Pre-Columbian, West Mexico, Nayarit, Protoclassic period, ca. 100 BCE to 250 CE. An evocative and dramatic figure, a hollow-built pottery warrior/shaman seated upon two rear conical legs. He wears a barrel-shaped cuirass that includes a lightly-fluted collar. The cuirass is incised with dense triangular motifs. His double-horned helmet (believed to be a sign of shamanism) is incised with similar motifs. Other than those items, he is nude, with his phallus clearly sculpted. His face is composed of almond-shaped eyes, a prominent nose, and a small, closed mouth. His ears bear multiple earrings below his helmet. Size: 5.3" W x 13.45" H (13.5 cm x 34.2 cm)
Ceramic figures like this one are the only remains that we have today of a sophisticated and unique culture in West Mexico. They made no above-ground monuments or sculptures, at least that we know of, which is in strong contrast to developments elsewhere in ancient Mesoamerica. Instead, their tombs were their lasting works of art: skeletons arrayed radially with their feet positioned inward, and clay offerings, like this one, placed alongside the walls facing inward, near the skulls. A large effigy like this one would most likely have flanked the entrance to a tomb in a way that archaeologists have interpreted as guarding. Some scholars have connected these dynamic sculptures of the living as a strong contrast to the skeletal remains whose space they shared, as if they mediated between the living and the dead.
Provenance: private J.H. collection, Beaverton, Oregon, USA
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Two of the legs and the horns on the helmet have been expertly repaired and restored; this is well done and unobtrusive. Old collection number written on one leg. Great deposits on surface. Light wear commensurate with age.