Pre-Columbian, North Coast Peru, Moche, ca. 100 to 300 CE. A lovely group of four gilded silver coca spoons (also called lime spoons), used to prepare lime powder in order to enhance the hallucinogenic properties of other drugs. Each one has a beautiful zoomorphic/avian finial atop a long slender body hammered at the end to create a receptacle for the lime powder. Three of the spoons present hummingbird finials with characteristically long beaks and one presents a jaguar finial with an open toothy grin, perky ears, and a curled tail . Size: 3.125" H (7.9 cm); 3.5" H (8.9 cm) on included custom stand. Weight: 28.3 grams. Precious metal quality: 65% silver, 20% gold
To the ancients of the Pre-Columbian world, hummingbirds (picaflores in Spanish) were associated with the sun. Appreciated for shiny, iridescent feathering and aerial acrobatics, the hummingbird made for the ideal solar metaphor. Since these birds are known to hover, seemingly motionless, and fly up, down and even backwards, the ancients likened their motions to the sun's hovering in the sky at the solstices when it is also known to reverse its celestial direction. In addition, hummingbirds can assume a torpid state when it is cold at night or during brief periods in the winter. However, they come back to life in the spring warmth. This unique ability to "die" and "resurrect" signified rebirth to the ancients, precisely at a time when planting and, in this sense, "renewed life" occurred.
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. The principal Moche god Ai apaec wears a headdress adorned with a jaguar head and paws and important mortals donned similar headdresses. A nocturnal animal, the jaguar sleeps in caves and dark places and creeps quietly in the forest, evoking great mystery. Oddly enough, few Moche artists would have actually scene 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 Hawaii, USA collection; ex-private Hans Juergen Westermann collection, Germany, 1960s
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Slight surface wear to the spoons, but the forms are generally very strong. Some loss to gilt but some still remains. Silver has developed a nice patina with small areas of green patina from the copper content.