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Art of the Ancient Americas
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Artist: Unknown

Palma in the Shape of a Quetzal

A.D. 600–900

Volcanic stone with traces of pigment

20.3 cm (8 in.)
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Fred Olsen
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.
Veracruz, Mexico
Mexico, Veracruz
Late Classic Period

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.

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 such records is ongoing.