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HOME : Pre-Columbian Art : Pre-Columbian Erotic Art : Extraordinary Colossal Phallus in Stone
Extraordinary Colossal Phallus in Stone - CB.3401
Origin: Costa Rica
Circa: 500 BC to 1000 AD
Dimensions: 24" (61.0cm) high x 8" (20.3cm) wide x 8" (20.3cm) depth
Collection: Pre-Columbian
Medium: Stone
Condition: Extra Fine


Location: Great Britain
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Description

In the context of Pre-Columbian Costa Rica this enigmatically enormous phallus may have been the ultimate statement of virility, power and prosperity.

Jade was considered to be a sacred material by the ancient populations of Costa Rica, held in even higher esteem than gold. The practice flourished in ancient Costa Rica for over a thousand years, roughly from 500 B.C. to 900 A.D., although the period of greatest artistic accomplishment lasted from 300 to 700 A.D. To date, no native sources of jade have been discovered in Costa Rica, suggesting an extended trade network existed that imported this precious resource from Mesoamerica into Costa Rica. Such trade in Jade and other green stones would have brought great wealth and likely reinforced the social stratification of the peoples.

Generally, green stones were thought to symbolize that vital life force that sustains us all. The color green is naturally associated with verdant plant life and staple foods of the period. As a result Jade and other green stones may have served as a status marker to distinguish the elite from the masses and solidify their hold on power. We can picture an ancient ruler or shaman presiding over a sacred ceremonial adorned in brilliant green jade pendants and jewelry. The ancient Costa Ricans believe that the system of social hierarchy also extended into the afterlife. Therefore, jade objects were buried with the elite so that their power could be maintained throughout eternity.

What then might we make of this extraordinarily, enigmatically colossal, green phallus? We know that the phallus is a reoccurring symbol across human cultures — we can trace representations, large and small, from our oldest known cultures right up into the present day. Human beings are simply obsessed with the appendage and it’s connotations with the perpetuation of life, virility and active power.

In the context of Pre-Columbian Costa Rica society, we know that the rarity of objects so beautifully carved, as this phallus may not necessarily reflect limited production in ancient times. Many, like this one, are very realistic, even down to the thick tendon on the back and the curve of the head. We also know that fertility cults flourished for centuries and often involved elaborate rituals designed to aid both men and women in procreation. It is probable that smaller phalluses were made as dildos, which would explain the repeated use of such smooth and expensive material. The monumentality of this piece it seems simply too large for that purpose. Perhaps given the value and volume of the material this piece was used ritualistic or idol context. Alternatively, as a display piece, the object may have operated as the ultimate status signifier for an extraordinarily successful individual - it’s size and material designed to broadcast the power of the owner.  - JL

- (CB.3401)

 

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