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Eccentric, Rosalila cache, Copan (Artifact 90-8) (CPN P2762)

By Peabody Museum on Sketchfab

From "Individual Descriptions of Bifaces and Eccentrics" by Payson Sheets. Appendix to Protecting Sacred Space: Rosalila's Eccentric Chert Cache at Copan and Eccentrics among the Classic Maya by Ricardo Agurcia Fasquelle, Payson Sheets, and Karl Andreas Taube (Monograph 2, Precolumbia Mesoweb Press, San Francisco, 2016):

This eccentric was superbly crafted by one of the top artisans in the workshop, likely the master. In this case the full sequence of manufacture may have been done by the same person, from initial percussion flaking to final shaping. All stages of manufacture for which evidence is preserved on this artifact show exceptional skill and experience. The larger flake scars, presumably from indirect percussion with an antler punch, rarely show any difficulties in terms of hinge fractures. And their regularity, especially visible on the bottom side (dorsal face, principal figure looking right) of the headdress decoration, is impressive. One result is more uniform thickness of the entire piece, in contrast to Artifacts 90-3, 90-4, and 90-9. The final finishing by pressure flaking also exhibits excellent control. Only one very small error was observed: a very small piece of the end of the headdress decoration broke off, probably during manufacture. The missing piece was only about 4 mm long and is barely noticeable. The base of the stem retains white cortex 14.9 mm thick, presumably largely CaCO3 but with high silica content.

Length (height) 330 mm. Width 213 mm. Thickness 15 mm. Weight 401 grams.

The principal axis of the piece is quite straight from stem up through the torso of the principal figure, with a slight offset. The figure is seated, and his leg(s) project and are finished with careful angled oblique notching, here interpreted as referencing lightning. Ten oblique notches create eleven teeth, all angled downward. The other side of the piece, opposite from the legs, also has angled notching, angled downward, with four notches creating five teeth. Above this is an elongated "tail" with five curves and smaller direct (perpendicular to the edge) notching.

On the forehead of the principal figure is an unusual feature composed of a rounded element and an elongated curvy part. It could be a variant on the smoking celt, in this case depicting the rounded bit end of the celt with a curl of smoke above it headed skyward. Or it could be something quite different, perhaps representing elements of actual royal headdress decoration. The serrated crest headdress is an elegant one, with 34 notches and 34 teeth.

The arm of the principal figure is extended straight out and holds an anthropomorphic head that has a cranial torch/smoking celt on its forehead, presumably the K'awiil (God K) deity. Karl Taube (The Major Gods of Ancient Yucatan. Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C., 1992, p. 69) notes that God K often has a smoking torch as the fire element in the forehead, and that could well be what is represented here. The smoking celt refers to K'awiil, the lightning deity. If lightning creates chert from the limestone bedrock, leaving some chert at the end of the stem could be another instance of Maya cyclicity, showing the original material before the lightning strike and the chert created by the lightning impacting the limestone. Clark et al. (John E. Clark, Fred W. Nelson, and Gene L. Titmus, "Flint Effigy Eccentrics." In Ancient Maya Art at Dumbarton Oaks, edited by Joanne Pillsbury, Miriam Doutriaux, Reiko Ishihara-Brito, and Alexandre Tokovinine. Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C., 2012, pp. 270-281) suggest that when the smoking celt is on the forehead of a human figure, a K'awiil impersonator may be represented. It is appropriate that the longest series of oblique notches are on this K'awiil headdress. The headdress curves backward, decorated by a series of notches that progress from larger to smaller. These notches are angled, likely a reference to lightning. A very thin, needle-like fragile projection was flaked between the back of the head and the headdress.

Following manufacture, the eccentric was colored red with cinnabar and wrapped in blue, green, and brown fabric and then barkcloth. The stem was wrapped with barkcloth or twine before being wrapped with the colored textile.

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