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Votive Stone Axe

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Votive Stone Axe

200 BCE - 1000 CE
Unknown Artist (Mezcala?)

This axe is notable for its unusually thick, rounded form unlike the majority of Mesoamerican votive axes which are typically thinner and have more angular planes. See 1967.7.10.b for a typical Mesoamerican votive axe shape.
Stone carvings in the Mezcala style primarily come from the Río Balsas River basin of Guerrero (West Mexico). The style is characterized by relatively small-sized stone sculptures featuring geometric abstraction of the human figure, animals, and temple models. Other Mezcala-style carvings include small pendants depicting humans, animals, and purely geometric shapes (see 1955.1.196). The human figural sculptures were carved from axe forms (see 1969.7.10a, 1969.7.10b) cut in half longitudinally and carved on one face (see 1951.2.91). Some pendants, too, may have come from axe preforms (as seen here). Few Mezcala sculptures have been found in their original archaeological contexts, although a cache of Mezcala carvings and other heirloom artifacts was recently found in a cave in the Río Balsas area (Municipio de Cocula), the cache tentatively dated to c. 700 CE.
The Mezcala artistic style may have endured from Late Pre-Classic to Late Classic times (200 BCE-900 CE), although the lack of archaeological provenance makes it difficult to assign any sculpture to a certain time period or place of manufacture. Certainly, the stylistic diversity of the Mezcala corpus indicates both temporal and spatial longevity. The sculptures continued to interest later peoples such as the Aztecs (1325-1521 CE) who included Mezcala pieces in ritual caches underneath their main temple in Tenochtitlán, the Aztec capital (today’s Mexico City).
See E. Matos Moctezuma, “The Templo Mayor of Tenochtitlán: Economics and Ideology,” in Ritual Human Sacrifice in Mesoamerica, ed. E. Hill Boone [Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C., 1984], p. 149. See Carlo Gay’s publications for analyses of the Mezcala style and sculptural corpus (Gay, Carlo T.E. 1967 Mezcala Stone Sculpture: The Human Figure. The Museum of Primitive Art, Studies No. 5. New York Graphic Society. Greenwich, Connecticut; 1987 Mezcala Architecture in Miniature. Mémoires de la Classe des Beaux-Arts, Collection 8-2 Série, T. XV-Fascicule 3. Académie Royale de Belgique. Bruxelles, Belgique.)

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