- Museum number
Oblong chest cut from solid block of sandstone, with similarly cut separate lid; relief figures carved on four sides of chest; evidence of pigment in less exposed parts. Lid undecorated.
- Production date
Height: 35 centimetres
Width: 73 centimetres
Depth: 55 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- McEwan 2009, p. 65
Stone vessel with scenes of a contest over a severed head. Classic Veracruz, Mexico, 4th-12th century AD
The scenes carved on the four sides of this vessel depict two protagonists engaged in a formal contest over a severed head with a tasselled plume of long hair. The left-hand figure always wears a distinctive nose ornament that extends across his cheek, while the fanged jaws of his opponent emphasize his supernatural powers. Their confrontation is played out in a sequence of arm gestures which are the mirror image of each other, changing in synchronized fashion from scene to scene around the vessel, following the direction in which the severed head is facing. Subtle variations in the costume and headdress of each figure echo and elaborate upon the visual language of the arm gestures. it seems likely that the vessel held a liquid, perhaps "pulque", the fermented beverage made from the juice of the "maguey" plant, which was consumed in large quantities at festivals. It probably served as a ritual object during a series of related ceremonies, among them the ball game, celebrated at designated times of the year.
- On display (G27/od)
- Exhibition history
1990 20 Oct-9 Dec, Japan, Tokyo, Setagaya Art Museum, Treasures of the British Museum, cat. no.215
1991 5 Jan-20 Feb, Japan, Yamaguchi, Prefectural Museum of Art, Treasures of the British Museum, cat. no.215
1991 9 Mar-7 May, Japan, Osaka, National Museum of Art, Treasures of the British Museum, cat. no.215
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Purchased in 1879 from W.G.Jolly, Manchester, through Christy Fund.
- Africa, Oceania and the Americas
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Miscellaneous number: Am1989,Q.4 (also registered as [deleted])