Olmec Earth Monster Manopla
1100 BC to 700 BC
7″ by 6″
An unbelievably rare basalt Olmec Manopla or hand stone from the Gulf Coast area of Mexico. This large example represents the Earth Monster, also known as the Olmec Dragon. It is one of the most important gods for this early culture and the patron God of the elite, while also being responsible for the earth, water, fire and agriculture fertility. This God could also take form of an eagle or as in this case, a jaguar.
The Manopla has all of the typical features of the Earth Monster. He has flaming eyebrows, a small curled nose, elongated eyes and a U shape mouth opening. His mouth is thought to represents caves, which were portals to the Underworld. The handle separates both sides of the mouth or the cave. There are still remnants of a reddish brown and ochre color pigment, with areas of stucco in the crevices.
Interestingly, the Olmec and the Veracruz were the only cultures to incorporate Manoplas into their version of the ballgame. This piece would have been too large and heavy for use throughout the entire game and was most likely used for the first strike and to get the rubber ball in motion.
The hand stone was offered at Binoche et Giquello in Paris, France during their March 28, 2014 auction. It was lot #70 and has an estimate of 30,000 to 40,000 Euros. Collection number #9529.
Ex Ziff collection from NYC, NY. Acquired from Merrin Gallery, NYC in 1968 to 1969.
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