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HOME : Pre-Columbian Art : Art of Panama : Cocle Terracotta Polychrome Vessel with a Long Neck
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Cocle Terracotta Polychrome Vessel with a Long Neck - PF.4026
Origin: Cocle, Panama
Circa: 500 AD to 1000 AD
Dimensions: 9.5" (24.1cm) 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 word sorcerer or Shaman has a sinister connotation to the Western mind. We think of them as witches who use magic to harm others. For much of the world, past and present, the true Shaman is someone of extraordinary ability who acts as a healer, due to his or her knowledge of herbs and as a spiritual advisor because of their psychic powers. The metaphysical world of spirits was very real to the Pre-Columbians. It was part of reality interwoven into every aspect of daily existence, especially in their art. This elegant and graceful vessel can be seen and appreciated on many levels. The central pattern is composed of two main sections, each with nearly identical images. This is a mythical character with two black circles for eyes and a very large mouth in red. The legs are two thick lines of red and purple that are bent at the knee giving the effect of lifting upwards. The figures appear to be sprouting wings, which are in fact saurian-like, either lizard or alligator, done vertically with their heads lifting towards the rim. The main figures probably represent Shamans, or perhaps a single Shaman, in the act of transforming himself for a journey into the spirit realm. The entire concept of the vessel's design is based upon the theory of the compliment of opposites. This involves the balancing of elements, often using the same symbol in a reverse mirror image or in an opposing color. The result is perfect equilibrium in a harmonious structure of absolute symmetry. It is this simple concept the Shamans of old believed was the essence of life. - (PF.4026)


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