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Lot 396, Auction 2/25/2019: Pre-Columbian Sihuas Wood Poporo, ex-Butterfields

Pre-Columbian, Peru, Sihuas Valley Culture, ca. 400 to 700 CE. A hand-carved wooden poporo in the form of a human with a monkey on his or her back. The figure holds what appears to be two potatoes or some other tuber in his or her hand; the arms are carved as part of the body, as are the tubers. The monkey has a leering face with a massive grin and a long, thin tail carved to curl up its back. The figure has wide eyes and wears a hat that is removable, forming the lid of the vessel. Size: 1.5" W x 2" H (3.8 cm x 5.1 cm).

A poporo is a container for lime used in the ingestion of coca leaves. From the earliest times, people in the Andes had a tradition of using coca leaves for ritual purposes. They were ingested by placing some of the leaves in the mouth and adding a small quantity of powdered lime, ground from seashells. The poporo was often elaborately conceived, with figural form. Monkey iconography in the Andes was associated with coca and snuff rituals. Some researchers have suggested that, because monkeys and some forms of the drug came from the Amazon Basin, they were culturally associated. For example, there are many depictions on pottery vessels of monkeys holding some kind of drug paraphernalia - holding a coca bag or a poporo.

Condition: Patina from touch and age on the surface; nice pigment remaining. Slight wear on the surface.

Provenance: private, Hawaii, USA collection; ex-Butterfields (Bonhams)

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