Ceramic; H. 25 in. (63.5 cm)
Gift of Gertrud A. Mellon, 1982 (1982.231)
The largest and most expressive ceramic sculptures from ancient South America come from the Pacific coast of Colombia-Ecuador, where their style is named Tumaco and La Tolita respectively. This hunched figure with a wrinkled face is a particularly striking example of a known type. The lines of schematized wrinkles emphasize the shape of the chin, prominent cheekbones, and baggy eyes. The head, wearing a tight-fitting cap or closely cropped hair, displays the long, sloping forehead and bulbous back indicative of the cranial deformation practiced during ancient times that was considered a sign of distinction. The figure wears multistrand bracelets and a necklace representing ornaments made of valued materials such as semi-precious stones, shell, and for the very wealthy even gold. Holes in the septum of the nose and along the rims of the ears originally held ornaments as well. They must have created a pleasing contrast to the pale color and unpolished surface of the sculpture. The figure's use in ancient times is unclear. Since much of it is lost, the reconstruction of the lower part is tentative.