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HOME : Pre-Columbian Art : Art of Panama : Cocle Terracotta Globular Jar with a Lid
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Cocle Terracotta Globular Jar with a Lid - PF.4034
Origin: Cocle, Panama
Circa: 500 AD to 1000 AD
Dimensions: 5.5" (14.0cm) high
Collection: Pre-Columbian
Style: Tonosi
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.

During the middle period of Panamanian ceramics known as the Tonosi style (ca. 500 A.D.) globular and semi-globular jars made their appearance. Short- to- moderate necks, slightly flared rims, characterize them and an open bottomed bowl placed above the jar, acting as a lid. Why a certain type of pottery developed is unknown. A vessel of a specific shape may have been needed to hold substances pertaining to funeral ceremonies. Or, it may simply be due to a demand by customers, particularly women who needed a vessel of a particular shape and size for their household.

The designs on this adorable jar present an intricate pattern corresponding to the structure of the object. The wide middle body is accentuated by a series of rectangles with a black border, containing within each an inner rectangle in red, filled by two, three pointed designs that are mirror images of one another. The effect is of lengthening, stretching outwards as if the very clay itself is expanding. The lid, which is like a bowl in miniature and may have been used as a cup; composed of arches or semicircles connected by a vertical line at the bottom. The center elongated rectangle is dominated by a circle in red, which, when the whole object is seen from the side, unites the top portion with the red of the base. The tightly woven painting is quite floral in nature, reminding one of an exotic plant or a bud about to bloom. The skill of the artist has transformed an object to mean something beyond its utilitarian function, allowing our imagination to run free and picture a scene of floral beauty in a tropical land. - (PF.4034)


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