est. 500 B.C. TO A.D. 900

    This picture shows several different forms of axe god pendants from Costa Rica. Most of them have both avian and human design features. Some appear to be human forms wearing bird masks and headdresses or a human wearing a bird costume. Bird beaks in high relief or engraved triangles can be seen on several of them. The half man, half bird theme is the most common form of axe god. Most of these axe gods are made of jadeite and drilled for suspension as a pendant.
   The beige colored example in the top row is described as an Olmecoid axe god. It represents one of the more impressive types of axe god images that are human figures presented in serious poses. They have human-like faces and long tongues that reach down to the waste. It's believed that these large tongues may represent either maize or falling water. There are some design features that seem to originate from Olmec culture. The idea of revering and embellishing celts originate with the Olmec hundreds of years before axe gods were produced in Costa Rica. There may not be a direct connection between the two cultures, but mythic legends may have preserved some of these ideas. The Olmec produced engraved and stelae-like forms of celts and Costa Rican craftsmen produced celts that were carved in high-relief.
    The long narrow axe gods in the bottom row relate to a unique manufacturing process that involved cutting a celt into multiple pieces but still maintaining each piece as a usable pendant. Some were cut into two or more segments across the face from top to bottom. Others were cut in quarter sections. Chenault (1988) refers to these pieces as half celts, split celts and quarter celts. When the process is finished, each segment of the axe god is still recognizable in some way as a celt form. One reason for segment cutting was to repair broken pendants.
    The cut and engraved celt, in the bottom row second from the left, is unique for the fact that it's a Mayan belt celt that was cut lengthwise and re-drilled for suspension. Mayan belt celts (
also referred to as plaques) were worn at the waste in a group of three in front over the loins by Mayan kings. This example was found in Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica. The engraving shows a portion of the king and all the elaborate ornaments and dress he is wearing plus he holds a deity head on his arm. These unique out-of-place artifacts may represent heirlooms that were reworked and gifted to different individuals.
    The axe god at lower right is categorized as a bat wing pendant but its description involves crocodile, avian and maize symbols. It was made on an unmodified celt form that was decorated with engraving. The triangles in the center are identified as crocodile scute symbols. The top eye design is described as both crocodile jaws and the eyes of an avian figure. The design at the bottom is described as a crocodile jaw hinge that becomes a maize-plant symbol similar to examples found in Olmec iconography.

Axe god pendants from Costa Rica.