Pre-Columbian, Oaxaca, Mexico, Zapotec culture, Monte Alban IV, ca. 600 to 800 CE. A mold-made ceramic incensario in the form of a seated god, Cocijo (also Cociyo), god of rain and lightning - the word Cocijo meaning "lightning" - wearing an elaborate serpentine headdress, huge earspools, a nose ring and labret, and a massive pectoral with a dramatic visage for the central pendant over his loin cloth that drapes between his bent knees. The figure is seated, legs crossed, with hands resting on his knees. Cocijo's power is symbolized in his physgniomic features. A hybrid of the jaguar and the serpent, various elements of his face represent different climactic conditions and parts of the sky. Cocijo's forked serpent tongue, for example, symbolizes his dominion over lightning. The merging of his eyebrows and lower lids represent the celestial realm, clouds, and by extension, rainfall. A very special rendering of Cocijo, among the most important deities of the Zapotecs. Size: 6.75" W x 9.75" H (17.1 cm x 24.8 cm)
Monte Alban, a city inhabited for over a thousand years before abandonment centuries before the arrival of the Spanish, was a regional power that dominated much of the modern day state of Oaxaca and interacted with other city states in Mesoamerica, like Teotihuacan to its north. Many cultures at this time were producing ceremonial incensarios (censers), but Monte Alban's in particular were often so anthropomorphized that from the front they are difficult to tell from sculpture. This is in strong contrast to incensarios at Teotihuacan, which were highly abstract. Figural censers have been excavated from Monte Alban's high status tombs, where it seems they were placed to leave offerings for the dead.
For a similar example see Hasso Von Winning, p. 189, figure 237. Also see an example in the Stanford Cantor Museum as presented in the Ancient History Encyclopedia - https://www.ancient.eu/image/2129/cocijo/
Provenance: private southern California, USA collection; ex-Bowers, 1989
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