Palma in the Shape of a Quetzal Artist: Unknown

A.D. 600–900

Art of the Ancient Americas

Along with the yoke and the hacha, the palma is one of the three main classes of objects associated with the Mesoamerican ballgame. The word palma means palm frond in Spanish, and the shape of some of these stone objects resemble palm fronds. They probably functioned in a manner similar to hachas—as ceremonial regalia inserted into the yoke (belt) worn by the players—and may have largely replaced hachas, which are generally less tall and more rounded, by the Early Postclassic period, around A.D. 900. This palma represents a bird of prey sitting on a roughly triangular base. The sharp beak, large crest, and spread wings of the bird create a highly aggressive impression, well-suited to the demeanor required of a ballplayer.


Volcanic stone with traces of pigment


8 in. (20.3 cm)

Credit Line

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Fred Olsen

Accession Number



Late Classic Period


Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of records is ongoing.



Fred H. Olsen (1891–1986), and Florence Quittenton Olsen, Guilford, Conn.; gift in 1959 to Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.
  • George A. Kubler, ed., Pre-Columbian Art of Mexico and Central America (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1986), 72–73, 238, no. 110, fig. 59
Object copyright
Additional information

Object/Work type

ceremonial objects

Technical metadata and APIs


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