Recarved Pendant



Recarved Pendant


300 - 600 AD


Late Period IV-Early Period V
Central America, Greater Nicoya, Costa Rica
Maya/Costa Rica Interaction


2 1/2 x 1 1/2 x 5/16 in. (6.3 x 3.8 x 0.8 cm)

Object Number



Hard, naturally green stones were highly prized not only in Costa Rica but in Mesoamerica as well, and therefore often traveled back and forth between the contiguous regions. This pendant has a hole running down the left side to be strung on a vine or sinew to make a spectacular necklace. A high-status man in Costa Rica probably wore it first, with the hole going horizontally as was preferred there. The original carving, of which a few lines remain, represented a figure holding a staff. Traded or stolen by the Maya, who wore their greenstones upright with beads strung around and below them, this second form was scratched over the first. It shows on top a snakelike bird, a harpy eagle (whose earlike feather tufts are seen to the left and sharply carved raptorial beak to the right), and below, a human skull. The Maya carved beads of skulls that look remarkably similar to this one. Harpy eagles are carrion eaters but were revered in ancient times as symbols of death and rebirth.

Finally, the piece was reportedly found down in northwestern Costa Rica, via trade or reappropriation. The long holes in the figures' mouths are typical of Costa Rican greenstone carving. The successive modifications of this intriguing piece demonstrate that not only was greenstone precious in all the areas with access to it, but also that lower Central American chiefdoms interacted on an equal basis with the more complexly organized city states to the north.

Credit Line

Ex coll. William C. and Carol W. Thibadeau


Seeing with New Eyes: Pre-Columbian Art from the Thibadeau Collection, Emory University Museum of Art and Archaeology, March 4 - October 13, 1992|
MCCM Permanent Collection Reinstallation, September 2002 - June 2012|
MCCM Permanent Collection Reinstallation, February 9, 2013 - Present
Michael C. Carlos Museum Handbook. Atlanta: Michael C. Carlos Museum (1996), 79.|
Rebecca Stone-Miller, Seeing With New Eyes: Highlights of the Michael C. Carlos Museum Collection of Art of the Ancient Americas (Atlanta: Michael C. Carlos Museum, 2002), 29, figure 35.|
Michael C. Carlos Museum: Highlights of the Collections (Atlanta: Michael C. Carlos Museum, 2011), 72.


© Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University. Photo by Michael McKelvey.
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“Recarved Pendant,” Michael C. Carlos Museum Collections Online, accessed June 3, 2020,

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