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Capuli (Ecuador)

Gourd-shaped vessel

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Object Details

Culture

Capuli (Ecuador)

Date

300 BC-500 AD

Medium

Earthenware

Dimensions

8 11/16 × 4 3/4 inches (22 × 12 cm)

Credit Line

Gift of Thomas Carroll, PhD 1951

Object
Number

2006.070.143

BRIEF DESCRIPTION
This is a hollow, round bottomed, Capulí ceramic vessel shaped like a gourd. T(…)

BRIEF DESCRIPTION
This is a hollow, round bottomed, Capulí ceramic vessel shaped like a gourd. The elegantly curving tip has a hole near the top.

WHERE WAS IT MADE?
This vessel was made in the mountainous region in the northern part of what is now Ecuador.

HOW WAS IT MADE?
This vessel was likely hand-built with the coil method. In this method, a base is made by shaping clay into a flat disc. Then hand formed coils of clay, like ropes, are successively added to one another, building up the walls of the vessel. A tool such as a wooden paddle is used to smooth the sides both inside and out, leaving no trace of the coils.

The vessel was covered in a red slip, a mixture of red colored clay and water. Once the slip was dry, but before the vessel was fired in an earthen pit, it was burnished to a smooth polish with an object such as a stone or piece of bone.

HOW WAS IT USED?
This vessel may have been used to carry and serve liquids, since the narrow-necked shape would have reduced losses from accidental spills and evaporation. Although water is vital in desert environments such as those found in many parts of the Andes, recent analyses of residues from Peruvian bottles and jars suggest that most of them were used to serve corn (maize) beer or chicha. Chicha was both an everyday beverage, made in households for family consumption, and an essential element in ritual and social interactions.

WHY DOES IT LOOK LIKE THIS?
This vessel closely resembles a gourd. Squashes and gourds are frequently depicted in pre-Columbian art and artifacts, particularly in ceramics. In South America, squashes (Cucurbita spp.) are generally consumed as food, while bottle gourds (Lagenaria siceraria) are used for containers.

ABOUT THE CAPULÍ CULTURE:
The Capulí culture occupied a mountainous region located in the valleys of the rivers Chota and Carchi, between what is now northern Ecuador (Carchi Province) and southern Colombia. The people practiced maize-based agriculture, with some supplemental hunting and gathering. The political organization of this group consisted of multiple chiefdoms with small territories, with achieved rank differences and a specialist artisan class. Two types of Capulí burials are known; a deep (up to 40 meters or 130 feet) shaft tomb type, and a shallower burial tomb type under mounds or tolas. The Capulí engaged in trading coca leaves, and are famous for their small ceramic figures of men chewing coca, with prominent cheek bulges, known as “coqueros” in Spanish. Click here to see a Calpulí ceramic “coquero” in the Johnson Museum’s permanent collection, search for object number 74.053.001 in the keyword search box.

Capulí ceramics are typically black-on-red, decorated in the style known as negative painting, continuing an artistic tradition that appeared for the first time during Chorrera. Common ceramic vessel forms include squash or gourd-shaped bottles such as this one, annular ring-based bowls called “compoteras,” lentil-shaped plates, and globular jars.

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