Skip to main content

Crocodile Effigy Vessel (work of art)

Artwork Info

Artist Details
Costa Rican (Guanacaste-Nicoya Zone)
circa 300-1100
H. 5 3/4 in.
(14.6 cm)


Like eagles and jaguars in different habitats, crocodiles are at the top of the food chain, ferocious predators without animal enemies. All three were considered sacred by ancient peoples in southern Central America because of their power. The American crocodile also inhabits south Florida. This effigy vessel, a symbolic representation of the animal, devotes most of its form to the head filled with frightening teeth. The head and tail are protected by bony plates that form an armored shield.

Ancient Americans’ understanding of their world was centered in the belief that certain animals and people could communicate with the spiritual world. Their rituals were performed by shamans, men or women believed to be able to transform themselves into one of the powerful animals. While in a trance, they sought answers to problems or needs such as sickness, social disagreement, hunting, and fertility. The ritual trances were brought about by chants, drumming, blood-letting, or drinking extracts from plants. Art objects sometimes show shamans transforming into crocodiles.

tags: symmetry, environment, function, ecosystem, ceremony


  • Costa Rican Artist Crocodile Effigy Vessel Ceramic

    Crocodile Effigy Vessel by Unknown Costa Rican Artist