Although a tradition of open-ended, elaborately carved stone yoke sculptures endured in parts of Mesoamerica for centuries, the earliest yokes are believed to be those of closed shape and smooth polished surface with no relief ornamentation. A flattened raised ridge surrounding the central opening of this yoke is its only surface elaboration. Later yokes are carved with imagery relating to sacrifice. Figures identified as earth monsters, for whom the sacrifices may have been intended, are among them. The shape of this yoke, with its space in the center, and as it is seen in this photograph, suggest a connection to the theme by its resemblance to a cave opening, as apertures in the earth were regarded as portals to the realm of the earth monster.