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Art Saturday: Ceremonial Figures from Central America

Ceremonial figures

The use of statuary in the area now known as Costa Rica is speculative.   As the above figures demonstrate, there were established poses and these seem to indicate there are rituals involved that we now know only by the figures remaining behind.


Signs included for description in the Smithsonian Native American museum give information about the knowledge we’ve gained about the figures.   What actual celebration or commemoration was involved is not known.

From the trophy heads held, there can be speculation about what was occurring that seems to have involved human sacrifice, but no solid knowledge of factual incidents.  That some sort of battle was involved can be inferred from the spears and shields often included.

 Great variety of belief and practice existed among the ancient Meso-American peoples including various forms and levels of the afterlife, each with its own deity. The religious rituals and practices were governed by priests educated in genealogy and astronomy. These priests were often exquisitely adorned with jewels, feathers, and ornaments of many colors, and many had dual roles as diviners. These traditions had a variety of temples and pyramids used in worship and as tombs. Several of these ancient traditions included rituals of sacrifice to the gods, even human sacrifice. The use of idols (particularly in the form of animals) was common among the various forms of this religion.

As mentioned in earlier posts about the area ceramics, there were probably workshops producing art and household objects for communities.   We can only guess what ceremonies and rituals existed.

The above is labeled as a basalt male figure from the Costa Rica area, A.D. 1000 – 1500.

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Ruth Calvo

Ruth Calvo

I've blogged at The Seminal for about two years, was at cabdrollery for around three. I live in N.TX., worked for Sen.Yarborough of TX after graduation from Wellesley, went on to receive award in playwriting, served on MD Arts Council after award, then managed a few campaigns in MD and served as assistant to a member of the MD House for several years, have worked in legal offices and written for magazines, now am retired but addicted to politics, and join gladly in promoting liberals and liberal policies.