Jaguar Pendant

Jaguar Pendant

AD 100-500
Central Region
Costa Rica
Gift of Frederick and Jan Mayer
. Jaguar Pendant. AD 100-500. Jadeite. Gift of Frederick and Jan Mayer. 1994.836.
height: 3 3/8 in, 8.5725 cm; width: 1 in, 2.5400 cm; depth: 1 3/4 in, 4.4450 cm
Mayer Center, Art of the Ancient Americas
Art of the Ancient Americas

Jaguar Pendant
About A.D. 100–500
Costa Rica, Central region
Gift of Frederick and Jan Mayer, 1994.836  

Carved from a thick, substantial block of blue-green jade, this pendant depicts a feline seated upright on its haunches. The heavy body, long thick tail, and bared teeth reveal that the animal is a jaguar, Costa Rica’s most powerful mammalian predator. The mottling of the jade with paler green on the muzzle, belly and legs recalls the cream to orange color shading of the jaguar’s pelt. The individual who owned the pendant was likely associated with the feline in some fashion; perhaps his alter ego or spirit companion was a jaguar, or the animal was a clan or family emblem. In any case, the pendant surely advertised the wearer’s power and ferocity.

The pendant was probably worn as the central component of a spectacular two-tiered necklace. The main suspension hole is drilled through the feline’s neck; a secondary strand passed through the loop formed by the tail’s curled tip. Both strands would have been strung with additional beads of jade or other materials.

Exhibition History
  • "New Worlds of the Rich Coast: Ancient Costa Rican Jade and Gold from the Collection of Jan and Frederick Mayer" — Utah Museum of Fine Arts, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, 4/1990-5/1990
  • "Reading the Unwritten Past: Central American Culture before Columbus" — Lamont Gallery, Frederick R. Mayer Arts Center, Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter, NH, 9/18/1992-10/25/1992