Pre-Columbian, South America, Argentina or Chile, Mapuche culture, ca. 1200 to 1700 CE. An intriguing shamanic scepter (known as a "clava") with an anthropomorphic mask finial, hand-carved from mottled brown stone with light and dark inclusions. The mask boasts a pair of drilled eyes, a thick headband which forms the bulbous nose, smooth cheeks, a small chin beneath a petite mouth, and a hanging goatee which doubles as the scepter handle. Several incised chevrons adorn the cheeks, chin, nose, and headband, and a pair of piercings near the temples allow for a suspension strap to be included. Faint traces of original red and black pigment are visible on both sides of the composition and suggest the piece was at one time decorated with bright pigment. Mapuche shamans would hold the scepter by the handle, attached to their wrist via a string knotted through a small hole, and would symbolically 'wear' the mask during religious ceremonies and rituals. Size: 6.1" W x 10.25" H (15.5 cm x 26 cm); 12" H (30.5 cm) on included custom stand.
Interestingly, the Mapuche managed to resist countless attempts by the Inca to subjugate them, despite what scholars have surmised to be a lack of communal organization. In addition, they successfully fought the Spaniards for more than 300 years. Historians have demonstrated that the Spaniard's initial conquests in the late 16th century were actually reversed by the Mapuche. Apparently, the Mapuche were so intimidating that Europeans would not return to certain areas until the late 19th century.
Provenance: private Hawaii, USA collection; ex-Tim Misenhimer collection
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Minor nicks and abrasions to forehead, nose, chin, and handle, with softening to some incised details, and extensive fading to original pigmentation, otherwise intact and excellent. Light earthen deposits throughout. Old inventory label on verso.