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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 1b of Designated List in force since 1995.

Lepa Figurines
Most are solid ceramic figurines representing standing humans, while others are animal effigies that function as whistles, whistle flutes, or wheeled figurines incorporating whistle flutes. Human figurines: These figurines have a generally flattened appearance and heads are usually crowned by a broad and narrow headband (or hairdo) resembling a long bar. Eyes are shown by a single punctuation (to represent the pupil) between two ridges defining the eye itself. Feet are usually split in a ‘‘Y’’ shape to help support the figurine. The figurines may be adorned with necklaces shown by a series of clay pellets. Rarely is enough detail included to determine which sex is intended (in such cases women are usually represented).
Pelleted Tubular Whistle Flutes: Tubes with a whistle mechanism (blowhole) at one end and a rolling pellet within, that produces a continuously varying tone when blown and tilted up and down. Simple bird or monkey heads may be added to the instrument’s body.
Wheeled Figurines: Human or animal effigies with four tabular legs, each with a perforation to accept wooden sticks as axles for the front and rear wheels (the wheels themselves were ceramic discs rarely found together with these artifacts). Decoration is mostly through applique using relatively thick strips and pellets of clay.
Animal Effigy Whistle flutes: Made from a small sphere of clay with very simple (schematic) applique to represent humans, birds, turtles, armadillos, opossums, and other animals. In addition to the whistle mechanism, these have one or two finger holes in their bodies that vary their tone when covered. The most elaborate examples may have punctate and ridge eyes like those found in the Lepa human figurines. May be perforated for suspension.
Dating: Late Classic Lepa Phase of central and eastern El Salvador, represented in Quelepa, Tehuacán, and other sites.
Appearance: Usually reddish brown to brick red, with a rough or only moderately smoothed surface. Some have a polished white slip that, when well preserved, may have elaborate designs painted in black, red, and/or yellow. Pelleted tubular whistle flutes have been noted with fugitive (postfiring) white and/or blue paint.
Size: Most human figurines range in height between 5’’ (12 cm) to 10’’ (25 cm). Unusually large examples are known to reach 15’’ (38 cm) in height, and these tend to bear painted designs more often than the normal sized figurines. The pelleted tubular whistle flutes known are 7’’ (18 cm) or slightly shorter in length. The wheeled figurines known range from about 3.5’’ (9 cm) to 5’’ (13 cm) in length. The animal effigy whistle flutes measure about 2–3’’ (5–8 cm) in maximum length.
Important Variants: Larger figurines may be hollow rather than solid, and may either contain pellets to act as a rattle, or may be equipped with holes for use as a flute (‘‘ocarina’’).
Formal Names: The human figurines have been classed as Lower Lempa Culture figurines (Haberland 1961) and as Quelepa Figurine Type 3 (Andrews 1976). The wheeled figurines have been termed Oriental Type (Boggs 1973b). The animal effigy whistle flutes have been referred to as Lepa Phase whistles (Andrews 1976; see also Boggs 1974).

Example shown: Maya Standing female figurine, Maya-Lenca, 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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