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HOME : Pre-Columbian Art : Art of Ecuador : Bahia Terracotta Animal Effigy Whistling Vessel
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Bahia Terracotta Animal Effigy Whistling Vessel - PF.2614
Origin: Coast of Manabi, Ecuador
Circa: 200 BC to 600 AD
Dimensions: 13.25" (33.7cm) high
Collection: Pre-Columbian
Medium: Terracotta

Location: UAE
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The Pre-Columbian cultures of Ecuador are among the oldest in South America and among the first to master the art of pottery. Although we know little about the peoples themselves or their traditions, historians have been able to piece together a picture of life in Ancient Ecuador thanks in part to the art and artifacts left behind. The culture of Valdivia created some of the oldest known works of art in the Americas. Situated along the coastal strip of Ecuador, the Valdivians established a thriving society that flourished for around two thousand years (from approximately 4000 to 1500 B.C.). Today they are famed for their small fertility figures, believed to be the earliest representational works of art in the Americas, first carved from stone, later formed from terracotta.

Hundreds of years later after the Valdivians disappear from the archaeological record appears another culture to which the name Chorrera has been attached (lasting from circa 1100-300 B.C.). Little is known about this culture; however, it is significant for its widespread geographical reach. As such, their artistic style greatly influenced those diverse cultures that began to emerge in the final centuries of the Chorrera period, a time historians have labeled the Period of Regional Development.

Among the most prominent cultures that flourished in the wake of the Chorrera are the cultures of Bahia, Jama Coaque, and La Tolita. Around 200 B.C., the Bahia developed along the coastal strip in the modern province of Manabi, lasting until approximately 600 A.D. Their earliest terracotta works were greatly indebted to the Chorrera; however, over the years a distinctive style emerged characterized by large figures adorned with detailed dress and body ornamentation.

This animal effigy vessel from the Bahia period reveals the Ecuadorian craftsman’s' refined skill at manipulating the medium and his creative ability to express spirited charm and beauty. Here we experience a vessel in the form of a delightful animal, perhaps a rodent, seated on his haunches with arms outstretched as if to embrace the universe. His elongated head, with its coffee-bean eyes and tiny rounded ears, serves as a portion of the vessel's handle, which is attached to a tall narrow spout rising from the animal's back. As we observe the handle we notice a hole at the base which surprisingly allows for the vessel to serve as a whistle. If we listen carefully perhaps we can hear the melodic sounds of the ancient past issuing forth from this delightful animal, whose open arms and enchanting spirit beg to embrace us. - (PF.2614)


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