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HOME : Pre-Columbian Art : Miscellaneous : Zoomorphic Effigy Vessel
Zoomorphic Effigy Vessel - PF.3112a
Origin: Costa Rica
Circa: 500 AD to 1000 AD
Dimensions: 17.75" (45.1cm) high
Catalogue: V15
Collection: Pre-Columbian
Medium: Terracotta


Location: United States
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Description
Vessels found in important burial chambers are often made in the shape of animals or have animal elements as part of the overall composition. It is particularly intriguing when a human is represented as an animal, because in such instances we are probably witnessing a shaman involved in a ritual act. This very powerful vessel shows a nearly naked figure wearing an alligator mask and holding onto bat wings. He wears a heavy necklace that has loops at the end which may have held a medallion or emblem. Around his ankles are very thick bracelets representing ones of metal or cloth. The belt around his waist seems also of the same thick material as the necklace. This figure more than likely represents someone of great importance, and the shamans of ancient Costa Rica were not only highly respected but also regarded as a separate class distinct even from the nobility. Among their talents they were reputed to be able to change themselves into jaguars and other animals in order to commune with jungle spirits and deities of the non- physical realms. Some of their rituals were performed in public, particularly involving those matters such as fertility of the soil and the weather. They would have danced in costume, perhaps like the one this figure is wearing, and entranced the crowd with their flamboyant movements. Through this vessel we are allowed the privilege of experiencing an event which has long vanished- but lives on in a work of art. - (PF.3112a)

 

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