A New Mexican Mask

Originally Published in 1930

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THE Museum’s collection of Mexican archaeology has been recently enriched by the gift of an admirable stone mask. This is carefully jade of a greenish stone, probably diorite, and measures five and a quarter inches in length and in width, and two inches in maximum thickness. The rear is concave so that the average thickness is from one to one and a quarter inches. The face is simply but not rudely carved and somewhat conventionalized or rather stylized. The protruding ears are but lateral extensions, the nose is high and convex, the eyes are oval cavities, the cheeks high and the mouth a raised oval ring with central depression. At the edge on either side near the top are twin drilled holes by which the mask was suspended or attached.

A simply carved stone face
Museum Object: 29-32-1

The specimen is said to have been found at Hierba Buena, state of Guerrero, Mexico, buried in a corn field, possibly for the purpose of insuring good crops. It doubtless represents one of the ancient Mexican gods, but the face contains no diagnostic characteristics by means of which its identity might be determined. The large open mouth is frequently characteristic of the god Xipe Totec who was honoured by a human sacrifice in which the victim was flayed and the figure of the god adorned with the human skin. Xipe was considered Lord of the Earth and was the object of a mainly agricultural cult; the blood of the victims sacrificed in his honour was supposed to enrich the soil.

While the object is termed a “mask,” it is too small and too heavy to have boon worn over a human face. More probably it hung in a temple or a private house where it received the veneration of the devotees of the god.

Cite This Article

"A New Mexican Mask." Museum Bulletin I, no. 1 (January, 1930): 23-26. Accessed May 26, 2024. https://www.penn.museum/sites/bulletin/37/

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