Jade pectoral

Olmec, Middle Preclassic period (1000-600 BC)
From Mexico

This pectoral (chest ornament), broken on both sides, was carved by an Olmec artist and reused by the Maya, as shown by the two Maya glyphs on the left side. The edges framing the head at the top and bottom indicate that it could also have been part of a larger pectoral.

Jade objects in Olmec style have been found throughout Mesoamerica and as far south as Costa Rica. Those found in areas of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras, are decorated with different motifs and shapes from those found in the Olmec heartland, centred in present-day Southern Veracruz and Tabasco.

Although contacts between the Maya area and the Olmec heartland seem to have been limited, jade objects in Olmec style appear in Maya deposits dated to the Middle Preclassic (about 1000-400 BC). Its presence was probably the result of contact between the two areas or with areas that shared the same cultural traditions and similar imagery. Objects found in later deposits, for example at the Cenote of Sacrifice, in Chichen Itza, an Early Postclassic site (AD 900-1200), would have been reused over generations or found in earlier graves.

Find in the collection online

More information


, The Olmec world: ritual and ru, exh. cat. (Princeton, N.J., Art Museum, Princeton University in association with Harry N. Abrams, 1996)

L. Schele and M.E. Miller, The blood of kings (London, Thames & Hudson, 1986)

E. Wyllys Andrews V (ed.), Research and reflections in ar (New Orleans, Middle American Research Institute, Tulane University, 1986)

C. McEwan, Ancient Mexico in the British (London, The British Museum Press, 1994)

A. Digby, Maya jades, revised edition (Trustees of the British Museum, 1972)


Height: 10.500 cm
Width: 11.000 cm

Museum number

AOA 1929.7-12.1


Gift of Mrs Yates Thompson


Find in the collection online

Search highlights

There are over 4,000 highlight objects to explore