The magnificent jades of Costa Rica have at last received a study worthy of their artistic excellence. The problems faced by the author, an outstanding authority on New World jades, were formidable, for of the thousands of such objects known, only a handful have been recovered under controlled archaeological conditions. Per square kilometer, Costa Rica must be the most archaeologically looted country in the world; symptomatic of this disgraceful situation is the unhappy fact that one of its highest archaeological officials has been for many years the principal purveyor of Costa Rican antiquities to the international art market. Thus, to construct any kind of workable chronology for these jades would be a major achievement.
Mrs. Easby has done just that. She presents excellent reasons for believing that many of the jades, particularly the somewhat Olmecoid “axe-gods,” belong to the Zoned Bichrome Period of northwest Costa Rica, around the time of Christ. More importantly, she feels that the Olmec themselves in an earlier time came to the Nicoya region to obtain the lovely blue-green and imperial jade for which they are famous. This source had not yet been located, but I have been informed by Mr. Charles Woram, who operates a manganese mine in the region, that jade outcrops have recently been identified on the Santa Elena peninsula, within the general Nicoya zone. If this turns out to be the blue-green variety, then a source for Olmec jade has been established for the first time. The Olmec trading network, as Mrs. Easby points out, would most likely have been by sea between the Mexican state of Guerrero and Costa Rica.
In addition to the above, this monograph deals with jade-working techniques and with a classification of Costa Rican jades. But beyond all this it is a beautiful piece of book production. The color photographs by Lee Boltin are so good in themselves and so excellently printed that all the qualities of these cool, translucent objects from the Pre-Columbian past may be immediately appreciated.