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HOME : Pre-Columbian Art : Art of Panama : Cocle Terracotta Polychrome Jar
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Cocle Terracotta Polychrome Jar - PF.4794
Origin: Panama
Circa: 500 AD to 1000 AD
Dimensions: 7" (17.8cm) high
Collection: Pre-Columbian
Medium: Terracotta

Location: United States
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Archaeological excavations in the Cocle Province located in Central Panama have revealed that an ancient civilization once inhabited these lands. The findings suggested that the so-called Cocle culture arose around 500 A.D. and lasted until about 1000 A.D. Although their dating is roughly contemporaneous with the Diquis culture to the north in modern day Costa Rica, the art they left behind suggests that they were a unique, independent civilization. Cocle art, which consists primarily of unslipped or buff slipped pottery and terracotta sculptures, is distinguished by their polychrome hues and lively asymmetrical motifs which often include animal themes.

The central imagery on this fascinating bowl is twin faces seen in a mirror image. Each face is held within a triangle of bold red borders, and drawn with powerful simplicity. We know from other painted vessels that the ancient Panamanian artists were highly skilled draughtsman. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume these faces were a familiar image or archetype, rather than an aesthetic invention. They may be gods staring from the void, or perhaps the spirit of man staring at it. The triangular shape continues outwards from the faces in a series of thin black lines that seem full of energy. They are then transformed into the vertical on either side of red bands. The vertical space in the center is particularly intriguing, bordered on both sides by T-shaped markings running the full length. This has the effect of giving perspective to an empty space, as if we are seeing through an open doorway, or passage into another realm. Three bands of separate lines on the upper portion of the body, on the neck and rim complete the concentric aspect. The pattern on this beautiful bowl radiates energy, vibrating with its own inner life that can be experienced with the eyes and touched with the imagination. - (PF.4794)


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