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Paracas (Peru)

Double-spouted bottle

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Object Details

Culture

Paracas (Peru)

Date

800-200 BC

Medium

Earthenware

Dimensions

5 1/2 × 1 3/16 inches (14 × 3 cm)

Credit Line

Gift of Thomas Carroll, PhD 1951

Object
Number

2006.070.385

WHERE WAS IT MADE?This bottle was made in what is now Peru. Although the Paracas culture was centere(…)

WHERE WAS IT MADE?This bottle was made in what is now Peru. Although the Paracas culture was centered on the Paracas peninsula (hence the name given to the culture), the cultural tradition extended through six coastal Peruvian valleys.HOW WAS IT MADE?The form of the bottle was 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 bowl. A tool such as a wooden paddle is used to smooth the sides both inside and out, leaving no trace of the coils. The spout, bridge and bird head were hand-modeled separately. The incised lines of decoration were made by pressing a stylus into the clay before it was fired in an earthen pit, while it was still soft and pliable. The surface was also burnished before it was fired. After the vessel was fired, it was painted with different colors of resin paint, made from plant resins and mineral pigments. As is common for other Paracas vessels, the areas on the bottle that have not been painted are a grey-black color. This happens in the firing process—by reducing the amount of oxygen entering the firing pit, potters could turn the surfaces of their pots black.WHY DOES IT LOOK LIKE THIS?Notice the head of a falcon on the vessel, attached to the bridge that connects to the opposite spout. This head is also called a blind spout, since it is in the place where a spout might be, but is not open at the top. The falcon has feline ears, and his body and wings are painted onto the vessel in bright colors. The falcon was a common subject in Paracas art. Birds are often symbolic of the spirit flight taken by a shaman or religious specialist during a vision quest, when the shaman is said to transform into a bird in order to transcend the material world and communicate with ancestor spirits. Often aided by hallucinogenic drugs, a shaman’s spirit would fly out from his body in search of knowledge and spiritual fulfillment. Birds of all sorts are commonly depicted on pre-Columbian works of art.ABOUT THE PARACAS CULTURE:The Paracas culture, named after the Paracas peninsula on the south coast of Peru, flourished during the Early Horizon or Formative Period (1100-200 BC). Much of what we know about the culture comes from many burials, in which elaborate textiles and human mummies were well-preserved due to the dry coastal climate. Paracas pottery is characterized by multi-colored, post-firing resin painting executed within incised outlines. Three-dimensional effigy forms were rarely modeled except for bird- or head-shaped blind (non-functional) spouts on the typical double-spout-and-bridge vessel forms, although squash-shaped vessels became more common at the end of the Paracas period. In contrast to the northern Chavín tradition, where entire vessels often were shaped in a variety of sculptural forms, Paracas ceramics, like their accompanying textiles, stress the elaborate decoration of two-dimensional surfaces.

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