Hollow incised figure holding flute

500–300 BCE
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General Description

Tembladera was an ancient burial site in the Jequetepeque Valley on Peru's north coast. Several dozen hollow figurines of ovoid shape have been recovered there, which likely functioned as funerary offerings. Uniquely costumed and decorated with abstract features, each figurine imparts a sense of concealed identity. Although elaborate costumes and mask-like visages cloak individual personalities, the figurines reveal ancient north coast ritual attire and practices.

In this ceramic image of a flute player, the upright musician holds a double flute in front of him. The figure wears a simple loincloth, a necklace or collar of long beads or fibers, and a very elaborate bird headdress with wings encircling the figure’s head and a tail flowing down the back. Incised lines around the eyes indicate the musician's maturity. Raised decorative bands define his headdress and costume, as well as facial decorations that may represent a mask or face paint. Face painting, which may have been a standard feature of musicians’ costumes, is portrayed here with incised and painted designs. Music has long accompanied Andean ceremonies and the flute, often used as the voice of birds and spirits, continues to be used today in Andean folk music.

Adapted from

  • Label text, A. H. Meadows Galleries.

  • Anne R. Bromberg, Dallas Museum of Art: Selected Works (Dallas, TX: Dallas Museum of Art, 1983), 32.

  • DMA unpublished material.

Fun Facts

  • Three similar figurines from the Museum of the American Indian were collected in the Jequetepeque Valley in the 1920's, and others were found in the Zana and Chancay Valleys.

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