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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 1995.

Section 1d of Designated List in force since 1995.

Payu Figurine Flutes and Whistles
Most Payu ceramic figurines known are musical instruments that have been classified as whistles, whistle flutes, and flutes (commonly called ‘‘ocarinas’’). Although their decoration varies considerably, important hallmarks (when present) are the decorative use of parallel strips of clay (sometimes with longitudinal grooves), and applique of clay pellets with a distinctive dimple in their center. Molds were sometimes employed to render the faces of humans and monkeys. Human faces may include details commonly associated with Classic Maya conventions, including cheek decorations (from tatoos or scarification), extension of the bridge of the nose to above eye level, and/or a steeply inclined forehead (representing cranial deformation).
Globular Flutes (‘‘ocarinas’’): Payu figurine globular flutes have a very distinctive construction. Three spheres of clay were joined together in a column or in an ‘‘L’’ shape (and pierced at the junctures). The uppermost sphere was equipped with a blow-hole. Clay was then packed around this assembly and decorative elements added. All the ‘‘L’’ shaped flutes known were decorated to represent a standing quadruped animal whose open mouth forms the blow-hole. The other (straight) flutes were almost always modeled to represent a human (either full-body or just the head portion).
Tubular Whistle Flutes: Basically a tubular form with a whistle mechanism (blow-hole) in one end and three to five finger holes along the body of the tube. The appliqued head and arms or a monkey or human are always present next to the blow-hole.
Whistle Flutes: A small, spherical body with a whistle mechanism and one or two finger holes is hidden to a lesser or greater degree under effigy decoration. This decoration tends to be notably more carefully executed and detailed than Lepa or Cotzumalhuapa examples. Examples include effigies of: humans (full-body or heads), monkeys, dogs, birds, and reptiles. Smaller whistle flutes may be perforated for suspension.
Dating: An artifact class belonging to the assemblage associated with the Payu Ceramic Complex (Late Classic Period). Appearance: Most Payu figurines are of medium textured clay with a moderately smoothed surface (and almost always unslipped). Color is usually reddish brown but may range from tan to brick red. Traces of paint are rare and may include blue-green, white, yellow, red, or black. Painted decoration, when present, was usually added after firing and tends to easily wear away.
Size: Globular flutes=3–8’’ (8–21 cm); tubular whistle flutes=6–8’’ (15–21 cm); whistle flutes=2–8’’ (5–20 cm).
Formal Names: None. Many examples are illustrated in Boggs 1974 (noted as Late Classic, from western and part of central El Salvador).

Example shown: Maya ceramic skull flute, 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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