Nasca double spout and bridge with anthropomorphic masked being and chilli peppers
This double-spout-and-bridge vessel originates from the Nasca culture that dominated the southern Peruvian coast from 200 BCE to 600 CE. This vessel most likely belongs to the Middle Nasca period due to the broad range of colors and the presence of more proliferous elements and abstract composite beings. However, it is also likely this vessel represents a transitional stage from the Early Nasca period because of characteristics like a lighter background, black outlines around the designs, and naturalistic elements such as chili peppers and snakes. Typically, Nasca ceramics intended to display a dual symbolism between the natural world and their religious beliefs due to the cultural importance of agricultural fertility. The Nasca were accustomed to living in unique environmental conditions considering the effects of the harsh desert climate, the unpredictable water supply, and El Nino events could have on their crops and wildlife. In light of this erratic natural environment, it is understandable that the Nasca would focus on themes of abundance, agriculture, and survival in their ceramics.
The iconography of this vessel consists of Anthropomorphic Mythical Being and the harvesting of chili peppers. An important plant in Andean cultures, the chili pepper, or aji, was used for cooking and as a preservative. In the bottom register of this vessel, the chili peppers are alternating in color and separated by vertical lines. These vertical lines reference agricultural planting rows where the Nasca used their puquios as an irrigation system for crops, such as chili peppers. Standing on top of the field motif, is a harvester anthropomorphic mythical being (AMB) holding two chili peppers in each hand. Unlike most AMB’s, this one is depicted with a human body and exemplifies some characteristics of the Harvester motifs such as the outstretched arms with crops in hand as well as a similar styled loin cloth and mouth. This figure also demonstrates common attributes of AMB’s like a gold mouth mask, forehead ornamentation, a spondylus shell necklace, and a striped tunic. A hybrid of these two motifs is further suggested by the agricultural designs found at the bottom of the figures tunic. These designs resemble seeds displayed in other Nasca ceramics promoting the overall theme of agricultural fertility in this particular vessel.
The presences of serpents protruding out of the figures head and along the sides of the tunic enhance the idea of agricultural abundance. Serpents in Andean cultures were associated with fertility, water, and regeneration, thus the appearance of serpents in this vessel symbolizes an act of spiritual forces calling for agricultural bounty. This relationship between human activity and spiritual forces collide in the supernatural image of the harvester AMB, as a mythical force used to help the Nasca in their need for agricultural prosperity. The visual dynamism of this vessel infuses naturalistic and mythical qualities to support the message of agricultural dependence and the Nasca’s need for survival.
Early Intermediate Period (200 BCE-600 CE)
Three dimensional object
20 (h) cm.
8 (h) in.
Jack Danciger Collection
Art and Art History Collection (AAHC), College of Fine Arts, The University of Texas at Austin
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