Pre-Columbian, Brazil, Marajoara culture, ca. 800 to 1400 CE. A rare, surviving ceramic figural urn in the form of a Janus-faced woman with owl-like features. Her eyes, beak-like nose, mouth, ears with earrings, and breasts are all in relief, with black swirling geometric motifs painted all around her body, highlighted with the occasional earthy red pigment. Her heart-shaped face further reinforces her owl-like features, probably a sign of shamanism. Size: 10.75" W x 10.4" H (27.3 cm x 26.4 cm)
The Marajoara - also known as the Marajo - flourished on Marajo Island, in the mouth of the Amazon River. They built impressive mounds and lived subsistence lifestyles while producing stylistically-unique, beautiful pottery like this. This was a large-scale civilization, contrary to what many European researchers believed of the Amazon before their discovery - the mounds ranged from 3 to 10 meters in height, and some sites cover more than 10 square kilometers and contain 20 to 30 individual mounds. Their figural pottery was mainly of females, representing roughly 70-90% of all known ceramic sculptures from the Marajoara and their neighbors the Santarem, which researchers believe indicates that chiefly descent came from a mythical female ancestor. During this period, both male and female figures are shown as shamans. Urns were buried in the many large cemeteries known from the region, and the soil conditions have preserved the human remains inside them quite well; as of yet, no formal studies have been undertaken on them, representing a potential treasure trove of information that could rewrite what we think of the ancient Amazon Basin.
Provenance: private Hawaii, USA collection; ex Eugene Lions, Geneva, Switzerland
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