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Post Lot Text
VERACRUZ SERPENTINE EFFIGY YOKE
TAJIN, CLASSIC, CA. A.D. 450-650
Deeply carved with a squatting toad with the front incorporating a bearded head of deity, possibly the Old Fire God, Huehueteotl, with broad nose, parted lips and sunken eyes, possibly once inlaid, the head flanked by two flattened protrusions representing the eyes of the amphibian, the cranial crest extends bilaterally to form the rounded paratoid glands on the upper sides of the body, the rounded and projecting central section between the front and rear raised legs is richly carved with boldly outlined, scroll designs, designated as 'entrelace' ornamentation of entwined interlaces imitating glyphic devices, with the curved rear legs at the anterior ends; in polished gray-green stone.
There is no art form more associated with the Veracruz Gulf coast than the portable ball game (in Nahuatl or Aztec, ullamaliztli) sculptures known as yokes. Stone yokes are an incorrect name derived from their faint resemblance to ox yokes, are most common to central Veracruz but have been found as far away as central Mexico and el Salvador. They appear in south-central Veracruz, as early as 900-300 B.C., and continue to be carved till at least A. D. 900. The more elaborate examples are contemporaneous with the height of the El Tajin complex. The fact that ballcourts occupy a central position adjacent to temples in almost every Mesoamerican city, hundreds have been found, is a testament to the game's Prehispanic importance.
The earliest provenienced yokes were plain, more ovoid in form, and sometimes closed at the end. The U-shaped form begins during the Preclassic period, ca 300 B.C. Since the game had political and deep religious roots as presumed by early source scholars who point to the ritual ballgame played in the Popol Vuh, the sacred creation myth of the Maya, the entrance to the Underworld is thought to be entered via the ballgame. As in this yoke with its crouching toad effigy, the sacred passageway was believed to be through the jaws of a female toadlike creature. The wearing of the yoke, not while playing the fast paced contest, was a prerogative of the elite. At El Tajin various rituals-including human sacrifice, are shown in the South Ball Court with participants sporting yokelike belts. Yet there is equally a theme of rebirth associated with the ubiquitous ballgame as the blood spilled during the sacrifice was thought to feed the Maize God, mimicking the watering of the earth by rain.