Pre-Columbian, Caribbean, Taino, ca. 1100 to 1558 CE. Among the only artifacts specifically referenced by Spanish chroniclers of the 15th century, a quintessential example of a three pointer stone Zemi figure - a human effigy face carved from a single piece of rich russet brown stone with meticulously carved and pecked skeletal features including a pair of deep-socketed round eyes, a wide open mouth, and a prominent nose, as well as a decorative headband, adding to the impressive aesthetic and spiritual presence of this piece. This piece is among the various cult objects associated with the worship of "zemis" - deities, ancestors, or earth spirits revered by the Taino culture. Size: 3.5" W x 6.8" H (8.9 cm x 17.3 cm); 7.875" H (20 cm) on included custom stand.
The Zemi (or Cemi) stone, with its characteristic three cardinal points, is a fundamental symbol in the Taino religion. Tainos traditionally name the three points "Yocahu Bagua Maorocoti" - another name for the Creator, Yaya. Zemis like this example are believed to be inhabited by powerful spirits. The uppermost point represents the top of this sacred mountain peak, in the turey (sky) of the four directions, where Yaya - the Creator, whose name means that which has neither beginning nor end and which has no male ancestor or creator - resides. The 'chin' point represents Coabey, the underworld or place of the dead. Here Hupia, the spirit of the dead, resides, and the face of Guayaba, the Chief of Coabey, is represented. Finally, the opposite point represents the land of the living where Goiz, the spirit of living people, resides. A similar three-pointer example is shown in fig. 29a, p. 117 in "The Tainos: Rise and Decline of the People Who Greeted Columbus", (Irving Rouse, 1992).
Provenance: private Hawaii, USA collection; ex Maryland, USA collection, acquired 1950 to 1970; ex Arte Primitvo
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Pitting and light softening to some incised details, otherwise intact and excellent. Great preservation of facial details. Old inventory label along verso.