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Ceramic | Terracotta | Fired Clay 


Object Type

Sculpture and Figurines


Ceramic | Terracotta | Fired Clay

Country of Origin

El Salvador


Secretaría de Cultura de la Presidencia


Import restricted since 1987 for the Cara Sucia region and since 1995 for all of El Salvador.

Section 1c of Designated List in force since 1995.

Cotzumalhuapa Figurines and Molds
Ceramic figurines, usually hollow and typically mold made in part (especially heads). About half the known examples represent women and most of the remainder depict a variety of animals (men are rare). Some representations of plants and furniture (litters) are known. Whistle mechanisms were optional for all forms of Cotzumalhuapa figurines. Pelleted tubular whistle flutes and recently identified Cotzumalhuapa wheeled figurines are also included here.
Male Figurines: The very rare male figurines are known to include representations of warriors (with clubs and shields) and injured or diseased individuals (one example shows an individual with patches of flesh missing from the maxillary area and nose). Animal Figurines: Among the animals present in Cotzumalhuapa figurines are: parrots, vultures, owls, doves, monkeys, felines (probably jaguars are intended), bats, dogs, deer, frogs or toads, turtles, iguanas, snakes, crocodiles, fish, clams, crabs, and others. These reflect the rich fauna of the Cotzumalhuapa area, which included mangrove lined estuaries, the adjoining coastal plains, and nearby mountain ranges. Monkeys and parrots are, however, the most common animals depicted. Most animal figurines have whistle mechanisms. Because of the complicated forms required for animals, use of molds may sometimes be limited to face areas, and some are entirely hand modeled.
Dating: Late Classic products of the Cotzumalhuapa culture which in El Salvador included the western coastal plain to the upper drainage of the Paz River; trade brought examples into Payu Ceramic Complex contexts elsewhere in western and central El Salvador.
Appearance: Most are brown (from tan through reddish brown) to red (brownish red to brick red), with a coarsely finished to moderately smoothed surface. Rare examples are of Tiquisate Ware (characterized by a very smooth, lustrous, and hard surface, cream to orange in color), and may be ancient imports from the Pacific coast of Guatemala. Traces of paint may be present (blue, black, red, yellow, and white have been documented); the paint was usually applied after firing and tends to be easily eroded. Those parts of figurines made without the benefit of molds tend to be rather carelessly modeled.
Size: Female figurines usually range in height from 4’’ (10cm) to 12’’ (30cm), but some rare specimens reach 24’’ (60cm) and perhaps more in height. Animal and plant figurines tend to be small, typically ranging from 3’’ (8cm) to 6’’ (16cm) in their maximum dimension, though larger examples occur. The pelleted tubular whistle flute mentioned measures 6’’ in length (16cm). A measurement for a wheeled figurine is 5.5’’ (14cm) in length. The models of litters are approximately 9’’ (23cm) in length.
Important Variants: Cotzumalhuapa use of clay was very creative and the observer should expect figurine forms not mentioned here.

Example shown: Maya ceramic standing male figurine, Late Classic period.

For import restrictions in force from 1987, see History of Import Restrictions below.

> CPIA Import Restriction Designated List

> History of Import Restrictions

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