The given assessment and analysis of the Central American piece of art is named “Warrior with Trophy Head.” The ancient societies of Mesoamerica, in conditions of isolation, created a special material, spiritual culture, and forms of social stratification that have no historical analogs. Not all of these features are inherent in every separately considered Mesoamerican society. While some practices, characteristics, and social processes have been found in societies outside of this region. Nevertheless, the main characteristics of a unified Mesoamerican culture are figurative art or sculpture, carved stone monuments and steles, brightly decorated ceramics, and a pantheon of deities such as rain, sun, war, and the gods of the underworld.
The shapes and abstract positions, such as the holes in the shoulders, offer a vast amount of potential research to properly interpret their meaning. Using both information sources and historical evaluation, this research aims to provide an in-depth look into the meaning and cultural value of the sculpture. The focus is placed on the minute details of the composition and the symbolic nature of the components of the work. Therefore, the selected piece of Mesoamerican sculpture is an illustration of the prevalence of militarism in the region.
Exploration of the Pacific coast of Mesoamerica is distinguished by an abundance of archaeological material of art. Based on this data, highly promising multidimensional and interdisciplinary conclusions can be drawn. One of the most vital details about the given piece of sculpture is its location in Costa Rica, and the helmet demonstrates that it is a soldier or warrior. Although the nation is well-known as mostly peaceful one in contrast with
neighboring regions, the historical context of Mesoamerica is critical in understanding the key intricacies of the sculpture. The anthropomorphic group of sculptures includes items made in the form of people while preserving their basic anatomical features. Figurines with subtle human features that can be identified as images of people. Within this group, four main features of the typology of statuettes can be distinguished, such as gender, age, social status, and sacredness.
The main purpose of this assessment is to consider the geographical and chronological aspects of the distribution of early sculptural complexes in Mesoamerica and Central America1. As some researchers point out, clay became a widely used material initially in unsettled, complex warrior societies at the turn of the late period2. All this took place in areas with a scarce resource base, especially in tropical and subtropical coastal zones, as part of the broader processes of intensification of the social component and food production. In addition, the monuments on the territory of the Pacific coast of Mesoamerica differ in scale and level from the monuments and settlements of the pre-classical era.
It is possible that the variant when the tradition of making this sculpture penetrated the territory of Mesoamerica through trade routes from South America. However, after a short period of time, unique forms and variants of ornamentation of vessels appeared. In the collections of such products of the phase, researchers distinguish mainly figures of oblong shapes with perforations in the shoulders3. In subsequent phases, quantitatively other forms of militarism prevail4. In this phase, figurative art becomes widespread, most often represented by figures, which are periodically found on vessels as decoration. In this form, taking into account small variations, the sculpture continued to exist not only within this region. It spread to neighboring territories, which once again proves the dynamic and independent development of the cultures of the Pacific coast of Mesoamerica.
Bray, Warwick. “Gold, Stone, and Ideology: Symbols of Power in the Tairona Tradition of Northern Colombia.” In Gold and Power in Ancient Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia, edited by Jeffrey Quilter and John Hoopes, 301-344. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks, 2003.
Carod-Artal, Francisco Javier. “Skull Cult. Trophy Heads and Tzantzas in Pre-Columbian America.” Revista de Neurologia 16, no. 55 (2012): 111-120.
Hoopes, John. “Sorcery and the Taking of Trophy Heads in Ancient Costa Rica.” In The Taking and Displaying of Human Body Parts as Trophies by Amerindians, edited by Richard Chacon and David Dye, 444-480. New York: Springer, 2007.
Schott, Amy. 2009. “A Comparison of Iconography from Northwestern Costa Rica and Central Mexico.” Minds Wisconsin Edu. Web.
Taube, Karl Andreas. Studies in Ancient Mesoamerican Art and Architecture: Selected Works by Karl Andreas Taube. San Francisco: Precolumbia Mesoweb Press, 2018.
Verano, John. “Trophy Head-Taking and Human Sacrifice in Andean South America.” In The Handbook of South American Archaeology, edited by Helaine Silverman and William Isbell, 1047-1060. New York: Springer, 2008.
- Warwick Bray, “Gold, Stone, and Ideology: Symbols of Power in the Tairona Tradition of Northern Colombia.” In Gold and Power in Ancient Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia, edited by Jeffrey Quilter and John Hoopes, 301-344 (Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks, 2003), 337.
- John Verano, “Trophy Head-Taking and Human Sacrifice in Andean South America.” In The Handbook of South American Archaeology, edited by Helaine Silverman and William Isbell, 1047-1060 (New York: Springer, 2008), 1053.
- Karl Andreas Taube, Studies in Ancient Mesoamerican Art and Architecture: Selected Works by Karl Andreas Taube, (San Francisco: Precolumbia Mesoweb Press, 2018), 45.
- Francisco Javier Carod-Artal, “Skull Cult. Trophy Heads and Tzantzas in Pre-Columbian America,” Revista de Neurologia 16, no. 55 (2012): 119.