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Quimbaya (Colombia)

Seated male figure

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Object Details

Culture

Quimbaya (Colombia)

Date

AD 500-1500

Medium

Earthenware

Dimensions

8 11/16 × 5 7/8 × 4 5/16 inches (22 × 15 × 11 cm)

Credit Line

Gift of Thomas Carroll, PhD 1951

Object
Number

2006.070.431

WHERE WAS IT MADE?This figure comes from the southwestern region of what is now Colombia.HOW WAS IT (…)

WHERE WAS IT MADE?This figure comes from the southwestern region of what is now Colombia.HOW WAS IT MADE?This figure was hand-built from slabs of clay. Slabs were made by rolling the clay flat to achieve the desired thickness. Details, such as the incised bands on the wrists and ankles, were added by pressing into the clay with a pointed stylus. A stylus was also used to make the various holes and slits in the head and body. Before firing in an earthen pit, the figure was painted with slip. Slip is made by mixing different-colored clays or ground mineral pigments with water. Although some colors are naturally present in the clay, others can be made by adding powdered minerals to clay; for example, minerals high in iron produce rich oranges and reds, while those containing various forms of copper produce blues and greens.HOW WAS IT USED?Figures like this were placed in the tombs of tribal leaders along with food vessels for the deceased. As a mark of spiritual leadership, a bench was also placed in the tomb. One scholar has interpreted the bottom of the body slab in this kind of figure to be an abstraction of such a bench, since the legs arch out from the slab at a point above the bottom. The closed eyes of the figure would therefore be closed in a trance of a shaman, psychologically leaving his body to fly to the spirit world.WHY DOES IT LOOK LIKE THIS?Notice the sunken, incised lines painted white on the figure’s four limbs (bands both above his elbows and below his knees). Ligatures of threaded beads are worn by present-day forest men above their elbows and below their knees. The crosshatched diamond pattern in this figure’s bands may be intended to indicate ligatures of this type. Notice the holes along the upper border of the figure’s forehead. These are believed to be for the insertion of feathers, a typical forest adornment. The figure’s prominent hooked nose is pierced, through which is inserted a gold alloy (tumbaga) nose ring.ABOUT THE QUIMBAYA CULTURE:Quimbaya is a term used to refer to several diverse cultures found along the Middle Cauca River Valley in the modern Departments of Quindio, Risaralda, Caldas, southern Antióquia, and northeast Valle. At the time of the Spanish Conquest, many different tribal groups occupied this zone, although they can likely be classified into speakers of two distinct language groups: the Chibchan speakers who had occupied the region from antiquity, and the more recent Carib-speaking immigrants who were still actively engaged in militaristic expansion when the Spanish arrived.

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