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Rare Sican Whistling Pottery Stirrup Jar w/ Sea Lion

Pre-Columbian, North Coast of Peru, Sican / Lambayeque culture, ca. 800 to 1000 CE. A fantastic mold-made whistling stirrup jar in excellent condition. The jar has two bowls, one with a cylindrical body, squared-off top, and narrow, conical spout; the other in the form of a sea lion with its head tilted upwards and its mouth open. The flippers are wonderfully detailed, as are the whiskers, eyes, and small nostrils and ears. When the spout is blown into, sound comes through the mouth. Between the two bowls is a curved strap handle and a round tube. Size: 6.75" L x 3.2" W x 5.5" H (17.1 cm x 8.1 cm x 14 cm)

The people of this culture and others in the area - notably the Moche - would have seen sea lions along the coast. They seem to have associated the animals in some way with human sacrifices, and we know from Moche art that they were ritually hunted. Excavations of the site of Huaca de la Luna uncovered a tomb with a clay effigy of a sea lion and a sea lion canine tooth resting on the body's sternum. Some researchers have suggested that they are associated with humans because of the animals' abilities to live both on land and in the sea, making them occupy a liminal space in the minds of people whose cosmology was ordered around the natural world. Whatever its meaning, this whimsical representation of the animal is a delight to behold.

Condition: Tiny chips from spout rim and mouth of animal, otherwise intact with bright pigment.

Provenance: private Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA collection

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