A Valdivia/Chorrera Miniature Jaguar Mortar, ca. 1500 - 1000 BCE
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Culture: Valdivian/Chorrera, Equador
Dimensions: Length: 4 1/8 inches (10.6 cm)
In antiquity, this fantastic stylized vessel was used as a mortar. Carved from greenish-brown limestone into the form of a jaguar, the balanced spiral tail is particularly intricate and a remarkable accomplishment demonstrating the skills of Valdivia artists when working with stone. The squarish head with a wide-open mouth bares two rows of fangs, while the cubed body with incised linear detailing on either side, standing on four short legs with drilled suspension holes at the front. At the top is a shallow rectangular depression, used to aid in the preparation of hallucinogenic snuffs, that were inhaled by shamans to facilitate their interaction with the spirit realm. During his trance, the shaman could enter into invisible worlds and appropriate the virtues of the invoked animal.
The Chorrera civilization constitutes the third and final phase of the formative period of the Pacific coast and is characterized by artistic inventiveness combined with mastery of stoneworking techniques. The artists drew their inspiration from the surrounding flora and fauna. Although this vessel exhibits some fine scratches within the bowl, it does not seem to have received extensive use. It is possible that this particularly elegant version was created specifically for mortuary internment, and may have thus been used a single time, containing freshly prepared snuff for a deceased shaman to take into the spirit realm.
Condition: Tail professionally rejoined with light surface inpainting, missing the inner tip section of tail spiral, otherwise intact. A very fine example with excellent ancient surface patina.
Provenance: Ex. Nukanal collection, Miami, Florida, 1968-2010 (former UN ambassador from Ecuador), thereafter private Michigan collection.