"Ritual Object in the Form of a Chicken Head"
MesoAmerican, c. 2000 BCE
8 cm ~ Fired organic materials
Many early Middle American cultures had cult or totem figures which became the basis for elaborate rituals and ceremonies. Although the bulk of these totem objects have perished, now and again one will turn up unexpectedly in an almost perfect state of preservation. The "chicken head ritual object" shown here is believed to have had inset lapis-lazuli eyes at one point, now lost, although other than that it is in excellent condition.
It is unusual to find a ritual object of this sort in the same location as what was apparently a ceremonial dining area. Although ritual thighs, breasts, wings and legs are commonplace at these sites, along with the odd gold-plated "nuggets," as archaeologists have come to describe them, ritual heads are rarely found apart from artisan sites where the actual birds were sacrificed to supply the ceremonial meals. It is believed that the ritual carved heads atoned in some way for the guilt of the slaughter.
Acquired through a generous grant from the McDonald's Corporation® "You Deserve a Beak Today"™