Pre-Columbian, Bolivian highlands, Lake Titikaka region, Tihuanaco / Tiwanaku ca. 400 to 900 CE. A substantive kero form vessel, carved from a stone of rich chocolate brown and umber hues, with a projecting jaguar effigy head emerging from one side, the concave walls smooth with the exception of the neck below the wild feline's head which is elegantly decorated with four incised concentric circles symbolizing the spotted coat of the jaguar - as well as a vertical arrangement of five similar motifs on a raised panel opposite the head that perhaps represents the animal's tail. The jaguar's spotted coat had a practical purpose in that it helped camouflage the wild cat in the jungle; however, it was also believed to symbolize the starry night sky - particularly fitting as the jaguar was nocturnal. The sculptor of this piece successfully created an expressive countenance on the wild feline; just look at those bulging eyes, that slightly open mouth appearing as if gritting his teeth, those alert and erect ears, and that snarling snout! Size: 5.5" in diameter x 8.125" H (14 cm x 20.6 cm)
The jaguar symbolized power and might throughout the Pre-Columbian world. Warriors, rulers, hunters, and shamans alike associated themselves with this king of beasts, the largest and most powerful feline in the New World. Furthermore, the principal god of the earlier Moche wears a headdress adorned with a jaguar head and paws, and important mortals donned similar headdresses. The Huari, having assumed much of the territory of the earlier Moche peoples, were most likely influenced by the Moche's practices and beliefs.
A nocturnal animal, the jaguar sleeps in caves and dark places and creeps quietly in the forest, evoking great mystery. So, oddly enough, few Moche and Huari artists would have actually seen jaguars as they are not indigenous to the coast. Jaguars prefer moist forest conditions. However, scholars believe that some cubs were transported over the mountains for Moche rituals, and it is also possible that some jaguars wandered down the coast.
Provenance: private Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, USA collection acquired before 1995
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Normal surface wear commensurate with age. Old nicks to the rim and periphery of base.