Stunning Maya Greenstone Mask w/ Earspools:
Pre-Columbian, Mexico and northern Central America, Maya Territories, Late Classic, ca. 550 to 900 CE. A stunning mottled greenstone mask, made to be worn over the face of a king in his grave. Ear ornaments – made from greenstone spools, each with two greenstone beads – one cylindrical, one spherical – through their centers – adorn the mask. The hollow almond-shaped eyes probably once held inlays of shell or other stone. The facial features are strong, with a pronounced nose, a heavy brow, and a large, wide-lipped mouth full of teeth. The stone itself is mottled grey-green with black and red-brown inclusions. Maya royal tombs often contain these masks; these tombs are frequently found buried underneath temples, and the Maya belief in the divine nature of kings meant that their remains sanctified the foundations. By recreating the face of the ruler in greenstone – seen as the same as jade to the Maya, who did not use our technical definitions of geology – the Maya believed they could grant eternal life. Size: 8″ W x 6.2″ H (20.3 cm x 15.7 cm); 9.6″ H (24.4 cm) on included custom stand.
The value of greenstone for ancient Mesoamericans lay in its symbolic power: its color was associated with water and vegetation, and the renewal of the agricultural cycle. It was also believed to be the embodiment of the wind and the “breath” that formed the Maya soul. Ear spools like the ones that adorn this mask are often shown in profile in Mayan art, usually with a bead or serpent emerging from that central hollow plug; this is interpreted to be a symbolic supernatural passageway through which the breath of the soul could travel.