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HOME : Pre-Columbian Art : Chimu Art : Chimu Carved Wood Lime Container
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Chimu Carved Wood Lime Container - PF.2348
Origin: Northern Coast of Peru
Circa: 1100 AD to 1460 AD
Dimensions: 3.75" (9.5cm) high
Collection: Pre-Columbian
Medium: Wood

Location: United States
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The Chimu culture arose around 800 A.D. and flourished until the Incan conquest about six hundred years later. Their civilization was centered at their capital Chan Chan, about 300 miles north of Lima, literally meaning “Sun Sun,” the largest Pre-Columbian city in Peru estimated to contain almost one hundred thousand citizens. The Chimu believed the sea, which they called “Ni,” was the origin of life, a theory also proposed by modern science and evolution. Thanks to their sea-faring skills, the Chimu were able to survive, nestled in between the desert and the sea. The sea was everything to them: an endless supply of food and the source of inspiration for their most imaginative myths, legends, and artwork. Agriculture was also vital, and the Chimu drew up a vast number of irrigation works demonstrating immense engineering skill, some of which are still in use today. Today, aside from the astounding mud ruins of Chan Chan remarkably well preserved in the heat of the desert, the Chimú are perhaps best known for their distinctive black glazed pottery influenced by their predecessors: the Moche.

Carved from wood, this extraordinary vessel exudes a dynamic energy and spirit that belies its small size. Used for storing powdered lime, the Indians dabbed the lime, which adhered to the wood want of the container onto coca leaves, the lime bringing out the mild narcotic effect of the coca. When chewed by the native highlanders, the coca leaves slowed their metabolic rate, helping to temper rigors of living at the over 12,000 foot high altitudes of the Andes Mountains. Functional works of art such as this five evidence to the incredible creativity and craftsmanship that formed an integral part of Pre-Columbian Peru. Here the craftsman has artfully captured the stylized image of a crouching feline that evinces a spiritual power and strength through his snarling teeth and wide-eyed gaze. A delicately carved sea bird sits atop the effigy vessel, a testament to the Chimu belief that the sea was the embodiment of wealth. A keen sense of balance and proportion combine with the artist's ability to manipulate the medium, making this masterful work of art a joy to behold, its mystical power and energy reaching across time and culture. - (PF.2348)


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