Pre-Columbian, North Coast Peru, early Chavin, ca. 900 to 200 BCE. A hand-built pottery figure, seated with crossed legs, holding a multi-tubed pan flute in both hands. Depicted wearing ankle wraps, a loincloth, and a shoulder-length tunic, this anthropomorphic effigy appears to be rather involved with the creation of music. Massive almond-shaped eyes, an upturned nose with drilled nostrils, cupped ears with ornate ear spools, and a rectangle-lined mouth constitute the pensive visage, with the pan flute resting against his broad chin. He dons a simple headdress with a petite central projection which wraps around his bulbous brow. Several holes are drilled into the figure, including atop his head as well as beneath both ears, the flute, and the base, suggesting that this may have been a musical instrument of its own at one point. The beige-hued exterior is accentuated with copious amounts of red cinnabar rubbed into the recessed areas, making this a rare and beautiful example! Size: 5.25" W x 5.375" H (13.3 cm x 13.7 cm).
The Chavin people lived in the northern Highland Andes, and their capital, Chavin de Huantar, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The artwork of Chavin represents the first widespread artistic style in the Andes. The center of Chavin de Huantar is a massive, flat-topped pyramid, surrounded by lower platforms. Between 1200 and 500 BCE the pyramid space was used for religious ceremonies. The Old Temple, constructed very early in the history of the site, consists of a series of passageways built around a circular courtyard; within were carved stone monuments showing jaguars, serpents, and other figures with transformative and/or anthropomorphic figures.
What was the purpose of a vessel like this? We believe that it and ones like it played a role in funerary culture, as grave offerings, as well as in times of celebration, to create music and to recognize the symbolic and cultural importance of music. It may also have been also used in funerary feasting, a practice known from the ancient Andes, where the remains of ancestors were brought out to be feasted with on important days. Given the unusual form of the eyes, this figure may have represented a shamanic individual who had entered a trance-like state. Such an altered consciousness could have been brought about by simply playing the music – along with a plethora of hallucinogenic materials – or in order to perform certain ceremonial songs which an unaltered state of mind could not begin to manifest.
This piece has been tested using thermoluminescence (TL) and has been found to be ancient and of the period stated. A full report will accompany purchase.
Provenance: ex-private Gill collection, Florida, USA; ex-private Hawaii, USA collection
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Figure repaired from multiple pieces with some restoration, overpainting, and resurfacing along break lines. Surface wear and abrasions commensurate with age, fading to some incised details, losses and fading to red cinnabar additions, and small nicks to arms, base, and head, otherwise very good. Nice earthen and mineral deposits throughout. Great remains of red cinnabar.