Pre-Columbian, Brazil, Marajoara culture, ca. 800 to 1400 CE. A huge ceramic funerary urn. This represents much of the neck of the vessel, with a two highly abstract, identical, anthropomorphic faces and upper bodies painted on opposing sides. This face seems to be that of a woman whose hands – painted on the sides – touch the sides of her pregnant belly. Her eyes are huge and round, her mouth smaller, with teeth visible like she is grimacing – perhaps preparing to give birth. Her nose and earrings are applied but the rest of her form is composed of incredible interlocking, swirling and labyrinthine geometric motifs, painted in red and black on the buff pale brown background. This creates an ornate surface and suggests ritual tattoos or scarification. Urns of this size are rarely if ever found in a complete and intact state. Size: 14.5″ W x 17.75″ H (36.8 cm x 45.1 cm)
The Marajoara – also known as the Marajo – flourished on Marajo Island, in the mouth of the Amazon River. They built impressive mounds and lived subsistence lifestyles while producing stylistically-unique, beautiful pottery like this. This was a large-scale civilization, contrary to what many European researchers believed of the Amazon before their discovery – the mounds ranged from 3 to 10 meters in height, and some sites cover more than 10 square kilometers and contain 20 to 30 individual mounds. Their figural pottery was mainly of females, representing roughly 70-90% of all known ceramic sculptures from the Marajoara and their neighbors the Santarem, which researchers believe indicates that chiefly descent came from a mythical female ancestor, while both male and female figures are shown as shamans. Urns were buried in the many large cemeteries known from the region.