Central America

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Central America is the cultural area between the southeastern Maya periphery in Guatemala and northwestern Honduras and South America.  The pre-Columbian peoples of the area built pyramids and ceremonial centers and had robust ceramic and metallurgy traditions, and stone sculpture was widespread, but in other ways they did not participate in some of the cultural features that define Mesoamerican civilization to the north, such as calendrics and writing.

 



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Stone Headhunter Figure
800-1200 CE
Costa Rica, Atlantic watershed region

Sculptures in volcanic stone showing figures holding trophy heads are characteristic of Costa Rica.  This figure is zoomorphic-displaying animal and human features.  The snout is elongated and the teeth are sharp fangs.  The rounded eyes and ears give a somewhat simian appearance.  The figure, perhaps an anthropomorphic deity, holds a large trophy head, seemingly human, before its torso.

Anonymous gift facilitated by Walter Knox, Scottsdale, AZ

 



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Stone Headhunter Figure
800-1200 CE
Costa Rica, Atlantic watershed region

This male figure of grey volcanic stone holds a trophy head in its right hand and a knife or axe in its left.  The toes and buttocks are roughly sculpted on both figures.

Anonymous gift facilitated by Walter Knox, Scottsdale, AZ

 



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Large Polychrome Olla
400-600 CE
Tonosí-Cubitá Style, Gran Coclé Region, South Coastal Panama

This magnificent polychrome olla from Tonosí, Panama displays standing figures on opposite sides featuring rounded heads and tattooed faces, with amphibian-like body shape, arms and legs, wearing long tunics enclosing hourglass shapes.  Flanking the figures on the shoulders of the vessel are the undulating bodies of serpents enclosing waterbirds, probably ibises, with red legs and beaks; below, the undulating lines connect the bodies of the main figures.  The designs are infilled with what may be stylized fish shapes and geometric forms of four lines closed at the ends, maybe fish weirs or traps.  Bilateral symmetry and religious or cosmological themes are characteristic of Tonosí-Cubitá ceramic decoration.  The overall impression is of aquatic themes, perhaps relating a myth or story.

Anonymous gift facilitated by Walter Knox, Scottsdale, AZ