Mexican Veracruz, Palma, 600 - 900, Volcanic stone; 68.3 cm (26 7/8 inches) (height), Mary B. Jackson Fund 43.194
This sculpture is related to the sacred ball game played universally throughout pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. The game carried heavy ritual and religious significance. Palma sculptures are thought to have decorated architectural structures related to the ball court and to represent a piece of equipment used in the game. The Museum’s example has the typical flare from narrow base to wider apex. Toward the bottom a human figure kneels with hands clasped about his midriff and wears a yoke (another piece of ball-game equipment) and a loincloth. The figure’s headdress dominates the sculpture and consists of three palm fronds enclosed by a rich border of scrolling devices. These may represent cloud and rain motifs associated with fertility, regeneration, sacrifice, and death.