Basalt Funerary Mask with a Protruding Tongue

SKU PF.3265

500 AD to 1000 AD


11.75″ (29.8cm) high




Costa Rica

Gallery Location



This unique basalt mask is sculpted in a bold, geometric manner and its dramatic presentation captures our eyes in an instant. Sculpted in the scale to fit a person's face, the mask has openings for the eyes, nostrils, and mouth. It wears an incised, flat headdress on top of which a small jaguar figure is carved. Two small holes by the temple bring two strings, which are linked to the nostrils, and the tongue hangs out from the open mouth. Such sculptural signs most likely symbolize important ideas that Ancient Costa Ricans cherished. One crucial aspect of Mesoamerican sculpture is the image of jaguar. In Costa Rica, jaguars were considered as a powerful god and their images were often used to represent royalty, priests, and warriors. This marvelous mask carved with the image of a jaguar, then, most likely is a sculptural rendition of a significant individual. Moreover, the tongue outside the mouth was symbolic of a person taking a journey into the underworld of the deceased. This marvelous mask, then, possibly had an important function in funerary rituals or ceremonies. Other unusual features such as the openings under the nose and the connective strings stir our curiosity–the features and decorative elements of Ancient Meso-American art carried meanings. Sculpted in a bold, geometric manner, the mask is full of symbolic features that embody cultural history and practice. It brings a part of Ancient culture to the modern day and we undoubtedly appreciate its beauty that would last throughout the ages to come.

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