Pre-Columbian, West Mexico, Nayarit, ca. 300 BCE to 300 CE. A fantastic matched pair of pottery shaft tomb figures, one a woman and one with both male and female characteristics, each with detailed, oversized heads, matching jewelry, and clothing with similar patterns. Both are standing, and posed similarly, with wide stances, perched atop highly arched feet, with their arms raised and their heads facing forward, their eyes wide and staring as if they are looking beyond the viewer. One wears a skirt, while the other has a scoop-like phallus that is exposed; both are covered in dramatic light-colored patterns painted against their dark red background colors, suggesting tattooing, scarification, or vibrantly patterned clothing. The woman holds a cup against one shoulder. Both have dramatic headbands, although the woman's is flat, while the other's is twisted. Their faces, too, have black motifs painted on them, again suggesting tattooing. Size of largest (they are very similar in size): 11" W x 13" H (27.9 cm x 33 cm)
Nayarit, located on Mexico's southwestern coast, was during this time part of the shaft tomb culture, along with neighbors in Jalisco and Colima. In this culture, the dead were buried down shafts - 3 to 20 meters deep - that were dug vertically or near vertically through the volcanic tuff that makes up the geology of the region. The base of the shaft would open into one or more horizontal chambers with a low ceiling. These shafts were almost always dug beneath a dwelling, probably a family home, and seem to have been used as family mausoleums, housing the remains of many related individuals. These figures were made to be placed inside those mausoleums, perhaps to mediate between the worlds of the living and the dead.
Provenance: private Hawaii, USA collection; ex-private T. Misenhimer collection, Hollywood, California, USA, famous Hollywood film producer
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Both have been repaired and restored from multiple pieces, but repairs are very well done and essentially impossible to see. With some small areas of overpainting in restored areas, otherwise with original pigment and nice remaining deposits.