Pre-Columbian, West Mexico, Colima, ca. 300 BCE to 300 CE. A fascinating and rare pottery figure, depicting a caiman- or alligator-masked human figure. Incredible appled decorative details create the impression of a rich costume, with anklets, bracelets, a long necklace, and a heavy loincloth. The mask is fantastical, with a massive crest and large snout and mouth full of pointed teeth. The Colima would have known that the caiman was a powerful animal - even able to kill the jaguar. Images of the animal in ancient Mesoamerica were associated with the idea of the tree of life, and have been found at Tikal and Templo Mayor. Size: 4.45" W x 10.5" H (11.3 cm x 26.7 cm); 11.9" H (30.2 cm) on included custom stand.
Colima, located on Mexico's southwestern coast, was during this time part of the shaft tomb culture, along with neighbors to the north in Jalisco and Nayarit. In this culture, the dead were buried down shafts - 3 to 20 meters deep - that were dug vertically or near vertically through the volcanic tuff that makes up the geology of the region. The base of the shaft would open into one or more horizontal chambers with a low ceiling. These shafts were almost always dug beneath a dwelling, probably a family home, and seem to have been used as family mausoleums, housing the remains of many related individuals. This is a figure made to be placed inside those mausoleums, perhaps to mediate between the worlds of the living and the dead.
Provenance: private southern California, USA collection, acquired in the 1970s to mid-1980s; note collection label on the back which is dated 1/28/66
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