The Vera Cruz culture is named for the modern Gulf Coast region of Mexico, where remains of this ancient civilization have been excavated. Monumental sculptures by Vera Cruz artists of the Classic period (about 600 B.C.–A.D. 900) are the largest ceramic figures known from pre-Columbian America. They are hollow and were designed with various openings to allow heated air to escape so that they would not explode as they were fired. It was also necessary to reinforce the sculptures structurally so that they would not collapse before the clay had hardened. Because no ancient Vera Cruz kilns have been found, it is thought that such sculptures were fired in open pits.
The Vera Cruz culture apparently had no written language, and little is known about the mythology of its Classic period. Although the identity of this figure is uncertain, it may have been part of an elaborate burial offering of sculptures of deities, deity impersonators, and human attendants depicting religious rituals. The figure wears a half-face mask over her mouth and a heavy necklace of shells or large seeds. Her impressive circular earflares indicate her elite status. She holds a curved sacrificial knife in her upraised right hand, and an incense bag in the shape of a skull hangs from her left hand. The serpents that appear on her belt and headdress may associate the figure with the cult of a particular goddess.
tags: symbolism, fashion
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Gordon Hanes