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Mace or macana

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Dated: pre-1860

Cultural Context: Circo-Caribbean style

Origin: Venezuela (South America)

Medium: Wood [possibly chonta palm] / Cotton

Technique: Carved / Incised / Twisted / Rolled

Dimensions: Length = 51 cm; Width = 11 cm; Thickness = 4.50 cm

Inventory no.: 01655

Hourglass-shaped wooden mace with a rectangular cross-section. The middle, narrower area is covered with plant fibre string. It is decorated with geometric incised decoration and three human figures with stylised features depicted in profile. Two are squatting and facing each other, while the third one has been placed face down in relation to the previous ones.

Wooden maces, blunt objects usually held with both hands, were used as weapons and as a symbol of prestige. The introduction of metal objects and firearms, as well as changes brought about by contact with European missionaries, explain why maces fell into disuse. Apart from pieces like this, which have an hourglass profile, other club-shaped maces have been described. These objects have often been called macanas, a word borrowed from Taino and used by the Spanish to refer to all the flattened wooden swords or maces used by Amerindians.

Chonta wood (Bactris gasipaes) was often used to make these maces, as well as arrowheads, darts and axes. This tree, also known as chontaduro and pijiguao, is a palm tree with strong and durable wood that was cultivated in the western Amazon and later taken to northwestern South America and southern Central America, from where it moved to the Colombian Pacific coast in pre-Columbian times. Among other uses, the chonta palm has been used in the construction of houses and its fruit, the palm heart, can be eaten.