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HOME : Pre-Columbian Art : Miscellaneous : Atlantic Watershed Basalt Altar
Atlantic Watershed Basalt Altar - PF.2818
Origin: Eastern Coast of Costa Rica
Circa: 100 AD to 1000 AD
Dimensions: 33" (83.8cm) high x 43.5" (110.5cm) wide x 55.375" (140.7cm) depth
Catalogue: V14
Collection: Pre-Columbian
Style: Atlantic Watershed
Medium: Basalt

Location: United States
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This altarpiece is a fascinating example of the detailed and massive sculptural rendering of the ancient Costa Ricans. Undoubtedly serving an important ritual function, this altar was either used for sacrificial purposes or it may have been used as a platform, where revered animals representing deities were worshipped. The central figure is a human wearing an alligator mask, standing proudly atop an outstretched jaguar with his arms open wide, one resting on the tail of the jaguar and the other resting on a leg of the altar. Protruding from each of the three legs are trophy heads on which rest the claws of a jaguar, which has a monkey perched on his hind side. Most probably the animals are placed in a particular vertical and horizontal order representing ancient Costa Rican cosmogony. The plate of the altarpiece has fifty- seven trophy heads hanging from the exterior of its rim, possibly symbolizing something in ancient Costa Rican mythology, whose meaning has not yet been discovered. The monumentality as well as the detailed harmonious composition of this piece is awe-inspiring, reflecting the delicate and precise order of ancient Costa Rican rituals. - (PF.2818)


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