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Pre-Columbian Panamanian Dish with Bisected Design

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Pre-Columbian Panamanian Dish with Bisected Design

- Item No.

Item Details

  • Height:
    4" Inches
  • Diameter:
    10 1/2" Inches
  • Period:
    Pre-18th Century
  • Origin:
    America
Panamanian pre-historic pottery items are notable for strong structural design and the use of fish, bird, animal and human figures as decoration.  This extraordinary dish almost certainly represents a series of crocodiles, one of the important iconographic symbols in Coclé/Veraguas cosmology.  Aquatic animals feature quite prominently in the arts of this area and otherworldly animals are represented that combine idealized attributes such as aggression and flexibility.  This dish is quite fascinating to observe with its repeated crocodile motif. It is highlighted with the distinctive purple paint unique to Panama's Coclé tradition, the presence or absence of which assists archaeologists in classifying and dating Panamanian ceramics. Binary opposition is a central precept of ancient Panamanian cosmology, which viewed the cosmos as the pairing of opposites: male-female, light-dark, spirit world-natural world. The universe was composed of three levels-the upper sphere, the middle sphere, and the lower sphere. The latter was associated with the female domain and was mirrored in the upper sphere, the domain of the male principle. Decorative motifs, especially certain geometric forms frequently found on painted ceramics had important cosmological significance and symbolic meaning.  If you turn this magical dish in different ways the animals change shape, providing a lovely artistic representation of shamanic transformation.

 Many Pre-Columbian cultures did not have writing systems, so visual art expressed the cosmologies, world views, religion, and philosophy of these cultures.  This rare dish was found in the Coclé/Veraguas region of Panama. Gran Coclé is an archaeological culture area of the so-called Intermediate Area in Pre-Columbian Central America. The area largely coincides with the modern-day Panamanian province of Coclé, and consisted of a number of identifiable native cultures. Veraguas is a region located very near to Gran Coclé where a number of similar archaeological objects were found.  Scholars suggest that both areas were occupied by the same culture and/or different cultures that traded items. Archaeologists have loosely designated these cultures by pottery style.

 A unified indigenous culture appears to have flourished in this area from approximately 1200 BC until the 16th century.  Artifacts from this region include gold objects and other metals, carved bone, shell and whale ivory, textiles, jewelry with semi-precious stones and pottery. The art from this region was collected at excavated sites and much of the items show no signs of use for food or drink.  Scholars suggest that these items were created specifically as art items for much the same reason we sculpt or paint today. The number and quality of items in each site would indicate the wealth and status of the owner.  Because of this the quality of the items are pristine and plate and bowl surfaces, such as this one, were flattened out to best show their abstracted designs.

   Circa 600-800 AD

 Height: 4"Diameter: 10 1/2"

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