This star-shaped mace head from Peru is made from volcanic stone and dates to the Early Intermediate Period, ca. 1400-2200 BP. Maces were used as fighting clubs and were also important symbolic representations of warfare.
The mace head in this model was made by pecking, also known as hammer-dressing, followed by grinding. The grinding eliminated the peck-marks. The method of drilling is unknown, but the even profile of the hole suggests that it was drilled rather than pecked. Similar star-shaped stone fighting clubs were made into the recent past in New Guinea.
The mace head was acquired in 1897 by the Museo Nacional de Historia Natural, Chile, where it is presently curated.
Stone mace heads were hafted through the perforation onto long handles and used as clubs in warfare. In contrast to similar stone-headed war clubs found other parts of the world, they are generally referred to as ‘mace heads’ by South American researchers. Mace heads were made by the highland Chavín and coastal Cupisnique cultures of the Central Andes by ca. 3000 BP, but became common by the Early Intermediate Period of cultural development in Peru by ca. 2200 BP. Stone mace heads persisted for over 1000 years, and copper mace heads were also made during this time. Stone mace heads were made in a variety of forms from round stones to knobbed, lobed, finned, and star-shaped versions. They are all characterised by a central hole to receive the wooden handle. Some maces were made from high-quality stones like jade and quartz crystal.
The famous Lührsen vessel from Trujillo, Peru—a painted stirrup-spout bottle from the Moche period, curated in the Ethnographical Museum of Berlin, VA666—depicts warriors engaged in battle armed with mace-head clubs. The bottle dates to the Moche culture, ca. 1300-1900 BP. Two sets of warriors are depicted, and the defeated warriors are armed with plain round or star-shaped mace-headed clubs. The handles are shown with a basket-shaped ring resembling the hand-guards on ski poles located near one end. They are gripped one-handed above the basket feature, near the stone head; or two-handed with one hand near the stone head and one hand below the basket feature. Some researchers interpret the scene as portraying Moche warriors vanquishing Recuay warriors (also armed with maces) from the Andean highlands.