Terracotta pottery censer ”Zapotec”

650 €

Pre-Columbian era, Zapotec civilization, Valley of Oaxaca/Monte Albán IV, Mesoamerica, c. 600AD-1350AD, private collection from Finland.

The Zapotec (called also the "Cloud people") civilization was indigenous pre-Columbian civilization that flourished in the Valley of Oaxaca in Mesomerica c. 700BC to 1521AD. Their capital was first at Monte Albán and the at Mita. Built on a series of mountain plateau at an altitude of 400m, the city of Monte Albán was the residential, ritual and economic centre of the Zapotec civilization. The city particularly flourished in the late Preclassic period when its population was as high as 20,000 people.

Like most Mesoamerican religious systems, the Zapotec religion was polytheistic. Some of the most important gods were Beydo, god of seeds and wind, Cocijo, the rain and lightning god, Pitao Cozobi, corn god and Copijcha, the god of the sun and war. It is believed that the Zapotec used human sacrifice in some of their rituals.

Pre-Columbian art encompasses the artefacts created by the indigenous peoples from the second millennium BC to the time of arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492, when the existing culture were conquered by the Europeans.

Beyond the more familiar civilisations such as the Incas and the Maya, smaller ethnic groups were able to develop their own distinctive cultures and artistic style. Many of these civilizations had long faded by the time of the first permanent European colonies and are known only through archaeological investigations and oral history.

Many cultures at this time were producing ceremonial incensarios (censers), but Monte Albán's in particular were often so anthropomorphized that from the front they are difficult to tell from figural sculpture. This gorgeous censer depicts a deity with an elaborate headdress holding unknown object in hands. Figural censers have been excavated from Monte Albán's high status tombs, where they were most likely placed as offerings to the dead. Good condition. Age-related wear, fractures, soil and dust. Size approx. 21,0cm x 13,5cm x 14cm. Weight c. 911g.