Art Object of the Month

Veracruz deer hacha, stone AD 300 - 1200
"Hachas were believed to be axe-heads, hence the name (the Spanish word for 'axe'). They are probably related to the Mesoamerican ballgame. The great majority have been found in Veracruz, on the Gulf Coast of Mexico.
Most hachas, like this example, represent human heads, The skulls and heads of animals, such as jaguars, birds, bats, deer and monkeys, are also depicted.
Based on ceramic figurines and stone carvings, some authors have proposed that they were used attached to yugos (yokes). Others suggest that some of the hachas could have served as ball court markers. Their actual use is not yet clear, but they are often associated with yugos in burials.
The ballgame originated probably in the Gulf Coast or in the Caribbean region. Various sixteenth-century Spanish chroniclers described the game and the ballcourts. It was played with a solid rubber ball which could weigh up to three kilos. The ball was hit mainly with the hip or buttock, although there were other variants of the game. The game was banned by Spanish priests because of its 'pagan' connotations and was almost eradicated, but still survives today in some parts of Mexico." G.W. van Bussel, P.L.F. van Dongen and T.J.J. Leyenaar, The Mesoamerican ballgame (Leiden, Rijksmusuem voor Volkenkunde, 1991)