Stirrup-spout vessel: two incised heads

1000–700 BCE
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General Description

The spherical body of this vessel shows a contrast of smooth and textured surfaces, and a fine polish accentuates the steely gray-brown color. Various characteristics relate it stylistically to other ceramics from the Jequetepeque Valley: the fine gray polish; treatment of the slim, slightly flaring stirrup-spout; horizontal division; the use of incising; and the extremely stylized animal heads. The decoration is divided into quadrants. Two opposing quadrants are plain, and the intervening ones each have differently incised textures. One is a field of parallel lines running diagonally, and the more elaborately incised quadrant has a diagonal checkerboard pattern filled with a textile or basketry weave, a decoration that is rare in vessels of this type. Where the quadrants touch, incised motifs seem to overlap the textured fields. The two motifs nearest the arms of the stirrup-spout are thick, pointed bracket shapes with inward-curling ends. Alternating with those are extremely stylized, but distinct, profile heads that may represent felines. Both are connected by means of their extended tongues.

Adapted from

  • Label text, A. H. Meadows Galleries.

  • DMA unpublished material.

Fun Facts

  • In his 1976 report, Junius B. Bird, curator emeritus of South American archaeology at the American Museum of Natural History, notes: "****R18. Spherical body with incised feline? heads. One quadrant has textile or matting treatment resembling the incised decoration on the small soapstone "spirit seats" used in recent years in Aymara divination. Opposing quadrant has incised parallel lines. Spout may have been resurfaced."

  • Correspondence from Elizabeth Benson (1977) indicates that she believes the heads may represent trophy heads.