Two Fighting Shaman, 100 BCE–100
burnished terracotta with applied slip, added ear ornaments (lost)
Museum Purchase, Florence C. Quinby Fund, in memory of Henry Cole Quinby, Honorary Degree, 1916
Originally, this hollow, hand-molded, and pit-fired ceramic object held food, perhaps chicha (corn beer), and was placed within a shaft grave that contained multiple burials. The theme of “horned” combatants has been interpreted as a conflict between powerful spirit-guides, the good—with serrated back-rack—overcoming the malevolent. As with many objects from ancient Mexico, little is known about the re-discovery of this work. Some ceramics were plowed up by farmers, some looted, and very few were excavated by archaeologists. During the early twentieth century, when the hollow vessels were still used for casual target practice, they rose to become cultural icons, seen as representative of the daily life of common people, in contrast to the art mode for privileged elites.This piece came to Bowdoin before the laws prohibiting export of Mexican antiquities took effect.