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HOME : Pre-Columbian Art : Terracotta Trophy Heads : Guanacaste-Nicoya Terracotta Trophy Head
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Guanacaste-Nicoya Terracotta Trophy Head - PF.3429
Origin: Guanacaste, Nicoya, Costa Rica
Circa: 500 AD to 800 AD
Dimensions: 6.75" (17.1cm) high
Collection: Pre-Columbian
Medium: Terracotta

Location: United States
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The face on this vessel is extremely powerful and it is apparent to anyone that there must be a story behind this portrait. The agonized expression and the rigid mouth suggest this is a sacrificial victim. The almond shaped eyes are watching us carefully, and the heavy jewelry on the ears suggests this person was wealthy enough to decorate himself. Although the marks on the face do not appear to be scarification, they are very geometrical and suggest the rich symbolism within this culture. The exquisitely controlled angular patterns cover the back of the vessel as well as form a crown on this person's head. During this time period (500-800 AD), Nicoya was defined as a buffer zone between Meso- America and tropical-forest cultures of the southern regions. There were sporadic intergroup resource competition and warfare. Head hunting and sacrifice of captives was common and may have been indicative of population pressure or foreign intruders. Occasionally, a strong leader arose to form political control and defensive strategy. The leader organized several centers into an alliance for brief periods. Such a powerful leader may have once possessed this vessel in remembrance of his victorious wars. - (PF.3429)


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