Pre-Columbian, Caribbean/Florida, Taino people, 1000 to 1500 CE. A stone carving of a seated figure with gaping eyes and a skull-like face. If it hadn't been made by people in the pre-Columbian New World, it would resemble a lowland gorilla. Incised details mark out the fingers and the facial features. Size: 5.75" L x 3.7" W x 7.1" H (14.6 cm x 9.4 cm x 18 cm)
So what does the skull have to do with it? Putting ourselves into the mindset of the Taino, we should understand that death was seen as a transitory period; the boundaries between life and death seem to have felt more porous to the Taino than they do to us today. Shamans, for example, are often depicted as skeletal figures, perhaps because of their requirements to fast and vomit in order to ingest the chemicals that would put them into a spiritual state. This imagery, with its exaggerated, skull eye sockets and gaping mouth, is probably designed to show a shaman breaching the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead.
Provenance: Ex-Kentucky collection
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