Pre-Columbian, North Coast Peru, Moche Culture, ca. 100 to 700 CE. A handsome, heavy greenstone mortar in the form of a crouching frog, his back hollowed out to create a shallow, ovoid bowl for grinding. His legs and feet are nicely delineated in relief against the body, forming a sturdy base for the vessel. The eyes are massive, deeply incised and with thick outlines around them, giving them a bulging, lifelike appearance. The mouth is incised to appear closed. Size: 8.7" L x 5.1" W x 3.75" H (22.1 cm x 13 cm x 9.5 cm)
Toads and frogs are common iconography in the pre-Columbian New World, where their tadpole-to-land-animal life cycle resulted in them becoming symbols of rebirth. Some toads were also known for their hallucinogenic secretions and toad remains are commonly found in tombs. The Jesuit Bernabe Cobo, in his "Historia del Nuevo Mundo" written in the early 1600s, recorded that the common toad (in Quechua, the "hampatu") was venerated by local people in the Andes. He noted its connection to water, and Incan art (a successor of the Moche), such as the stone of Sayhuite, depicts toads in water basins and near other symbols of water. From the life-giving properties of water, it seems likely that toads were also associated with fertility.
Provenance: private southwestern Pennsylvania, USA collection, before 1990
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Intact, with small chips and nicks from surface, especially from rim of bowl. Rich, deep patina and nicely preserved form.