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Nayarit (Mexico)

Group with human figures and dogs

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Object Details

Culture

Nayarit (Mexico)

Date

100 B.C.-A.D. 250

Medium

Ceramic

Dimensions

3 3/4 x 7 3/4 x 4 5/8 inches (9.5 x 19.8 x 11.8 cm)

Credit Line

Gift of Noyes Huston, Class of 1932, and Margaret Huston

Object
Number

73.031.002

BRIEF DESCRIPTIONThis Nayarit ceramic group of figures includes four humans and two dogs.WHERE WAS I(…)

BRIEF DESCRIPTIONThis Nayarit ceramic group of figures includes four humans and two dogs.WHERE WAS IT MADE?This was made in the western region of what is now Mexico.HOW WAS IT MADE?These figures were hand modeled from clay before being painted with red and white slip. Slip paint 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. After the slip dried, the ensemble was fired in an earthen pit. The wooden base is not original to the piece.HOW WAS IT USED?The original function of archaeological figurines found in museum collections is uncertain. Today archeologists carefully record information about the associations between artifacts and the circumstances of their burial as they are unearthed, and we can draw many conclusions about object function. However, very few of the archaeological objects found in museums today were excavated in a careful, scientific manner, so we have fewer clues about their past associations and function.A wide range of people and objects are shown in pre-Columbian pottery. From burials, we know that the variety of jewelry and clothing styles reflect the actual appearance of many of these prehistoric people. Because figurines represent many life stages and ordinary human activities, they likely served to exemplify the usual norms of behavior, to serve as guidelines or rules to help socialize people and integrate them into society. Although obviously decorative, figurines could also have been used to make offerings to supernatural powers, to serve as good luck charms, or to accompany the dead as grave goods.Most pre-Columbian objects from this region of Western Mexico were found in shaft tombs. Ranging up to 6 meters in depth, these tombs consist of a chamber leading from a narrow vertical hole or shaft. Because these chambers were used to bury many people over long periods of time, it is likely that they were maintained and used by family groups. West Mexican shaft tombs range in date from the Early Formative to the Early Classic periods (1800-0 BC), but most date to the Late Formative (500-0 BC). Tombs may contain hundreds of figures; among them, paired sets of matching male and female figures, perhaps representing married couples, are common.WHY DOES IT LOOK LIKE THIS?Nayarit figures are noted for the unusual proportions of their limbs, which are typically foreshortened and stubby, making the figure’s heads appear disproportionately large.This Nayarit colloquial group appears to show two groups of opposing warriors or gladiators. Notice the differences in their shields: the figures on one side hold round shields while the two on the other side hold rectangular shields. The shield shapes may reflect social group affiliation such as village, family, or ethnic identity. Notice the two dogs sitting in the middle of a court-like space. This scene may show a kind of Nayarit dispute resolution, or it may commemorate a special event. Group figural scenes showing a variety of subjects are well-known Nayarit art forms. To see a Nayarit ceramic sculpture of a shrine with figures in the Johnson Museum’s collection, search for object number 74.022.001 in the keyword search box.

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