The size of the head on this exceptional example of Veracruz art indicates it came from a figure that was quite large. Such figures have been interpreted as musicians or deities, or props in shamanic performances.


Effigy Head
Made by Remojadas people, Veracruz, Mexico
Dates to ~AD 550–900


Latin American Archaeology


This is an exceptionally beautiful piece of Precolumbian sculpture. The size of the head, more than 7 inches in diameter, indicates the figure’s body was quite large which is characteristic of Veracruz, Mexico, where many large ceramic figures were made. Asphalt paint around the mouth is also typical of that area, a naturally occurring substance that washes up from seepages along the Mexican Gulf Coast.

Both male and female figures wear large decorative ear plugs in the art of Veracruz, but this one wears a helmet with its chinstrap, a detail seen on well-preserved full figures that represent warriors.

This ancient ceramic head from Veracruz embodies a Mesoamerican culture area important in the Florida Museum’s history. Two of our former curators, James Ford and Jeffrey Wilkerson, excavated archaeological sites in the area of Veracruz.

The head also represents a collection that is very important in the Florida Museum’s history. It was purchased at auction by Leigh Morgan Pearsall and this large collection was subsequently donated to the Museum in 1964. The collection formed the cornerstone for an NSF grant that helped build Dickinson Hall, where our collections are now housed. Pearsall’s collecting focused on North American Indian art in the late 19th and early 20th century, but he clearly had a good eye for Precolumbian art, as a number of the fine pieces in our Latin American Archaeology collection came in with his collection.

This lively head is certainly one of our treasures.

Susan Milbrath
Curator, Latin American Art & Archaeology*
Florida Museum of Natural History


On display Sept. 23, 2017-Jan. 7, 2018, Rare, Beautiful & Fascinating: 100 Years @FloridaMuseum celebrated the Museum’s rich history. Each Museum collection was asked to contribute its most interesting items and share the stories that make them special. Though the physical exhibit is closed, this companion website remains online, providing an opportunity to experience the Florida Museum’s most treasured specimens.

Exhibit Area: Objects Tell Stories

Theme: Ancient Artifacts

Cover of the All Things Beautiful bookWant to see more? Explore more than 300 breathtaking color photos of plants, animals, fossils and cultural heritage materials from the Florida Museum of Natural History’s collections in the award-winning book All Things Beautiful available from the University Press of Florida.

*This title was accurate at the time the exhibit was on display in 2017. Please visit the collection website to verify current staff and student information.

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