Burial Urn with Seated Figure

Burial Urn with Seated Figure

A.D. 1000-1500
Lower Magdalena River region
vessel, effigy
Collection of Frederick and Jan Mayer
. Burial Urn with Seated Figure. A.D. 1000-1500. Earthenware. Collection of Frederick and Jan Mayer. 1988.162A-B.
height: 14 3/4 in, 37.4650 cm; width: 10 1/4 in, 26.0350 cm; depth: 9 7/8 in, 25.0825 cm; height: 19 1/2 in, 49.5300 cm; width: 12 1/4 in, 31.1150 cm; depth: 10 1/4 in, 26.0350 cm
Mayer Center, Art of the Ancient Americas
Art of the Ancient Americas

Burial Urn with Seated Figure
A.D. 1000–1500
Colombia, Lower Magdalena River region
Frederick and Jan Mayer Collection, 1988.162A&B

In the Magdalena River region of ancient Colombia secondary burial was practiced: after a death, the body was buried until the flesh decayed, or flesh was removed from the bones by other means.  The bones were then collected, placed in a ceramic urn, and ceremoniously interred in a shaft grave.  The dignified modeled figure on the lid of this urn likely portrays the deceased.  His expression is serene, and he wears ear, arm and leg jewelry.  The bulging calves indicate the use of ligatures (tight bands) that were believed to strengthen the limbs.  

Full-figure portrait burial urns were also produced by peoples living near the mouth of the Amazon, in what is now Brazil (see 2006.17).  Some of these urns were deposited in caves, rather than in graves.

Known Provenance
Gifted 3 November 1988 by Frederick and Jan Mayer to the Denver Art Museum. Provenance research is on-going at the Denver Art Museum. Please e-mail provenance@denverartmuseum.org, if you have questions, or if you have additional information to share with us.

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