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Axe God (work of art)

Artwork Info

circa 200–400
Costa Rican (Guanacaste-Nicoya Zone)
6 x 2 inches (15.2 x 5.1 centimeters)
Sculpture, Stone


Gift of Dr. Clifton F. Mountain and Mrs. Marilyn T. Mountain

Object Number
Ancient American

Key Ideas

  • This pendant is six inches long and could have been worn on a cord as a necklace. It is carved from the mineral jadeite and has a smooth texture. The markings on it suggest a simplified human face. 
  • Jadeite, one of two minerals that make up the gemstone known as jade, indicated high status among individuals of precontact Costa Rica. The term precontact refers to the period before the indigenous people of a culture had any contact with an outside culture. The people of this culture considered jadeite to be the most precious mineral.
  • Typically these pendants are humanlike figures with birdlike features. They are combined with the shape of an axe, an important tool in ancient American culture.
  • Jadeite pendants such as this one have been found placed as offerings in burial tombs. In some instances the pendants were discovered on the neck of the deceased.

Learn More

Jadeite and similar greenstones were used in a wide variety of items that were worn as emblems of social and political power. One of the most common forms was the axe god pendant, which was suspended from a cord worn like a necklace. The name axe god comes from the form of the pendant, which is the same shape as the traditional stone chopping tool, or axe. Axes, also known as celts in Mesoamerica, were important tools to the people of ancient Mesoamerica. The curved bottom of the pendant is the part that represents the shape of the axe.

tags: fashion, function, power

Additional Resources

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  • A jadeite pendant with an abstract face.

    Axe God

  • A jadeite pendant with an abstract face.

    Axe God

  • A jadeite pendant with an abstract face.

    Axe God