Mesoamerican / Ancient Maya, Aztec, Inca, and Taino

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Mesoamerican Art

Hacha of a Skull

Hacha of a Skull

Hacha of A Skull
Mexico [Veracruz]
Mayan Classical period / AD 600-900
Volcanic Stone

This hacha, or axe, has two possible functions. Some were found combined with yokes or Mayan burials. Others were used as ball court markers for the sacred Mayan game played with solid rubber balls. The game reenacted the story of the Mayan Hero Twins who fought the gods of death by trying to propel a ball through a hoop 27 feet off the ground without using their hands or feet. The loser of the game might be executed while the winner was rewarded with gold.

 

Skull Mask and Skeleton

Skull Mask and Skeleton

 

Skull Mask

Skull Mask

Skull Mask
1800-1200 BCE  / Ceramic
Mexican Tlatilco

The components of the Harris Collection shaped by Mexico and South America reveal a distinct approach to skulls and skeletons. One of the oldest objects displayed is the Skull Mask from Tlatlico in the Valley of Mexico. This culture’s people buried the dead beneath the floor of their house and placed ceramic figures like this with the body in the grave. The close association of the living and the dead  from this culture reminds us of the current Day of the Dead tradition in the same area.

Skeleton

Skeleton

 Skeleton
700-1500 BCE / Ceramic
Tairona Culture, Columbia.

The Tairona people lived in northern Columbia before Europeans arrivedthere in the 16th century. They withdrew into the mountains after clashing with the Spanish who coveted the gold worn by Taino as ornamentation. Our understanding of their culture is incomplete, but their descendents, the Kogi, believe that people returned to the body of the Great Mother. This may help us understand the fetal position of this skeleton figure.

God od Dead and Aztec Vessel

 

 God of Death – Taino Period

God of Death – Taino period

Maquetaurie Guayaba / God of Dead
AD 900-1500 / Taino period / Stone

This head from the island of San Domingo represents Maquetauric Guayaba, the Zemis”, or the spirit/ God, who watches over the land of the dead. The Taino people worshipped the spirits of their ancestors as well as gods of the sea, of fertility and of cassava, their staple food. Zemis figures were kept in homes and shrines and given offerings and food. Maquetauric Guayaba is the symbol of the guayaba berry, the juice of which was used to make black body paint to symbolize death.

 Pre Columbian Aztec Vessel

Pre Columbian Aztec Vessel

 

 Pre Columbian Aztec Vessel
Mexican. Aztec
AD 1300- 1519 / Painted terra cotta

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