Sculpture and Figurines
Ceramic | Terracotta | Fired Clay
Secretaría de Cultura de la Presidencia
Import restricted since 1995.
Section 1e of Designated List in force since 1995.
Early Postclassic ceramic figurines whose style is derived from central Mexico and form part of the Guazapa Phase of central and western El Salvador. The Guazapa Phase has been interpreted as marking the large-scale migration of Nahua speakers into this area, these being the ancestors of the historical Pipil.
Mazapan-Related Figurines: Very flat figurines whose rendition of the human figure has been compared to gingerbread cookies. These objects were made by pressing a sheet of clay into a mold, obtaining a thin (0.75–1’’ or 2–3 cm) solid figurine. The rear portion of the figurine is left unfinished and may exhibit finger marks from when the clay was pressed into its mold. The front displays a woman with a blouse with a triangular front, coming to a point in the middle of the waist. This type of blouse was referred to as a quechquemitl in central Mexico at the time of the Conquest, when its use was restricted to images of goddesses and goddess impersonators. These figurines are sonamed for their close similarity to figurines of the Mazapan (Toltec) Phase of central Mexico.
Toad Effigies: Hand modeled large hollow toad effigies. They are usually shown as sitting as erect as possible for a toad, looking upwards. The front and rear of the toad’s body is decorated with strips and buttons of clay meant to represent festive ribbons and bows. The tongue may be shown hanging from the mouth. In Postclassic Nahua mythology, toads were considered as Tlaloc’s (the rain god) helpers, and it was they who announced the coming of the rains (the extended tongues are probably meant to represent their thirsty anticipation of rain). Due to this association, some examples are known of toad effigies that include two rings around the eyes (a diagnostic trait of Tlaloc himself). Tlaloc Bottles: Bottles with a more or less spherical body crowned by a straight tubular neck with a flat, flaring rim. The body is decorated with the face of the rain god Tlaloc whose most distinctive trait is a ring around each eye. Many Tlaloc Bottles are in fact plugged in the neck or body and could not have actually functioned as vessels. Tlaloc was considered to dwell in the mountain peaks and pour out the rains from a bottle; these artifacts were probably household votive images of that bottle.
Very Large Effigy Figurines or Statues: Hand modeled hollow figurines representing jaguars and gods or god impersonators. The larger examples reach life size and may truly be considered as ceramic statuary (in any case, they have been included under ‘‘Figurines’’ to facilitate discussion). Known examples of gods or god impersonators represent the gods Tlaloc (identifiable by the rings around his eyes), Mictlantecutli (represented as a skeletal personage) and Xipe Totec (portrayed as wearing a flayed human skin). The largest figures may be crafted in several mating parts (for example, a Xipe Totec effigy was made in two large halves joining at the waist, with a separate head). Seventeen jaguar effigies were found in one excavation at Cihuatán; all of these portray a jaguar sitting on its haunches decorated with necklaces and a few bulbous objects placed on different parts of the body. Small Solid Figurines: Hand modeled figurines of humans that are usually solid or mostly so, and that occasionally employed molds to form the face. Most appear to represent males who may carry war equipment (such as a dart thrower or atlatl) and large headgear. These figurines tend to be relatively small and crudely modeled.
Wheeled Figurines: Small wheeled figurine, consisting in a tubular hollow body with four tabular supports, each with a hole to accept wooden sticks acting as axles for the front and rear wheels. The wheels are flat ceramic disks. A tail was added to one end of the tubular body and a head to the other. Examples are known with deer heads with antlers, and dog heads with tongue extended over the lower lip.
Dating: Artifacts of the Early Postclassic Guazapa Phase of central and western El Salvador (at Cihuatán, Igualtepeque, El Cajete, Ulata, Santa María, Pueblo Viejo Las Marías, and other sites).
Appearance: Generally reddish brown to brick red, but may be as light as tan in color. The surface may be smoothed but not polished and has a sandy texture. Many give the impression of having been hastily made. Traces of white, black, blue, yellow, and/or red fugitive paint have been found on some figurines.
Size: Height of Mazapan-related figurines=6–10’’ (15–25 cm); height of toad effigies=6–9’’ (15–23 cm); height of Tlaloc bottles=4–10’’ (10–25 cm); height of very large effigy figurines or statues=24–55’’ (61–140 cm); height of small solid figurines=6–18’’ (15–30 cm); length of wheeled figurines=5.5–8.5’’ (14–22 cm).
Formal Names: Encompassed by the Guazapa Phase, the type site of which is Cihuatán (see Boggs 1944, 1963, 1973b, 1976; Bruhns 1980; Fowler 1981, 1990).
Example shown: Tlaloc ceramic effigy head, Pipil Culture, Early Postclassic period.
For import restrictions in force from 1987, see History of Import Restrictions below.