Pre-Columbian, north coast of Peru, Sican/Lambayeque culture, ca. 750 to 1370 CE. A gilded silver/copper applique depicting two individuals rowing or paddling a caballito de tortora - a reed boat used by Peruvian fisherman - in repousse. One gent is positioned at the bow and one is at the prow; both hold long oars. This iconography extends back to pottery dating some 3,000 years ago. Caballito de tortora (little reed horses) are so named for the straddled manner in which they are ridden. Fishermen have traditionally used them to collect fish in the inner cavity and transport nets. Of course, caballito de tortora is not the original name, since horses were unknown to South America until the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire. Alloy composition: 82% silver, 16% copper, and 1.5% gold Size: 5" W x 3" H (12.7 cm x 7.6 cm); 3.75" H (9.5 cm) on included custom stand.
Note that caballitos de tortora are made from the same reed, the totora (Schoenoplectus californicus subsp. tatora), used by the Uru people on Lake Titicaca. One cannot help but wonder if this iconography may by extension also reference to the legend of El Dorado. The legend of El Dorado first captured the imaginations of Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century, luring them from the Old World to the New World in search of precious goldworks. Lore of "El Hombre Dorado" (The Golden Man) or "El Rey Dorado" (The Golden King) involved a mythical Muisca chief of Colombia who according to legend had covered himself entirely in gold dust, created a luxurious golden raft, and offered coveted treasures to the Guatavita Goddess in her sacred lake.
This piece has been has been tested for the presence or absence of particular elements via XRF elemental analysis. A basic 1-page summary of the XRF screening will accompany purchase, identifying each element present in the sample, as well as the quantity of elements present. A more complete analysis detailing historical data / comparisons is available for additional charge – please contact us.
Provenance: private Southern California, USA collection, acquired in the 1970s to mid-1980s
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Head of larger rower has been reattached. Normal surface wear commensurate with age, but imagery is legible. Loops used to attach to stand added later.