Sculpture and Figurines
Ceramic | Terracotta | Fired Clay
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.
Female Figurines: The figurines representing women have been referred to as ‘‘bell-form’’ due to the shape of their conical hollow bases. They usually portray elaborately dressed women, adorned with necklaces, earplugs, and large headgear of variable shape (but often resembling a half moon). The uniformity in portrayal suggests that we are dealing with a personage, and it is not too speculative to suggest that she was an important Cotzumalhuapa goddess. Rare figurines exist where the female’s body is covered by cacao pods, indicating a relationship to agricultural production and, in these latter example, with the intensive production of cacao that has been documented as an important Cotzumalhuapa economic focus. Whistle mechanisms, when present, are usually worked into one shoulder (the larger female figurines tend not to possess whistle mechanisms).
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.
Important Variants: Cotzumalhuapa use of clay was very creative and the observer should expect figurine forms not mentioned here.
Example shown: Maya ceramic seated female figurine, Late Classic period.
For import restrictions in force from 1987, see History of Import Restrictions below.