Bronze mace head, Ecuador. Affixed to the top of wooden shafts, bronze mace heads would have been bright and shinny when new. The shafts were sometimes covered with gold, silver or copper to make them brilliant. PM 36-121-30/1430
Stone club head, Costa Rica. Throughout history and around the world stone mace heads were routinely carved into symbolic and fanciful shapes. Still heavy and functional, they might depict gods or other power symbols. PM 17-3-20/C8214
Bull head mace, Asia. This iron mace is topped with a head in the shape a bovine head, probably that of a bull. PM 51-10-60/9789
Stone mace head, North Coast Peru. PM 58-51-30/8164

Topping a club with a stone or metal head creates a mace. Prehistoric mace heads typically survive, although the wooden shafts that bore them often do not. Many mace heads were fancifully and elaborately carved, and metal ones were often designed to be far more aesthetically pleasing than their function required. When new, they no doubt glistened brightly.

The mace makes a deadly close-combat weapon, but it seems to have had particular appeal as a symbol of authority. Egyptian pharaohs are often depicted wielding maces. In some cultures, it has even evolved into a wholly symbolic ornamented staff known as a scepter. Consider that today, the Queen of England holds the morphed, jewel-encrusted cousin of what was once a formidable weapon.

Eighteen items on display