January 3rd, 2017
By Vadala,Jeffrey R

 Highlights from the Latin American Archaeology Collection

Three culture areas are featured in this on-line exhibit: Mesoamerica, the Intermediate Area, and the Central Andes. Mesoamerica spans from Mexico south over the borders of El Salvador and Honduras. The Intermediate Area extends further south from Honduras and El Salvador to Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador. Directly to the south of Ecuador, Peru and highland Bolivia form the area known as the Central Andes. In the exhibit, Peru and Costa Rica are well represented, but there are also pieces representing many other countries in the three main areas. Graduate students selected and researched individual pieces, and their entries are marked with their initials, and a bibliography of citations appears in each section. The Florida Museum of Natural History greatly appreciates the contribution of Elizabeth Boyd, who took many of the photos and initiated this on-line project. Exhibit texts were edited by Susan Milbrath, Curator of Latin American Art and Archaeology, and Jeffrey Vadala served as our consultant for technical and design aspects, and he completed the project’s web implementation.

Elizabeth Boyd: Central Andean entries (EB)

Alejandra Carrillo: Central Andean entries (AC)

Karen Pereira: Intermediate Area entries (KP)

Nezahualcoyotl Xiuhtecutli: Mesoamerican entries (NX)

Natasha Zabala: Mesoamerican entries (NZ)



Mesoamerican Artifacts

March 23rd, 2017
By Vadala,Jeffrey R

See Mesoamerican Bibliography in Mesoamerican Bibliography Tab

Plate 1.



Nayarit, Protoclassic (100 B.C.– A.D. 300)

Kneeling Female Figurine

Fired Clay

Dimensions: H 11.5 cm x W 8 cm x D 4.5 cm


This figurine style can be traced back to the Protoclassic period (100 BC-AD 300) in Nayarit, one of the three states that comprise West Mexico. The Protoclassic in West Mexico is known for shaft tombs, characterized by an entrance shaft and one or two chambers. Some ceramic pieces recovered in shaft tombs indicate trade with the central Mexican city of Teotihuacan during the Classic period (AD 200-600), although these foreign ceramics appear as the shaft tomb complex was waning, perhaps due to the rising power of Teotihuacan.[1] West Mexican tombs held multiple individuals whose high status was indicated by rich offerings of clay figurines representing animals and people, many shown in ritual scenes. Groups of figures characteristic of Nayarit include scenes with many figures involved in ball games, ceremonies, and panoramas of daily life.[2] Grave offerings of small, solid figurines like this one are characteristic of lower status burials in Nayarit.[3]  This figure belongs to the Ixtlán del Río style, distinguished by pinched, protuberant noses, multi-looped earrings and nose rings. Breasts and a textile skirt identify this as a female.

Similar examples:

  • Taube 1989:fig. IV-20.
  • Kan et al. 1989:figs. 31 and 35.
  • Winning and Hammer 1972:fig. 63.

[1] Taube 1989:57.

[2] Butterwick 2004:33-43; Kan et al. 1989:33-43, figs. 29-35; Taube 1989:58.

[3] Kan et al. 1989:33-43.a.

Plate 2.



Valley of Mexico, Preclassic (900-500 BC)

Figurine Head and Torso

Fired Clay

Dimensions: H 6.5 cm x W 3.6 cm


Middle Preclassic figurines like this one have been recovered from elite burials and caches, which may have been deposited to sanctify the locations for continuing communication with the ancestors.[1] These figurines may demonstrate interaction between the Valley of Mexico and Olmec sites on the Gulf Coast. Examples like this one belong to Type A of the Middle Preclassic Zacatenco phase (900-500 BC), described as having an “Olmecoid mouth and perforated eyes,” allowed archaeologists to identify an Olmec presence in Central Mexico.[2] Subsequent excavations in and around the Valley of Mexico at sites like Tlatilco, Zacatenco, Copilco, Chalcatzingo, and Tepatlaxco have also revealed the presence of a West Mexican influence, placing the Basin of Mexico at a crossroads that allowed it to form connections to both its east and west.[3]

Similar Examples:

  • Gamio 1920:fig. 8.
  • Piña Chan 1958:fig. 32.
  • Piña Chan 1971:figs. 14b and 18b.

[1] Marcus 2009:29.

[2] Piña Chan 1958:72-73, 1971:170. Quote in Piña Chan 1971:170.

[3] Marcus 2009:35-37; Plunket and Uruñuela 2012:12; see also Blomster et al. 2005; Pool et al. 2010; Rosenswig 2010; and Stark 2007.

Plate 3.


Central Mexico

Aztec, Postclassic (A.D. 1325-1521)

Tripod Jar with Flanges

Painted Pottery

Dimensions: H 11.4 cm x D 8.3 cm


A representation of Tlaloc, the central Mexican rain god during the Late Postclassic (AD 1325-1521), this vessel has lost the most recognizable features of this deity, such as his goggle eyes, handlebar mustache, and fangs.[1] Faint remnants of the eyes still survive but other characteristics of Tlaloc vessels are notable, such as the prominent flanges and small nubbin nose. Moreover, the vessel has an olla shape and long neck typical of Tlaloc vessels. At least as far back as Classic Teotihuacan (200 BC – AD 600), Tlaloc was associated with rain, fertility, and agriculture. During the Postclassic, Tlaloc was also linked with mountains, springs, and caves, and he had a shrine dedicated to him on Mount Tlaloc in the Valley of Mexico.[2] In addition, Tlaloc played a role in legitimizing political power for the Mexica Aztecs.[3]

Similar Examples:

  • Winfield 2014:figs. 8, 10, 11.

[1] Bonifaz Nuño, 1986:100; Pasztory 1988:290.

[2] Pasztory 1998:24.

[3] Paztory 1988:292-294.

Plate 4.



Maya, Protoclassic (50 BC-AD 250)

Tetrapod bowl


Dimensions: H 16 cm x D 23 cm


Mammiform tetrapod bowls like this one, typical of the Protoclassic (50 BC-AD 250) in the Maya lowlands, represent a clear departure of preexisting Maya ceramic traditions in terms of vessel form, surface treatment, and decoration. New forms include bowls with four breast-shaped supports like this example, which also has the orange glossy slip characteristic of this period.[1] The cross-hatch motifs seen here were common in Protoclassic ceramics, and other forms of decoration include animals and parallel black lines, and step-fret motifs.[2] The origin point of mammiform vessels remains unknown. Although many of these vessels were locally produced throughout the lowland Maya region, the most widely distributed type is the Ixcanrio Orange Polychrome, spanning from the Pasión drainage in east central Guatemala to Belize.[3] The symbolism of mammiform vessels is associated with the Maya moon goddess, later known as Ix Chel, who controlled monthly cycles, female fertility, and childbirth. Trade in these vessels also served as political currency in renewed alliances established after the decline of El Mirador at the end of the Late Preclassic in the Peten.[4]

Similar examples:

  • Brady et al. 1998:fig 1f.
  • Masson and Freidel 2002:fig. 4.9.
  • Schmidt et al. 1998:fig. 411.

[1] Brady et al. 1998:17-18.

[2] Lothrop et al. 1964:161; Masson and Freidel 2002:103; Schmidt et al. 1998:644.

[3] Masson and Freidel 2002:102.

[4] Masson and Freidel 2002:104-105.

Plate 5.



Maya, Late Classic (AD 600-900)

Tripod Plate

Polychrome Pottery

Dimensions: H. 9.6 cm x D 33.2 cm


Showing the faint outline of a dancer with a feathered headdress, this tripod plate is an example of the Classic Maya “dancer plates” originating at the site of Tikal, Guatemala and nearby workshops in subsidiary sites such as Uaxactun.[1] Although few of these vessels have been excavated in controlled archaeological contexts, chemical and stylistic analyses have aided in identifying their region of origin.[2] These plates generally feature a dancing male with a raised leg and bent knee, flying loincloth flaps and outcast arms.[3] The tripod feet and crenelated basal flange on our example are also characteristic of dancer plates, which were used primarily as funerary vessels holding food offerings for the dead.[4] The dancers may symbolize the soul’s dance of apotheosis after defeating the Maya Lords of Death.[5] These plates may have been used as service vessels and items of social currency exchanged by elites throughout the Petén.[6]

Similar Examples:

  • Reents-Budet 1994:figs. 5.37, 5.38, and 5.39.
  • Schmidt et al. 1998:figs. 337 and 338.
  • Zralka et al. 2011:fig. 5.

[1] Reents-Budet 1994:197-198.

[2] Źrałka et al. 2011:894-895.

[3] Reents-Budet 1994:197; Schmidt et al. 1998:603.

[4] Schmidt et al. 1998:603.

[5] Reents-Budet 1994:198.

[6] Reents-Budet 1994:198; Źrałka et al. 2011:904.

Plate 6.


Guatemala/Southern Mexico

Maya, Late Classic (A.D. 600-900)

Tripod Plate

Polychrome Pottery

Dimensions: D 27 cm x H 5 cm (legs broken off)


Late Classic (AD 500-900) Maya polychrome pottery was a prime medium for artistic renderings of Maya individual, deities, and elite events.[1]  Here we can see the Maya Maize God is identified by his characteristic elongated head and tonsured coiffure resembling a corn husk and silk.[2] Maya lords associated themselves with the Maize God to make the claim that their dynastic line regenerated like the agricultural cycle, passing from their dead ancestors to their progeny.[3] Although some of these plates have been recovered in funerary contexts, eroded interior surfaces as in this example suggest their use as service wares in ritual events. [4] Such plates were probably used in elaborate elite feasts representing status contests that established reciprocal obligations.[5]

Similar Examples:

  • Just 2009:fig. 5.
  • Fields et al. 2005:Pl 21.

[1] Reents-Budet 1994:72; Rice 2009:77.

[2] Just 2009:4; Fields 1991:172-173.

[3] Taube 1985:180.

[4] Just 2009:4-8, 10-14; Reents-Budet 1994:74-75.

[5] Just 2009:4; Rice 2009:78.

Plate 7.



Maya, Late Classic (A.D. 600-900)

Pendant with a human face

Carved jade

Dimensions: H 3


Found in southern Mexico and Central America during the Late Classic period (AD 600 – 900), jade pendants like this one represent the “drooping mouth” style, created with tubular hollow drills, spun rapidly to make perforations and delineate facial features.[1] Similar jade pendants have been found in southern Mexico in Oaxaca at the Zapotec site of Monte Alban and in the Maya Peten of Guatemala, and they were also among the offerings made by pilgrims to the Great Cenote of Chichen Itza.[2] Pieces such as this one probably originated in the Maya area, near the source jade in eastern Guatemala, and were traded north to Oaxaca. They appeared at Monte Alban around the time that Maya trade wares such Plumbate and Fine Orange first appeared at the site in the Terminal Classic.[3]

Similar Examples:

  • Caso 1965:fig. 30.
  • Coggins and Shane:fig. 8.
  • Taube 1989:fig. IV-5.
  • Winning 1986:fig. 173.

[1] Coggins and Shane 1984:36; Taube 1989:111.

[2] Coggins and Shane 1984:36; Taube 1989:111.

[3] Caso 1965:906-908; Bey et al. 1997:249.

Plate 8.


Honduras or El Salvador

Maya, Late Classic (A.D. 600-900)

Copador Bowl

Polychrome Pottery

Dimensions: H 8 cm x D 20.6 cm


Painted pseudoglyphs and geometric designs executed in red hematite and black and orange paint are typical of the Copador style. Other designs include human and animal representations.[1] Copador is a type of ceramics found in western El Salvador and eastern Honduras around the site of Copan, its name being a contraction of Copan and El Salvador in reference to its zone of distribution.[2] During the Late Classic period these two areas had close ties, and Copador distribution spanned across ethnic and political boundaries, linking local elites to the great Maya city of Copan.[3] Copador pottery was made of clay from two sources of differing depositional history within the Copan Valley and subsequently traded widely throughout the southern periphery of Mesoamerica.[4]

Similar Examples:

  • Demarest 1988:fig. 27.
  • Longyear 1944:fig. 14.
  • Schmidt et al. 1998:fig. 502.

[1] Beaudry 1987:228; Longyear 1944:Pl. X, fig. 23.

[2] Glass 1966:161; Schmidt et al. 1998:646.

[3] Demarest 1988:377-380; Longyear 1966:151.

[4] Beaudry 1983:117; 1987:228; Demarest 1988:377.

Plate 9.



Maya, Late Classic (A.D. 600-900)

Incense Burner

Orange paste pottery

Dimensions: H 17 cm x D 32 cm


Maya censers such as this Late Classic example often feature jaguar imagery. Maya feline imagery may be associated with the Jaguar God of the Underworld, sometimes identified as the ‘night-sun” or a lunar god.[1] The spikes on these incense burners have been variously interpreted as representation of the sun’s rays, ceiba spines, fruit protuberances, or the spots on a jaguar or the skin of a crocodile earth-monster.[2] Spiked vessels are very widespread in the Maya area during the Late Classic, and most probably were used for offerings or burning incense in public rituals.[3] Spiked vessels also appear in rituals shown in Postclassic Maya painted books, especially the Dresden Codex and the Paris Codex.[4]

Similar examples:

  • Shimbunsha 1974:figs. AO.1 and AO.5.

[1] Halperin 2014:131-132; Milbrath 1999:124; Thompson 1950:11-12.

[2] Rice 1999:34-36.

[3] Deal 1982:625-626; Halperin 2014:133.

[4] Deal 1982:623-625; Rice 1999:26.

Plate 10.



Maya, Early Postclassic (A.D. 900-1150)

Pedestal vase

Plumbate Pottery

Dimensions: H 19 cm x  D 11 cm


This vase is a classic example of Tohil Plumbate, a type of pottery that originated in southwestern Guatemala during the Early Postclassic period (AD 900-1150). Plumbate is the only Prehispanic pottery in the Americas to have a true glaze. The glaze itself and its color are the result of the high lead content in the clay.[1] Plumbate is very durable, being tempered with feldspar fired at high temperatures upward of 950º centigrade.[2] Tohil Plumbate pottery gets its name from the Tohil phase of Zacualpa in the Quiché Department of Guatemala but it was widely distributed in Mesoamerica through trade.[3] Some Tohil plumbate pottery depicts anthropomorphic effigies and deities from the central Mexican pantheon, such as Tlaloc and Xipe Totec, suggesting a non-Maya origin for the potters.[4] More typical forms are like this pedestal vase, decorated with an incised band of pseudoglyphs.

Similar Examples:

  • Sachse 2001:Pl. 564.
  • Rands and Smith 1965:fig 18f.

[1] Sachse 2001:359-360.

[2] Rands and Smith 1965:135.

[3] Schmidt et al. 1998:519-520.

[4] Rands and Smith 1965:135.

Plate 11.


Maize God Funerary Urn

Mexico, Zapotec, Oaxaca

Classic, Monte Alban IIIa (A.D. 300-600)

Fired Clay

Dimensions: H  21.59 cm


The Maize God represented in this funerary urn is one of many gods that was revered in the Zapotec culture (600 BC to 900 AD). In Zapotec he was known as Pitao Cozobi, “God of Abundant Sustenance,” a benevolent god that provided life to the people.1 The Maize God is also referred to as the “God of Glyph L,” in classification systems developed by archaeologists.2 Sitting cross-legged, he wears a headdress featuring corn cobs (maize), large ear plugs, a jade necklace, and a loin cloth.

Zapotec urns usually depict different gods that are representative of the forces of nature.3 These urns were placed as offerings in tombs and temples. This figure is quite simple when compared to other elaborate Maize God urns. Unlike many other Zapotec Maize God urns, this one lacks a nasal mask. He also has a stepped design around its mouth, an interesting overlap with the Maya maize god.

Similar Examples:

  • Yale University Art Gallery number 1973.88.10.
  • Parsons 1980:Pls. 212, 224.

[1] Boos 1966:177.

[2] Yale Art Gallery, n.d.

[3] Paddock 1966:153.

[4] Yale Art Gallery, n.d.

Plate 12.



Oaxaca, Early Classic (A.D. 300-600)

Funerary Urn


Dimensions: H 11 cm x W 9 cm


This vessel fragment represents Cocijo, the Zapotec god of rain and lightning, identified by a headdress with an undulating symbol called Glyph C, sometimes interpreted as a stylized representation of a jaguar, or the face of the Earth Monster.[1] These funerary urns may represent ancestors disguised as Cocijo and it is possible that the Zapotec made no significant distinction between the deity and deified ancestors, whom they addressed to intercede in their behalf.[2] Animal representations of deities embodied the abstract forces in the universe, and also reinforced a lineage-based power structure.[3] Use of this type of effigy vessel is linked to increased interaction between Monte Alban and Teotihuacan in central Mexico during the Classic period, although the contexts are different because the Teotihuacan effigy vessels were used for burning incense.[4]

Similar Examples

  • Easby et al. 1970:figs. 157 and 158.
  • Paddock 1966:figs. 116, 176, 268.
  • Parsons 1974:figs 137b.

[1] Easby et al. 1970:196; Masson 2001:14; Sellen 2002:8.

[2] Masson 2001:8; Renfrew and Zubrow 1994:61.

[3] Masson 2001:26-27; Paddock 1966:153.

[4] Plunket 2002:78.

Plate 13.



Central Veracruz, Early Classic (A.D. 200-550)

Figurine Head with Tripartite Headdress

Fired Clay

Dimensions: H 10.88 cm x  W 11.4 cm


This figurine head is an example of the Rancho de las Animas type of the Upper Remojadas I (AD 200-550) period, first identified at Cerro de las Mesas in Veracruz. The characteristic simplicity of this type of figurine includes slits for eyes and the extensive use of appliqué for the nose, mouth, headdress, and earplugs.[1] Examples such as this one have also been described as “Triangular Face Type” as a presumable attempt by artists’ attempts to depict front-occipital cranial deformation.[2] Its headdress with three tufts of hair is similar to rattling whistles of the same period excavated in the area.[3] Hand-made figurines with mold-made heads such as this one, created complex drapery, jewelry, headdress, and facial expressions with simple clay forms.[4] Its head shape, as well as the dress and stance of similar figurines are reminiscent of the art of Teotihuacan during the Early Classic Miccaotli Phase (c. AD 200).[5]

Similar Examples:

  • Drucker 1943:fig. 40g.
  • Hammer 1971:fig. 27.
  • Kubler 1984:fig. 102.

[1] Drucker 1943:64; Hammer 1971; Kubler 1984:148.

[2] Hammer 1971:25.

[3] Medellín Zenil 1987:88.

[4] Kubler 1984:148-149.

[5] Cowgill 1997:133; Hammer 1971:25; Weaver 1972:145.

Plate 14.



Veracruz, Late Classic (A.D. 550-900)

Figurine Head

Fired Clay

Dimensions: H 17.8 cm x W 17.8 cm


This figurine head is an example of the Classic period Remojadas style from central Veracruz, characteristic of the Classic period (AD 200-900). The style derives its name from the site where most of these figurines have been recovered, although other contemporaneous examples are known from Dicha Tuerta, Potrero Nuevo, and Nopiloa.[1] These large figurines are an in situ evolution of smaller figurines seen in the Late Protoclassic Remojadas Superior I (AD 150-250), which are less realistic in style.[2] In the Late Classic Upper Remojadas II (AD 550-900), this style reaches its finest expression, exhibiting detailed facial expressions, a great variety of attire and headdress representations, and asphalt decorations used to highlight ornamentation and facial features, as seen here in the pupils.[3] The use of asphalt as a decorative element in Classic period Veracruz art was most likely for the magical properties ascribed to its maritime contexts.[4] On the Mexican Gulf Coast, it is found in seepages along low-lying areas as well as offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, where it washes ashore. Tapped by the Gulf Coast Olmec since at least the Early Formative (1500-900 BC), this asphalt is a naturally occurring crude oil residue.[5] These figurines have been variously interpreted as musicians or deities, or ritual props in shamanic paraphernalia.[6]

Similar Examples:

  • Hammer 1971:fig. 25.
  • Easby et al. 1970:fig. 129.
  • Solís and Leyenaar 2002:figs. 46 and 47.
  • Dockstader 1964:fig. 70.

[1] Coe 1994:119; Medellín Zenil 1960:40-41, folded insert table.

[2] Martínez de León 2011:36-37, fig. 2; Easby et al. 1970:172, fig. 129.

[3] Medellín Zenil 1960:40; Medellín Zenil and Peterson 1954:166; Stark 2000:187; Weaver 1972:145.

[4] Hammer 1971:39.

[5] Wendt 2009:36.

[6] Solís and Leyenaar 2002; Stark 2000:187.

Intermediate Area Artifacts

March 23rd, 2017
By Vadala,Jeffrey R

See Intermediate Bibliography in Intermediate Area Bibliography Tab

Plate 1.


Northwest Costa Rica

Greater Nicoya, Middle Polychrome Period (A.D. 800–1350)

Ring-based Jar

Papagayo Polychrome Pottery

Dimensions: H 29 cm x D 13 cm

(K P)

The pedestal base with a modeled effigy on this vessel is typical of Papagayo Polychrome, a pottery type characterized by small scale polychrome designs in orange, black, and red paint on buff slip, depicting geometric patterns or conventional representations of mythological animals.[1] The Middle Polychrome period, representing the cultural climax of the Nicoya subarea, has been subdivided into subphases, with Papagayo Polychrome at the middle of this period.[2] The main forms of Papagayo ceramics are tripod vessels with conic or zoomorphic feet, jars with ellipsoid shape and a pedestal base, and molded effigy vessels. Ceramics motifs on Papagayo Polychrome exhibit Mexican themes that are evident throughout the isthmian region of the Greater Nicoya, an area spanning from northwest Costa Rica to southwest Nicaragua.[3] Some of these forms are modeled after contemporary Early Postclassic pottery of Mesoamerica, especially Tohil Plumbate and Fine Orange ceramics. [4] Although Papagayo Polychrome is rarely found south of Costa Rica, there is evidence that was mass produced in the Guanacaste region and exported to other places in Central America, such as Tazumal in El Salvador, Zacualpa and Zaculeu in Guatemala.[5] The Polychrome imports at Tula in Mexico, once thought to be Papagayo Polychrome, have been identified as the closely related Las Vegas Polychrome from the Lake Yojoa area in Honduras.[6]

Similar examples:

  • Ferrero 1975:127, 300, figs. I-116, III-43.
  • Stone 1972:170.
  • Willey 1971:fig. 5-112.

[1] Ferrero 1975:89.

[2] Lange 1984:178-179; Willey 1971:344.

[3] Stone 1972:171; Willey 1971:346.

[4] Willey 1971:346.

[5] Lothrop 1927, 1936:92; Woodbury and Trik 1953.

[6] Diehl et al. 1974; Lange 1984:179.

Plate 2.


Northwest Costa Rica

Greater Nicoya, Middle Polychrome Period (A.D. 800–1350)

Ring-based Jar

Papagayo Polychrome Pottery

Dimensions: H 25.1 cm x D 24.2 cm

(K P)

Like other examples of Papagayo Polychrome, this vessel has a modeled animal head on its side and a ring base, although the short neck and globular shape distinguish it from more typical examples of this ceramic type.  The animal represented below the rim may be a howler monkey with prominent fangs and forelimbs painted below on the vessel body.  In Papagayo Polychrome vessels, humans are rarely represented and modeled zoomorphic heads usually have enough realism to identify birds, most notably parrots and turkeys, snakes and other reptiles, and mammals such as jaguars, armadillo, and coatis. Some motifs found in the Papagayo Polychrome have been related to Mexican deities or mythological animals of the Postclassic period such as the Feathered Serpent, jaguars, crocodilians, and cross motifs and stepped designs.[1] Central Mexican motifs incorporated in Papagayo Polychrome may represent an influx of new religious concepts due to increased trade with the north.[2]

Similar examples:

  • Ferrero 1975:90: figs. I-61, I-62.
  • Beloit, Logan Museum of Anthropology Number 5810.

[1] Ferrero 1975:297.

[2] Stone 1977.

Plate 3.


Nicaragua/Costa Rica

Greater Nicoya, Late Polychrome Period (A.D. 1350–1550)

Polychrome Bowl

Luna Polychrome Pottery

Dimensions: H 11.8 cm x D 19.7 cm

(K P)

The use of fine line designs on this bowl is a defining feature of Luna Polychrome of the Late Polychrome period.[1] Like Vallejo Polychrome, ceramics of this type have a globular shape and the fine line decoration, but Luna Polychrome lacks the Mesoamerican motifs.[2] Designs are characterized by modeled or painted effigies of animals, human faces, and/or geometric motifs.[3] Luna Polychrome is found in the northern area of the Great Nicoya region of Costa Rica but the largest known concentration comes from the Ometepe Island Nicaragua, where some vessels have been found in mortuary contexts.[4] Notable changes in the Late Polychrome period are evident in a decline in the ceremonial activities with the cessation of mound construction and stone sculptures in the area.[5] Luna Polychrome has no local precedents and may reflect the arrival of new peoples or ideas, possibly from South American.[6] Suggestions of an Amazonian connection, however, have been rejected because Luna Polychrome lacks certain iconographic features and decorative techniques characteristic of Amazonian ceramics.[7]

Similar examples:

  • Lange et. al. 1992:fig. 7.59c.
  • Stone 1972:195.
  • Stone 1977:Fig. 129.
  • Harvard, Peabody Museum Number 34-104-20/3622.

[1] Lange 1992:128.

[2] Willey 1971:348.

[3] Stone 1958:37.

[4] Knowlton 1996:149; Lange et al. 1992:232.

[5] Willey 1971:348.

[6] Lange 1992:128; Stone 1977:82.

[7] Knowlton 1996:152.

Plate 4.


Northwest Costa Rica

Greater Nicoya, Late Polychrome Period (A.D. 1350-1550)

Effigy Jar

Jicote Polychrome Pottery

Dimensions: H 6.4 cm x D 7.7 cm

(K P)

Broad line designs and low relief with painted geometric designs are typical of Jicote Polychrome, manufactured in the Tempisque River Valley in the south of the Greater Nicoya.[1]  The use of cream slip and fine line painting in red and black are like Luna Polychrome, another late ceramic type found distributed in the northern areas of the Greater Nicoya. [2]  When comparing Jicote Polychrome to earlier ceramics of the Middle Polychrome period, the range of vessel shapes and the use of light colored base slips and red and black geometric designs are similar, but innovations are apparent in the use of appliqué and modeled decoration.[3]

Similar examples:

  • Lange et al. 1992:fig. 7.58, a.
  • Lange et al. 1992:fig. 7.59, d.
  • Lange 1992:fig. 12.
  • Stone 1977: Pl. VIII.1.
  • Cabello Carro 1980:Pl. VII.

[1] Stone 1958:37; Lange 1992:128.

[2] Lange 1992:128.

[3] Healy 1980:315.

Plate 5.


Costa Rica

Central Highlands/Atlantic Watershed, Period VI (A.D. 1000 – A.D. 1550)

Tripod Bowl

Irazu Yellow Line Pottery

Dimensions: H 12.3 cm x D 23.5 cm

(K P)

Irazu Yellow Line vessels are among the finest ceramic types of Period VI, the last Pre-Columbian period in the Atlantic Watershed, a period characterized by ceramics of inferior quality when compared with earlier periods.[1] The Central Highlands and Atlantic Watershed areas form the largest and most disparate of Costa Rica’s archaeological zones, composed of four or five geographic sub-zones with some cultural similarities.[2] During Period VI, the feline motif became more popular and bowls with hollow tripod supports in the shape of stylized animal heads are common, as are modeled adornos, such as the one here representing a monkey. This tripod bowl with leg rattles, a modeled animal head, and yellow linear designs are characteristic of Irazu Yellow Line pottery. Some of these features of Irazu Yellow Line relate to Guanacaste-Nicoya polychromes, but the geometric designs with thick, yellow paint on two-tone orange and brick-red slip can be linked to ceramics in the Chiriquí region.[3] The interchange of ideas seen in the pottery and cist burials of this period seem to indicate a cultural homogeneity characteristic of chiefdoms in the area.[4]

Similar examples:

  • Snarskis 1981:fig. 26.
  • Ferrero 1975:Pl. I-150.
  • Ferrero 1975:Pl. I-157
  • Boston, Museum of Fine Arts Number 25.421.
  • Harvard, Peabody Museum Number: 17-3-20/C8231.

[1] Snarskis 1981:69, 1985:226.

[2] Snarkis 1983:11-12, 1985:226.

[3] Snarkis 1981:69-70.

[4] Snarskis 1983:114-115.

Plate 6.



Costa Rica

Central Highlands/Atlantic Watershed, Period VI (A.D. 1000 – A.D. 1550)

Engraved Tripod Bowl

Tayutic Incised Pottery

Dimensions: H 9 cm x D 17.2 cm

(K P)

Tayutic bowls like this one have tripod supports that are usually large hollow, grotesque animal heads and are often decorated with a chain-like motif on the inner rim, produced by combining incision and excision. The development of brown-lipped incised or engraved pottery follows a similar course in Period VI of the Guanacaste-Nicoya and the Atlantic Watershed zones, characterized by ceramics with white paint on an unslipped surface incised with mat patterns and other forms of geometric decoration.[1] Diagnostics of this period include bowls and cylindrical jars with tripod supports in the form of animal heads, which replaced the long-legged tripods of previous periods. Near the end of Period VI, Poro Incised appears to be a type modeled on Tayutic, but is considered technological inferior.[2]

Similar Examples:

  • Snarskis 1983:114.
  • Baudez 1970:fig. 142.
  • Stone 1966:fig. 17a.
  • Harvard, Peabody Museum Number: 51-50-20/18524.

[1] Snarskis 1985:226.

[2] Snarskis 1983:116-117.

Plate 7.


Southern Costa Rica/Western Panama

Greater Chiriqui, Period IV (A.D. 1000 – A.D. 1550)

Tripod Effigy Jar

Slipped Pottery

Dimensions: H 19.5 cm x D 12 cm

(K P)

This tripod vessel is a salmon-colored ware that has a distinctive well-burnished slip, a type of ceramics less common than the unslipped Armadillo Ware (“Biscuit”) typical in the late period of the Greater Chiriqui, an area incorporating the Chiriqui province in Panama and southwestern Costa Rica.[1] The jaguar-head adorno on this vessel recalls jaguar imagery common in Greater Chiriqui graves, which contained metates (grinding stones) in the shape of jaguars, as well as gold pendants and a variety of late ceramic types.[2] Recent studies in the Diquis Delta have revealed that the Costa Rican Chiriqui-phase sites were most often located on broad terraces just above major water courses, suggesting a more intensive utilization of the major rivers during later times.[3]

Similar examples:

  • Harvard, Peabody Museum Number 41-69-20/13766.

[1] Joyce 1916:134.

[2] Willey 1971:335-236.

[3] Snarskis 1981:77.

Plate 8.


Southern Costa Rica/Western Panama

Greater Chiriqui, Late Period (A.D. 1000 – A.D. 1550)

Incised Tripod Vessel

Tripod Ware Pottery

Dimensions: H 20.5 cm x D rim 12.5 cm

(K P)

Several kinds of tall, hollow-legged tripods occur during the late period of Greater Chiriqui, and, like this vessel, they are usually executed in black and red paint on cream slip.[1] The province of Chiriqui, named after the ancient culture that flourished in western Panama, has ceramics so closely affiliated with southern Costa Rica that it is often difficult to tell the exact provenience of individual vessels when unaccompanied by field data.[2] Pottery vessels from graves in this region are very abundant and bowls often have tripod legs that may be conical and pointed or bulbous and mammiform, shapes typical of Lower Central America.[3]

Similar Examples:

  • Baudez 1970:Pl. 135.
  • Strong 1948:fig. 24.
  • Harvard, Peabody Museum Number: 84-4-20/31896.
  • Harvard, Peabody Museum Number: 31-40-20/C13503.2.

[1] Snarskis 1983:127.

[2] Baudez 1970:194.

[3] Strong 1948:135-136.

Plate 9.


Western Panama

Puerto Armuelles, Chiriqui, Chiriqui Phase (A.D. 1000– 1550)

Tripod Bowl

Tarrago Bisquit Pottery

Dimensions: H 3.9 cm x D 7.7 cm

(K P)

The legs on this tripod vessel depict armadillo heads, an animal frequently represented on Tarrago Biscuit, a type of pottery that was originally named Armadillo ware.[1] Also called Biscuit or San Miguel Bisquit, it is most common in the Chiriqui phase.[2] Tarrago Bisquit pottery exhibits the greatest variety of shapes, ranging from plain bowls to tripod vases.  Tripod legs are usually hollow with rattles and appliqué details portraying stylized animals or human forms, and similar appliqué details can occur as ornaments to the bodies of vases.[3] Minor differences in style and frequency are evident in Chiriqui phase vessels found in the Greater Chiriqui, on the Pacific side of Panama and the Diquis highlands and delta of Costa Rica.[4] The Chiriqui phase or tradition was the last Pre-Columbian cultural complex in the Greater Chiriqui and it continued into early colonial times, as demonstrated by the glass beads and iron implements found with certain vessels.[5]

Similar Examples:

  • Joyce 1916: fig. 32a.
  • Harvard, Peabody Museum Number: 04-61-20/C3654.

[1] Joyce 1916:136.

[2] Haberland 1984:247-249.

[3] Joyce 1916:134.

[4] Linares de Sapir 1968a:222.

[5] Haberland 1984:253.

Plate 10.



Chiriqui Region, Chiriqui Phase (A.D. 1000 – A.D. 1550)

Tripod Bowl

Tarrago Bisquit Ceramics

Dimensions: H 7 cm x D 9.5 cm

(K P)

This Chiriqui Phase bowl decorated with modeled human heads and arms is Tarrago Bisquit pottery, a high quality ceramic type with a light buff, homogenous paste, a surface texture like sandpaper, and a very thin vessel wall with appliqué decoration motifs.[1] Also called San Miguel Bisquit, Armadillo ware, or simply Bisquit (Biscuit) ware, this pottery manufactured by specialists is usually considered the “classic” Chiriqui occupation, also called Period VI.[2]  Leading up to this period, around A.D. 800, important changes occurred in the Greater Chiriqui area with an apparent influx of South American peoples or cultural traditions, possibly related to Chibcha-speaking peoples from Colombia.[3]  By A.D. 1000, new types of ceramics appear, such as Tarrago Bisquit, although some continuity with past traditions is evident.[4]

Similar examples:

  • Joyce 1916:fig. 32a.
  • Museo Antropológico Reina Torres de Arauz 2005:40, 42.
  • Harvard, Peabody Museum Number: 04-61-20/C3855.

[1] Linares de Sapir 1968a:219.

[2] Haberland 1984:247-248; Lothrop 1948:166; Willey 1971:335.

[3] Haberland 1984:247, 250.

[4] Snarskis 1981:76-77.

Plate 11.



Gulf of Chiriqui, San Lorenzo Phase (A.D. 800-1200)

Jar with Effigy Handles

Centaro Red Banded pottery

Dimensions: H 8.3 cm x D 12.7 cm

(K P)

This vessel is reportedly from Puerto Armuellas, on the Gulf of Chiriqui, an area best known from excavations in the estuaries and nearby islands conducted in the mid twentieth century.[1]  Its ceramic type, Centaro Red Banded, is characterized by broad areas of slip forming geometric designs and thick walls with paired handles that are placed vertically or horizontally.[2] Here the handles represent bird heads, most likely parrots.

Similar Examples:

  • Museo Antropológico Reina Torres de Araúz 2005:38-39.
  • Joyce 1916:Plate XIV, no. 4.

[1] Linares 1968a; Willey 1971:336-337.

[2] Linares 1968a:218, 1968b:37

Plate 12.


Central Panama

Montijo Bay, Veraguas, Conte Period (A.D. 700-1000)

Bridge-Spouted Jar

Conte Style Polychrome Pottery

Dimensions: H 21.5 cm x D 19 cm

(K P)

The distinctive vessel form and purple paint help link this piece with the early Cocle style, now more commonly referred to as the Conte Style, named for the type site of Sitio Conte in the Cocle province.[1] Panamanian sites around Montijo Bay produced ceramics like those found in the neighboring Cocle province, sometimes referred to together as Gran Cocle, and the graves in the two areas are also similar, usually containing a single individual.[2] Designs during this period emphasize animal imagery, especially birds, turtles and saurians.[3] Here we see a more rare representation of a marine creature, probably a sting ray painted with a gaping mouth below a flanged purple area marked with eyes.[4]

Similar examples:

  • Baudez 1970:Pl. 111.
  • Gilcrease Museum Number GM5445.3415.
  • Linares 1977:figs. 21f, 26a, 31h.
  • Harvard, Peabody Museum Number 33-42-20/988.
  • Harvard, Peabody Museum Number 33-42-20/1179.

[1] Baudez 1970:162; Cooke and Sánchez 2003:17.

[2] Lothrop 1950:16.

[3] Mayo 2006:fig. 4.

[4] Cooke et al. 2011:149.

Plate 13.


Central Panama

Montijo Bay, Cocle Region, Conte Period (A.D. 700-1000)

Effigy Vessel Lid

Conte Polychrome Pottery

Dimensions: H 7.7 cm x D 17.8 cm

(K P)

Effigy jar covers depicting an anthropomorphic face like this served as lids for vessels, some decorated with animal images.[1] Face paint on this figure probably showed the individual’s social role. Ancient Panamanian art was highly valued as a source of paraphernalia used to establish status and rank, and social differences were often expressed through body painting and tattooing.[2] Much of the Cocle pottery is from grave offerings, and most vessels were intentionally broken as part of a funerary ceremony.[3] The early Cocle style, known as Conte, was characterized by four-color polychrome that includes designs outlined in black and purple paint, a color probably first introduced around A.D. 500 in the Cubita Style.[4] The Conte vessels have large areas of free space around the main designs, while the later period (Macaracas) purple is less common, and there is an increased intricacy with stylized designs filling the decorated area.[5]

Similar examples:

  • Museo Antropológico Reina Torres de Arauz 2005:58, 94.
  • Linares de Sapir 1977:fig. 32.

[1] Museo Antropológico 2005:95.

[2] Linares de Sapir 1977:61.

[3] Willey 1971:330.

[4] Cooke 1985:37; Mayo 2006:30-31.

[5] Cooke 1985:38; Mayo 2006:31-32; Willey 1971:332.

Plate 14.


Central Panama

Cocle Region, Macaracas Period (A.D. 900 – A.D. 1100)

Base of Pedestal Plate

Macaracas Polychrome Pottery

Dimensions: H  16.25 cm x D 17 cm

(K P)

This polychrome pedestal with diamond-shaped slits once supported a shallow plate, a form common in the Late Conte and Macaracas styles of the Gran Cocle tradition.[1] The most popular shapes among Cocle polychrome are shallow, flat trays, usually square, resting on low-ring stands; round slightly curved plates, also resting on low stands; jar with angled bodies; and spouted jars.  All these forms have are extremely impractical but are well-suited to serve as a canvas for the display of painted designs.[2] Vessels show a predominance of curvilinear scroll decoration with well-proportioned design layouts and high-skilled decorative techniques.[3] The decorated area was dependent of the vessel form, and the characteristic panel shapes are often distorted to fit the particular space selected, although a balance and sense of proportion are almost always retained.[4] Attempts at naturalism either in painting or modeling are rare, and designs typically depict various supernatural beings that combine aspects of different animals, and after A.D. 1100 these become so stylized that they appear to be geometric decoration.[5]

Similar Examples:

  • Cook and Sánchez 2003:fig. 2.
  • Ladd 1964:Pl. 6d and 7b.
  • Ladd 1964:fig. 38.
  • Harvard, Peabody Museum Number: 58-20-20/22407.1.

[1] Cooke 2011:133, 154; Cooke and Sanchéz 2003:17; Ladd 1964:50.

[2] Linares 1977:44-45.

[3] Ladd 1964:97 Lothrop 1948:149.

[4] Ladd 1964:100.

[5] Cook 1985:35, 38.

Plate 15.


Andean Colombia

Classic Quimbaya (A.D. I – A.D. 500)

Anthropomorphic Figure Seated Cross-legged

Quimbaya Style Pottery

Dimensions: H 24 cm x L 15 cm x D 12.5 cm

(K P)

Hollow figurines like this one, typical of the Quimbaya style, are generally large-headed male effigies with spindly extremities, sitting cross-legged, or sometimes, squatting on a low bench.[1] This archaeological style or “culture” was improperly named for tribe known for their goldwork in the sixteenth century. The Quimbaya tribe occupied a small area west of the Cauca River, but archaeologically the term ‘Quimbaya’ refers to a broader area in the central Andes.[2] Most of the archaeological remains linked with the Quimbaya style come from looted tombs. Associated ceramics include vessels decorated with relief-appliqué and positive paint in red, white, black, and yellow, as well as negative painting in two-color or three-color combinations.[3] Traces of two-color negative paint can be seen on this seated figure.

Similar examples:

  • Labbé 1986:fig. 66.
  • Willey 1971:fig. 5-71.
  • Reichel-Dolmatoff 1965:Pl. 16.
  • Bennett 1944:fig. 10c.

[1] Reichel-Dolmatoff 1965:103-104; Willey 1971:312.

[2] Reichel-Dolmatoff 1965:101-102; Willey 1971:311.

[3] Reichel-Dolmatoff 1965:104.

Plate 16.



Northwestern Andes, Late Period (A.D. 1000 – A.D. 1550)

Ceramic Figurine

Tierra de Los Indios Style

Dimensions: H 9.2 cm x D 6.9 cm

(K P)

In the Andean region during the Late Period, female standing figurines are quite common and are usually painted black on white.[1] This Tierra de los Indios Style, also referred to as the Tierroid series, includes five different groups classified according to differences in head form and body structure.[2] This figurine is belongs to the Corded Quadrilateral Head group, characterized by a rectangular aspect and painted horizontal and diagonal bands over a white slip.[3]  Figurines in this group have concave feet and breasts indicated by punctuations or punctate nodules, and in some examples sexual features are more exaggerated. Bulbous legs are characterized by an encircling, incised line.  These figurines are hollow with a rattle inside, and the arms are never more than side projections separated from the body by a round perforation. Viewed from the top, the heads are convex ventrally and concave dorsally, with a notched projection at the back of the head.

Similar examples:

  • Willey 1971:fig. 5-81.
  • Arroyo 1999:fig. 50.
  • Kidder 1944:Plate XVII, 7-10.

[1] Kidder 1944:129.

[2] Rouse and Cruxent 1963; Willey 1971:321.

[3] Arroyo 1999:197.

Plate 17.



Northern Venezuela

La Cabrera Peninsula, Late Period (A.D. 1000 – A.D. 1550)

Female Figurine

Valencia Phase Pottery

Dimensions: H 13 cm x W 11 cm x D 5 cm

(K P)

This oddly-shaped figurine is typical of the Valencia culture, found on the eastern end of Lake Valencia in the Cordillera del Caribe and grouped among the Caribbean cultures, despite its proximity to the Intermediate area.[1] The “canoe-shaped head” on this figurine is the hallmark of a subtype considered to be especially well made, and although this example lacks paint, it was probably painted with a red body and yellow face, like most other Valencia figurines.[2] Although breasts are usually not represented, female genitalia are often apparent, and occasionally a swollen abdomen is evident, suggesting they represent pregnant women.[3] The features, headdress, limbs, and other details are added in appliqué technique, or with punched holes and incised lines, and the figurines usually are not perfectly symmetrical.

Similar Examples:

  • Arroyo 1999:fig. 75.
  • Bennett 1937:fig. 13a.
  • Osgood 1943:fig.13, Pls. 9a and 11b.
  • Willey 1971:fig. 6-13.

[1] Willey 1971:377.

[2] Bennett 1937:109, 111,114-116.

[3] Osgood 1943:53-54.

Plate 18.


Coastal Ecuador

Bahia, Regional Development Period (B.C. 500 – A.D. 500)

Mould-made Female Figurine

Bahia Phase Pottery

Dimensions: H 23 cm x D 11 cm

(K P)

This figurine is a typical example of the Regional Development Period in the Bahia region, known for its florescence in art and an extraordinary degree of urban planning in the largest archaeological settlements known in Ecuador.[1] Bahia figurines are numerous and diverse and have been classified into subtypes, with the La Plata solid figurines often being mould-made.[2] Female figurines wear a short, straight skirt leaving the upper body bare, like our example.  A necklace and a nose ring adorn the figure, and ears are ornamented with small circular studs, all common form of jewelry on Bahia figurines.[3]

Similar examples:

  • Gartelmann 1986:236.
  • Meggers 1969:fig. 29.
  • Porras 1987:fig. 26.
  • The Lowe Art Museum 1981:29.

[1] Gartelmann 1986:187; Willey 1971:290-292.

[2] Gartelmann 1986:186; Meggers 1969:67, 90-91.

[3] Meggers 1969:91.

Andean Artifacts

March 23rd, 2017
By Vadala,Jeffrey R

See Andean Bibliography in Central Andes Bibliography Tab

Plate 1.


Peru, North Coast

Moche, Early Intermediate Period (A.D. 100-600)

Stirrup Spout Bottle

Bichrome Pottery

Dimensions: H 16 cm x W 12 cm x D 15 cm


This Moche stirrup spout bottle depicts a seated figure, identified as a female by the headdress and other details of costuming.[1] She is wearing a long garment with painted step-fret motifs. Her sitting pose is very apparent in the side view, where we see her bent knees, her back hunching forward and her hands resting on her knees. Moche pottery is characterized by admirable craftsmanship and exceptional realism in both painting and sculptural modeling.[2] Though her almond-shaped eyes seem to bulge out, there is great interest in naturalism shown in the facial features and signs of aging, such as the nasolabial folds around her mouth. Women in Moche art are rarely represented and when they are they often depicted in sexual poses.[3] This figure is characterized as a high status individual by her large circular ear spools,[4] as well as the step fret motif on the dress, symbols of power, prestige and authority.[5] A bag-like object over her shoulder resembles a coca bag. A similar bag is seen in a ceramic vessel depicting a monkey with coca paraphernalia.[6] The use of coca is still very common in the Andes, and it is consumed by men and women to help build stamina, relieve fatigue and other effects caused by high altitude.[7]

Similar Examples:

  • Benson 1972:fig. 6-21.
  • Clifford 1983:fig. 24.

[1] Clifford 1983:145.

[2] Villacorta 2007:66.

[3] Benson 1972:142.

[4] Stone 2012:103; Stone 2002:194.

[5] Benson 1972:152.

[6] Donnan 1976:117.

[7] Kauffman-Doig 1998:108.

Plate 2.


Peru, North Coast Lambayeque-Chimu,

Late Intermediate Period (A.D. 750-1375) Bridge-Spouted Vessel Blackware Pottery

Dimensions: H 23.3 cm x W 18 cm


This blackware vessel features a pedestal base and a bridge spout, common characteristics in Lambayeque ceramics.[1] One spout is tall and tapering and the other is a blind spout depicting a seated human figure. Most Lambayeque ceramics were made using press molds and the pottery was smudge-fired, creating a dark black color.[2] The blind spout has a figure that contains a whistle, apparently a trait that originated on the south coast. The long, tapering spout can be linked to Wari influence. [3] The cross-legged figure is adorned with circular earspools, a beaded necklace and a fan-like headdress. Such headdresses are similar to the tumi headdress worn by an icon called the Lambayeque Lord or Sican Lord, a culture hero characterized by a crescent headdress.[4]

Similar Examples:

  • Sawyer, 1966:fig. 82.
  • Stone 2012:figs. 142, 144.

[1] Donnan 1992:90.

[2] Donnan 1992:92.

[3] Sawyer 1966:60.

[4] Stone 2012:168-169.

Plate 3.


Peru, North Coast Chimu,

Late Intermediate Period (900-1470 A.D)

Curassow Stirrup Spout Vessel Blackware Pottery

Dimensions: H 22.1 cm, W 14 cm, D 11.8 cm


Birds are abundant in the art of the ancient Andes, for they played a very important role in folklore.[1] The twin curassows on this stirrup spout vessel are depicted in a naturalistic manner, with great attention to detail seen in the modeling of the heads and crests. Most likely they represent males, as they are depicted with well pronounced bill knobs, a feature characteristic of male curassows. Although not very common, representations of twin birds are also found in Moche art.[2]

Birds like the curassow were highly valued for colorful plumage that was used in complex featherwork. The most highly valued feathers were those with vibrant colors and luminous character like those from macaws, ducks, flamingos and curassows.[3] Featherwork might have been one of the most prestigious mediums in the ancient Andes.[4] Like Moche ceramics, Chimu vessels often feature naturalistic depictions of birds, but Chimu vessels can be distinguished by their burnished charcoal surface and the appliqued element at the base of the spout, sometimes representing a small animal.

Similar Examples:

  •  Anton 1972:fig. 83.
  •  Tello 1938:152.

[1] King 2012:10.

[2] Proulx 2006:139, fig. 5.175; Tello 1938:152.

[3] King 2012:12.

[4] Stone 2012:182.

Plate 4.


Peru, North Coast

Chimu, Late Intermediate Period (1000-1476 A.D.)

Double-chambered Bridge-spout Vessel

Blackware Pottery

Dimensions: H 21 cm, D 24.6 cm, W 14.5 cm


This double-chambered Chimu vessel features chevron-like designs on both ends and a pattern of raised dots called stippling. The Chimu created “pressed” background designs on many of their vessels. They are known for their black-ware ceramics, characterized by a dark charcoal color and polished sheen. They often used molds to mass produce highly sculptural ceramic vessels.[1]

The vessel itself depicts a woman embodying a valuable Spondyllus shell, a form represented by the jagged patterns on the vessel.[2] Her pointed headdress resembles the hinge of a shell. Female traits are highlighted by the long strands of hair falling over her shoulders. Her hands clasp the sides of the vessel, and her head forms the blind-spout on one chamber. The bridge to the other spout may have been used as a handle, which joins the woman’s head where here is a hole. This hole is capable of making a whistling sound when the liquid levels change from one chamber to the other by rocking the vessel.[3]

Similar Examples:

  • Clifford 1983:Pl. 83.
  • Lumbreras 1974:fig. 191.
  • Stone 2012:fig. 159.
  • Stone 2002:fig 554.
  • Museum of Fine Arts Boston number:495.
  • Penn Museum number:31823.

[1] Stone 2012:184.

[2] Stone  2002:244.

[3] Stone 2012:186.

Plate 5.


Peru, North Coast

Chimu, Late Intermediate Period (A.D. 1000-1470)

Stirrup Spout Bottle with Ray Effigy

Blackware Pottery

Dimensions: H 23 x D 19 cm


The body of vessel is an effigy of a ray, an animal commonly represented on pottery and textiles.[1]  The representation may be a manta ray, a fascinating animal that seems to be flying when it leaps out of the sea.[2]  A stylized monkey located at the juncture of the spout is a common feature on Chimu stirrup spout vessels, but is also found earlier on Moche ceramics.[3]

Similar Examples:

  • Tello 1938:131.

[1] Benson 1997:117.

[2] Benson 1997:118-119.

[3] Sawyer 1966:59-60.

Plate 6.


Peru, North/Central Coast

Coastal Wari, Middle Horizon (A.D. 700-900)

Face-Neck Jar

Redware Pottery

Dimensions: H 36.2 cm x D 28 cm


The collector attributed this jar to the Piura Valley on the North Coast of Peru, but it closely resembles an example excavated by Max Uhle at Chimu Capac in the Supe Valley. Although the Supe Valley marks the northern limits of the Central Coast, in the Middle Horizon the site of Chimu Capac used North Coast techniques with pottery designs executed by press-molding rather than painting.[1]  The vase personifies an aspect of nature linked with deified snakes.[2]  A human head forms the jar’s neck, and raised serpentine elements twine around the shoulders, here symbolizing mountain peaks. The figure’s hair ends in snake heads, representing “hair like snakes,” an ancient Andean metaphor found in Chavin art.[3]

Similar Examples:

  • Menzel 1977:fig. 68.
  • Proulx 1968:Pls. 15a, b.
  • Olsen 1978:85.

[1] Menzel 1977:32, fig. 68, Middle Horizon 3.

[2] Benson 1997:108-109.

[3] Rowe 1962:16, figs. 27, 29, 34.

Plate 7.


Peru, Central Coast

Chancay, Late Intermediate Period (A.D. 1000-1470)

Weaving Basket and Tools

Plant fibers, wood, cotton, bone and clay

Basket Dimensions: H 6 cm, L 28.5 cm, W 14 cm


The dry climate of the Andes helps conserve many delicate items and materials that often degrade in the tropics. The Andean region is characterized by environmental extremes, with the second-highest mountain range flanked by the world’s driest coastal desert and the Amazonian rainforest.[1] The desert coast has helped preserve the most fragile materials, like cotton, camelid fiber, feathers and wood.[2] Burying the dead and their treasures in the dry sands of the desert helped preserve them.[3]

This weaving basket is a good example of such preservation, as it contained an array of different objects, such as yarn balls, spindles for spinning, weaving battens, as well as some textile fragments, not pictured here. The weaving basket was once attributed to Paracas, but is more closely comparable to other examples from the Chancay culture, dating 1000-1470.[4] The basket itself is made out of twined plant fibers, most probably reed. There are 10 weaving spindles of varying size and thickness, some still wrapped with yarn. Constructed of bone and clay, these spindle whorls are decorated with depictions of birds and geometric designs such as nested diamond motifs.

Similar Examples:

  • Musee de l’ Homme 1988:fig. 433.
  • Lowe Art Museum 1990:fig. 148.

[1] Stone 2012:9.

[2] Stone 2012:11.

[3] Boytner in Young-Sanchez and Simpson 2006:45.

[4] Craven 1971; Lowe Art Museum 1990:133.

Plate 8.


Peru, Central Coast

Chancay, Late Intermediate Period (A.D. 1000-1476)

Mummy Mask

Wood and Clam Shell

Dimensions: larger piece: H 31.8 cm, W 11.4 cm, D 8.6 cm; smaller piece: H 21.8 cm, W 1.6 cm, D 3.8 cm


This wooden mask shows a stylized human face displaying clam shells for eyes with pupils that were once painted or glued on the surface.[1] Traces of red paint survive along with facial features such as eyebrows, a smiling mouth and a prominent nose. Masks like this one have been found in burials as representations of a mummy bundle face.[2] Very frequently these masks have holes punched in at the top of the forehead where a headdress or hair was attached that provided the mummy with a naturalistic head of hair.[3] The widespread use of funerary masks indicates the importance of ancestor cults among the Chancay.[4] Their living descendants honored the deceased, usually by adorning them with intricate woven textiles, headdresses and masks.[5] These masks were valuable for their role in representing the deceased rather than for the materials used in their construction.[6] The amount of work involved in preparing the bodies of their ancestors provides evidence of a strong belief in the afterlife among the Chancay.[7]

Similar Examples:

  • Lavalle 1982:33.
  • Waisbard 1966:Pl. V.
  • Kauffman-Doig 1998:120.

[1] Kauffman-Doig 1998:120.

[2] Quilter 2005:141.

[3] Waisbard 1966:53.

[4] Quilter 2005:141.

[5] Stone 2002:264-265, 247.

[6] Quilter 2005:138.

[7] Kauffman-Doig 1998:122.

Plate 9.


Peru, Central Coast

Chancay, Late Intermediate Period (A.D. 1000-1476)

Whistling Vessel with Human Effigy

Bichrome Pottery

Dimensions: H 25 cm x D 15.5 cm


Chancay pottery, one of the dominant styles on the Central Coast, is relatively crude in workmanship.[1] The characteristic colors are bichrome, with violet-gray painted on white, as on this whistling vessel. As early as 900 B.C., whistling vessels developed as single chambered bottles on the South Coast of Peru.[2]  Later on, whistling vessels incorporated two drum-like chambers, connected in the middle by a conduit, like our example.  A tall spout adorns one of the chambers and a strap handle connects with a human effigy on the other chamber. A whistle outlet is cut into the effigy chamber and when the spout is blown, or when the liquid is tipped from one chamber into the other a shrill sound is emitted.[3]

Similar Examples:

  • Donnan 1992:101, fig. 195.
  • Lumbreras 1974:fig. 196.

[1] Lumbreras 1974:191.

[2] Sawyer 1966:75, fig. 97.

[3] Stat 1979:3.

Plate 10.


Peru, Central Coast

Chancay, Late Intermediate Period (A.D. 1000 – 1476)

Female Figure

Bichrome Pottery

Dimensions: H 46.9 cm x W 27.3 cm, D 11.2 cm


Characteristic of the Chancay culture, this female effigy known as a cuchimilco, can be distinguished from male effigies by the female genitalia and breasts.[1] These characteristics emphasize human fertility, and such effigies found in graves are interpreted as funerary companions.[2] Depicted with arms raised, this female adopts a pose associated with praying or adoration.[3] Her wing-like arms appear to be connected to her shoulders, mirroring the triangular shape of her head, which is crowned by a painted headdress. The holes on top of the head are for attaching now lost metallic ornaments.[4] This figure has pierced ears, suggesting that it would have worn ear ornaments, symbols associated with high social rank.[5]  Painted designs on the jawline resemble tattoos. Spectacle-like rays painted on the face are fairly common on female effigies.[6]

Similar Examples:

  • Cuesta Domingo 1980:216-217.
  • Lavalle 1982:34, 73.

[1] Kauffman-Doig 1998:122.

[2] Sawyer 1975:84.

[3] Stone 2012:187.

[4] Cuesta Domingo 1980: 189; Stone 2002:247.

[5] Stone 2002:194.

[6] Stone 2012:187.

Plate 11.


Peru, Central Coast

Chancay, Late Intermediate Period (A.D. 1000-1476)

Effigy Jar

Bichrome Pottery

Dimensions: H 36 cm x 21.5 cm


This jar represents a male wearing ear spools and holding a ritual drinking cup that may symbolize an offering of maize beer (chicha), a fairly common theme in Chancay effigy vessels. Chancay ceramics reflect a decline in craftsmanship resulting from the mass production of pottery.[1] They are considered to be relatively low in artistic caliber because they were mold-made and decorated with poor quality slips that were applied carelessly.[2] Three-dimensional details such as the cup and flanged headdress were added with stamps.

Similar Examples:

  • Donnan 1992:99, fig. 188.
  • Lumbreras 1974:192, fig. 195.
  • Clifford 1983:Pl. 171.

[1] Sawyer 1966:66.

[2] Donnan:1992:98-99.

Plate 12.

Peru, South Coast

Nasca, Early Intermediate Period (A.D. 100-600)


Bichrome Pottery

Dimensions: H 15.24 cm x W 10.2 cm


This ceramic pipe has red painted designs on a white-slip background. Ancient pipes like this one differ from modern versions as they have a series of sealed tubes, instead of open cylinders.[1] Red zig-zag lines decorate the end of the tubes and a straight line frames the mouthpiece with seven tubular cylinders, which would produce different notes for each cylinder played.[2] Music was a well-developed tradition in the Andes, so it comes as no surprise that the Nasca created flutes, pipes, rattles and trumpet-shaped horns.[3] Music was essential in the ancient Andes for rituals and perhaps also for shamanic communication with the spirit world.[4]

Similar Examples:

  • Stone 2012:61.
  • Stone 2002:587-589.
  • Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Accession Number 1984.332.
  • Brooklyn Museum, Accession Number 41.433.

[1] Stone 2002:276.

[2] Stone 2002:276.

[3] Lumbreras 1974:132.

[4] Stone 2012:80.

Plate 13.


Peru, South Coast

Nasca, Early Intermediate Period (A.D. 100-600)

Bottle with Bridge Spout

Polychrome Pottery

Dimensions: H 12.7 cm  x  D 10.5 cm


Nasca polychrome ceramics are extraordinary in both technical and artistic execution, displaying a prolific range of symbols and religious motifs.[1] Painted in red, orange, gray, white, and brown, this bottle depicts a mythical creature known as the “Horrible Bird,” a theme that first developed in the middle period of Nasca art.[2]  Shown here consuming human limbs, this rapacious creature most likely represents a stylized condor, a carrion-eater.[3]

Similar Examples:

  • Proulx 1968:fig. 9b.
  • Wolfe 1981:49, fig. 62.
  • University of Pennsylvania Museum number SA-2911.

[1] Donnan 1992:42-43, 52.

[2] Proulx 1968:86-87; Wolfe 1981:8-14.

[3] Benson 1997:89.

Plate 14.


Peru, South Coast

Nasca, Early Intermediate Period (A.D. 100-600)

Bowl with Anthropomorphic Mythical Being Bowl

Polychrome Pottery

Dimensions: H 6.4 cm x W 10.46 cm


The Nasca are widely known for their brightly colored ceramics, made with an array of colored slips and designs that become increasingly more complex over time.[1] This polychrome bowl relates to the Middle Nasca style, characterized by intricate abstract imagery and a great variety in colors.[2] Two snake-like creatures appear with star motifs alongside a supernatural creature known as the Anthropomorphic Mythical Being, a figure combining human traits with animal masks and animal features. One of the most repeated portrayals in Nasca ceramics, the Anthropomorphic Mythical Being probably has its origins in textile imagery from Paracas.[3] A feline or fox mask with long whiskers represents a golden mask worn over the mouth of this supernatural being. Three trophy heads, one in its right hand, two hanging from the headdress, are complemented by a set of five on the bottom and back of the bowl. Such trophy heads have been associated with agricultural fertility, as well as the decapitation of war enemies.[4]

Similar Examples:

  • Anton 1972:68-69.
  • Donnan 1992:86.
  • Proulx 2006:figs 5.1, 5.11, 5.12.

[1] Donnan 1992:50.

[2] Stone 2012:80.

[3] Proulx 2006:62.

[4] Proulx 2006:56.

Plate 15.


Peru, South Coast

Nasca, Early Intermediate Period (A.D. 100-600)


Polychrome Pottery

Dimensions: H 11.43 cm x W 10.66 cm


Nasca ceramics are known for their masterful use of polychrome paint. Black outlining of all the forms shows the skill of Nasca artists. This kero has two drilled holes close on the rim, signs of an ancient repair made with twine laced through the holes. It belongs to the Late Nasca Style, characterized by taller and narrower forms, less variety of color, and abstract rayed deities.[1] In this late style, the deity represented is fantastical with a long protruding tongue and tentacle-like forms projecting from the head and body.[2]  This drinking cup depicts three registers, and painted black and white quadrants on the bottom. The top and the lower registers depict motifs like step frets and double-headed snakes, represented here in a form closely resembling Andean textiles. In the middle register, the hands and legs of the beings are clearly depicted but their bodies have been replaced by abstract emanations called signifiers.[3] The middle register on this vessel shows two rayed deities known as the Proliferous Anthropomorphic Mythical Being, a more complex version of the mythical being from the Middle Nasca Style.[4]

Similar Examples:

  • Proulx 2006:figs. 5.16, 5.17, 5.18.
  • Blasco Bosque and Ramos Gomez 1986:figs. 33, 76, 78.

[1] Donnan 1992:52.

[2] Proulx 2006:71.

[3] Proulx 1968:17.

[4] Proulx 2006:69-70.

Plate 16.


Peru, South Coast

Nazca, Early Intermediate Period (A.D. 400-600)

Parrot Effigy Jar

Dimensions: H 11.4 cm x W 16.5 cm


The face of the parrot seems on this jar is relatively naturalistic and lugs on either side of the body represent the bird’s feet. This is a relatively rare example of a modeled animal image from the Late Nasca period, a time when modeled human figures were preferred.[1] The flared shape of the opening on this vessel is in keeping with that period, as are the designs depicting trophy heads spilling blood on a complex version of the Anthropomorphic Mythical Being.[2] The high standards of Nasca polychrome pottery continued through most of the later phases of Nasca culture, but number of colors employed are somewhat reduced when compared with Middle Nasca pottery, which used up to ten or twelve colors.[3]

Similar Examples:

  • Blasco Bosqued and Ramos Gómez 1986:50, no. 25.

[1] Sawyer 1966:127.

[2] Blasco Bosqued and Ramos Gómez 1986:50; Lumbreras 1974:130, fig. 138.

[3] Sawyer 1966:126.

Plate 17.



Peru, South-Central Coast and Highlands

Wari, Middle Horizon (A.D. 400-1000)

Tunic Fragment

Wool Tapestry Textile

Dimensions: 32 cm x 24.6 cm


Andean textiles are among the finest works of art ever produced by human civilization.[1] Prominent characteristics of Wari textiles include an emphasis on rectilinear designs that are repeatedly rotated.[2] This textile fragment was part of a Wari tunic, characterized by repetitive iconography, colors, and composition in a tightly woven tapestry. The rows and columns of figural imagery are commonly known as the face-fret motif.[3] The central theme has been identified as winged warriors or staff deities with profile faces.[4] The step fret and scroll motif may symbolize the wings of such characters depicted in profile on the Sun Gate at Tiwanaku. [5] The faces are symbolized by an open eye represented by a circle with a tear track running down its eye, and the mouth is a C shape outlined in black.

Andean textiles were critical to the life and culture of its people, serving as a medium to display status, the spread of ideological concepts, and as tribute offered to the ancestors and gods.[6]

Similar Examples:

  • Bergh 2012:159, fig. 144.
  • Lavalle 1984:93.
  • Lehmann 1975:71, fig. III.

[1] Boytner in Young-Sanchez and Simpson 2006:45.

[2] Stone 2012:153.

[3] Bergh 2012:159.

[4] Lavalle 1984:93.

[5] Stone 2012:155, fig. 118.

[6] Boytner in Young-Sanchez and Simpson 2006:45.


Plate 18.


Peru, South Coast

Wari, Middle Horizon (A.D. 600-900)

Drinking Cup with Bird Motif

Polychrome pottery

Dimensions: 16.2 cm x 14.4 cm


The stylized bird on this cup represents a falcon or hawk, both birds of great symbolic importance to the cultures on the cultures of Peru.[1] This drinking cup is known as a kero, a form typical of the Wari culture in Peru and its counterpart at Tiwanku in Bolivia during the Middle Horizon. Keros were used for drinking chicha, a mild intoxicant consumed during rituals. Most keros of this period are painted with polychrome designs and some are also adorned with modeled effigy heads.[2] This one may be from the Supe River valley, for it has close counterparts with examples excavated at the end of the 19th century by Max Uhle at the site of Chimu Capac.[3]

Similar Examples:

  • Lumbreras 1974:fig. 184a.
  • Menzel 1977:fig. 46b.

[1] Benson 1997:81, fig. 60.

[2] Lumbreras 1974:fig. 164.

[3] Menzel 1977:29-33, fig. 46b.

Plate 19.



Chimu-Inka, Late Horizon Period (A.D. 1476-1534)

Aryballos Bottle

Polychrome Pottery

Dimensions: H 22.9 cm x W 19.1 cm


This bottle is done in a provincial style known as Chimu-Inka, created by skilled Chimu artisans who copied Inka style ceramics.[1] The form is known as an Aryballos, because it resembles ancient Greek vessels.[2] A rounded base, globular shape and tall slender neck with a flaring rim make the Aryballos one of the most distinctive Inka forms.[3] Such vessels would be used to hold chicha, a fermented corn beer consumed in ceremonial rituals.[4] These bottles were placed in shallow holes made on the ground, where they could easily be tilted for pouring into drinking vessels.[5] The small scale of our example suggests that the vessel was used for individual servings of chicha, like the small vessels found in burial caves at Machu Picchu.[6] Despite its diminutive size, this bottle has strap handles where a tumpline could be attached for transportation, as illustrated in an early account by Huaman Poma.[7] The lug below the neck is designed to hold the tumpline in place, but here it is very shallow, serving only a decorative purpose.[8] The bottle displays an array of different painted designs, including diagonal lines and a checkerboard pattern — a very common Inka motif used in tapestry weavings.

Similar Examples:

  • Donnan 1992:219.
  • Menzel 1977:fig. 17B.

[1] Donnan 1992: 112; Stone, 2002 252.

[2] Cabello 1988:27.

[3] Donnan 1992:108.

[4] Cabello 1988:27.

[5] Cabello 1988:27.

[6] Burger and Salazar 2004:127.

[7] Cabello 1988:25.

[8] Burger and Salazar, 2004:127.