Stone; H. 3 1/2 in. (8.9 cm)
Gift of Timothy, Peter, and Jonathan Zorach, 1980 (1980.83.13)
The Valdivia figurine tradition represents the earliest known example of this form of artistic expression in the Americas. Initially produced from stone, these tiny statuettes have been interpreted as fertility figures, shamanic spirits, and mythical ancestors, although their precise meaning remains uncertain. Typically female, early stone figurines varied in form from simple engraved tablets to carefully carved miniature sculptures, like the one pictured here. This tiny figurine stands but 3.5 inches tall, and was probably made from a form of calcium carbonate. Most likely female, the figure's face is formed by a series of incised lines surrounded by a halo of straight, long hair. Her arms are indicated just barely and the faint impression of breasts is apparent. Her legs are formed by two vertical lines that flare slightly at the waist and feet. Although ceramic figurines eventually came to replace stone figures in Valdivian culture, many of the traits were based on their stone predecessors.