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HOME : Pre-Columbian Art : Mayan Sculptures : Mayan Terracotta Fertility Sculpture
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Mayan Terracotta Fertility Sculpture - PF.5744
Origin: Guatemala
Circa: 500 AD to 900 AD
Dimensions: 6.5" (16.5cm) high
Collection: Pre-Columbian
Medium: Terracotta

Location: United States
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The ancient Mayan civilization was perhaps the most advanced civilization in the western hemisphere before the arrival of Europeans. Spanning the region that is now eastern and southern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, and western Honduras, Mayan culture reached its pinnacle from about 300 to 900 A.D. They were sophisticated builders, constructing massive pyramid and temple complexes all without the technological advancements of the wheel or the arch. They were accomplished mathematicians; the first civilization to formulate the notion of the absence of value or zero, an extremely advanced mathematical concept. One of their greatest intellectual achievements was a pair of interlocking calendars, which was used for such purposes as the scheduling of ceremonies. Today, they are most famous for what they left behind: ruins of fabulous temples and cities, and extraordinary artifacts of sculpture and pottery.

Fertility figures are among the oldest know images carved by human. Across all cultures and all times, this one sculptural type is truly universal. Indeed, just the form alone touches upon mankind’s first obsession: survival. In this chaotic world where everything is unsure from one day to the next, images such as this would provide comfort and assurance of the continual chain of human life formed one link at a time. This terracotta sculpture is the prototypical fertility goddess. Emphasis is on the bulk of her lower body, on her wide, fleshy hips, the kind perfect for rearing children. She represents the earliest ideal of beauty: the ability to successfully reproduce and thus continue the human chain. Her thighs and pubic region are also stressed. Unlike some other earlier fertility idols, there is also attention paid to her head. All her facial features have been depicted including slightly recessed eyes, pierced ears, and a narrow kneaded band of hair. While our modern magazine standards of beauty could not be more contrasting, it is this image that obsessed our ancestor. She symbolizes durability not fragility, fecundity not adolescence, motherhood not sexuality. This sculpture is the essence of life and procreation.
- (PF.5744)


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