About AD 800–1500
Ecuador, south-central coast
Museum purchase, 1972.147
Portrayed in this impressive ceramic object is a young, vigorous man who sits rigidly upright atop a bench. He stares intently forward, and his clenched hands rest on his knees. He wears only earspools and a large, flaring hat, but the right side of his torso is decorated with body painting or tattoos. These may serve to identify his family or clan, or perhaps his social or ritual rank.
The original function of this sculpture is unknown. The head is open, so the work did not simply serve as an elevated plate. It probably was not an incense burner lid either, as the base shows no soot on the interior and the figure’s hollow body would not function effectively as a chimney. Pairs of holes drilled into the hat show that the work was broken and repaired (using thread to tie the pieces together) in antiquity. Many such ceramic figures are known; perhaps young men were portrayed in ceramic when they entered adulthood, or achieved specific milestones as men.
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