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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.3494
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 powerful and has a story to tell. The agonized expression and the rigid mouth suggest this is a sacrificial victim. The black shapes on the face are very geometric, perhaps another symbol of sacrifice. The power of this vessel is apparent in the use of bold color. The orange surrounding the mouth shows this person's pain in trying to speak. The patterns around the eyes, and on the face may have been part of the sacrificial ritual. During this period (500-800AD), Nicoya was defined as a buffer zone between Mesoamerica 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.3494)


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