Pre-Columbian, South Coast Peru, Paracas culture, ca. 500 to 300 BCE. A fabulous hand-built doll comprised of tightly-woven camelid (alpaca or llama wool) fibers as well as human hair in hues of scarlet, cobalt, caramel, wheat, and coffee. The doll is comprised of a rough tunic with two sleeves, a pair of delineated legs with red shoes, a circular head with blue eyes and a red mouth, red facial threads, and a flowing hairdo of coarse brown hair with a tinge of red. This doll may have been part of a larger figure or perhaps sewn onto a larger textile swath with several other figures. Very few examples of Paracas dolls still exist, so this example is one of extreme rarity. Mounted on a fabric-lined wooden frame. Size (doll): 6" W x 8.75" H (15.2 cm x 22.2 cm); size (frame): 12.875" W x 15" H (32.7 cm x 38.1 cm).
Little is known about the Paracas people, and what little we do know comes from a 1920s archaeological excavation of the Paracas Cavernas, shaft tombs containing multiple burials, many of which contained ceramic vessels, probably for holding offerings or provisioning the dead in the afterlife. The iconography of the Paracas people is linear and stylistic, based on formal figures whose species, when zoomorphic, often cannot be identified. Motifs on their textiles mirror those of their ceramics that they used to wrap their dead and probably represent gods or mythical figures of power.
Dolls like this may not have been so simplistic as children needed protection as well. Dolls were not only a means of keeping a playful child occupied, but as a symbolic means of protection against evil spirits or natural forces that may cause harm to a child. Archaeologists have ample evidence of child-oriented play things in Pre-Columbian South America, like with the Chimu or the Chancay, though very seldom do they find dolls, toys, or evidence that such objects existed within the Paracas culture. The archaeological community does not understand the purpose of such Paracas dolls, though examples such as this may provide some insight into their underlying purpose.
Provenance: private Hawaii, USA collection; ex-private H. J. Westermann collection, Germany
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Minor fraying to interior and peripheral threads, light fading to thread coloration, and some minor staining.