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HOME : Pre-Columbian Art : Art of Panama : Cocle Terracotta Polychrome Pedestal Bowl
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Cocle Terracotta Polychrome Pedestal Bowl - PF.4031
Origin: Cocle, Panama
Circa: 500 AD to 1000 AD
Dimensions: 6.25" (15.9cm) 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 artists of Panama have created some of the most beautiful and intriguing abstract art in any medium anywhere. Unlike contemporary artists they were not concerned with the significance of abstraction, but with a symbolic intent that is more important than aesthetic effect. The incredible swirling patterns of Cocle art are essentially based on a system of duality, of opposites turning and twisting in antagonistic forces, eventually coming together into a unified whole. This "union of opposites" can be interpreted as the male and female energies, diametrically opposed, and yet eventually uniting in order to procreate life. This lovely bowl appears to be from the stylistic period known as Macaracas, which made its appearance around 800 A.D. It is characterized by patterns in red, black and purple on a white/buff background. The design on this particular bowl does not merely fill the space, it expands the entire surface area, oscillating a dynamic energy with hypnotic effect; drawing the eyes in and around in never ending motion. The two opposing heads have definite Saurian characteristics. Either lizard or alligator, their bodies are composed of straight lines and triangles, curving along the sides into tails drawn in a zig-zag pattern. What we are seeing is something that is perfect, like a flower or an intricate leaf; alive, vibrant, and ever changing within its own universe. - (PF.4031)


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