Pre-Columbian, Southern Mexico to Guatemala, Maya, Late Classical, ca. 550 to 900 CE. A very rare depiction of a bloodletting ceremony finely carved on a conch shell pectoral. The white shell surface is carved with two figures facing each other above a geometric pattern. The right figure is larger than the figure on the left, denoting rank and elite status as the royal queen. The ritual between them consists of the queen passing a rope studded with thorns through her tongue, while the priest or other attendant watches it unfold. Many Maya ritual objects used for the ceremony have been found, and although somewhat grisly, a fully depicted bloodletting scene is a thrill to find! Size: 8.5″ L x 5″ W (21.6 cm x 12.7 cm); 9.25″ H (23.5 cm) on included custom stand.
Bloodletting was a ritual practice used throughout ancient Mesoamerica – scholars posit that the Olmec and the Maya elite were enthusiasts of the practice. Archaeologists have found obsidian blade, stingray tails, and bone needles, all believed to have been used in this practice, which allowed an individual to experience a heightened state of consciousness and thus communicate with the gods. The blood given also served as a sacrifice, the price paid by high ranking and royal Maya peoples in order to make contact with the supernatural.