Not Aztec, not Mayan, Zapotec sculpture from Oaxaca.Looking Carefully
Standing Figure with Urn is rather striking in its gray earthenware earthenware, form of pottery fired at relatively low temperatures, so that the clay does not vitrify (become glassy), as do stoneware and porcelain clays. Occasionally, earthenware is used as a general term for all kinds of pottery. with red pigment and traces of yellowish-white paint. This piece combines the sculptural quality of the figure with the functionality of the urn which is the back extension of the figure's body. The urn has become secondary to the figure, yet the designer melded one part into another. The facial features Facial Features
See also anatomy; beards; body, human; eyes.
the condition of having an upper jaw that protrudes beyond the plane of the face. — gnathic, adj. have been sculpted sculpt
v. sculpt·ed, sculpt·ing, sculpts
1. To sculpture (an object).
2. To shape, mold, or fashion especially with artistry or precision: with great care. The soft eyebrow ridges curve into the strong nose, and the pupils of the eyes are holes beneath well-defined eyelids eyelids,
n.pl a moveable fold of thin skin over the eye. The orbicularis oculi muscle and the oculomotor nerve control the opening and closing of the eyelid. . The upper eyelids protrude pro·trude
1. To push or thrust outward.
2. To jut out; project. , creating shadows that bring the eyes to life. The lips stand out softly from the face. The red trails or "tear bands" which cross the eyes usually symbolize the deity Xipe, the flayed god. Altogether, the facial features create a striking, realistic profile.
Moving away from the face, our eyes are drawn to the asymmetrical, deer-shaped headdress headdress, head covering or decoration, protective or ceremonial, which has been an important part of costume since ancient times. Its style is governed in general by climate, available materials, religion or superstition, and the dictates of fashion. . The deer faces to the left, and the right panels of the headdress near the ear of the deer are carved in low-relief. Similar panels may be missing from the other side of the figure's head. Near the shoulders are elaborately carved, orbs with designs that look like complicated woven knots. A tusk-like shape with a simple unadorned round object protrudes from one ear; it's possible one also protruded from the other ear. The remaining arm is simple. The ornament that adorns it has a spiral design drawn into the clay, perhaps representing a shell. The hand looks almost like a slab with slightly rounded fingers and tiny fingernails. The skirt has a plaid-like design created by rough cross-hatched lines in the clay. The pattern of small orbs on the skirt repeat the decoration on the headdress. The feet seem simple and unimportant compared to other aspects of the sculpture. Notice how the entire figure stands to one side of the square base.
The slab shield has the characteristics of a "C glyph A displayed or printed image. In typography, a glyph may be a single letter, an accent mark or a ligature. See grapheme.
(character) glyph - An image used in the visual representation of characters; roughly speaking, how a character looks. A font is a set of glyphs. " design. This glyph, or nonverbal symbol, is typical of Zapotec art created before 900 AD. Although there are many variations, most incorporate what appears to be a cross section of a vessel with a horizontal water line. Notice the U-shaped center section of this glyph and the wavy horizontal line (Descriptive Geometry & Drawing) a constructive line, either drawn or imagined, which passes through the point of sight, and is the chief line in the projection upon which all verticals are fixed, and upon which all vanishing points are found.
See also: Horizontal drawn in the clay. At the bottom of the shape is another horizontal line which curves under at each end. This represents the alliator, the sign for the first day on the Meso-American calendar; it is sometimes spoken of as Mother Earth or Sky Monster. To understand the origin of this symbol, imagine an alligator alligator, large aquatic reptile of the genus Alligator, in the same order as the crocodile. There are two species—a large type found in the S United States and a small type found in E China. Alligators differ from crocodiles in several ways. with only the eyes above water level. The horizontal line with the curved ends represents the two eyes peaking above the water line.
The seated figure (above) was created several hundred years before the standing figure, and has a less realistic quality. This urn is a tall cylinder with human features attached, unlike the standing figure in which urn and figure merge, The top of the cylinder is hidden by the headdress. The mask-like face mask-like face Mask A hypomimic, expressionless physiognomy or complete lack of facial affect, a finding characteristic of Parkinson's disease, which may be seen in depression, facioscapulohumeral-type muscular dystrophy, infantile botulism, Möbius' syndrome, shows the forked tongue A forked tongue is a tongue split into two distinct ends at the tip. This is a feature common to many species of reptiles. Reptiles smell using the tip of their tongue, and a forked tongue allows them to tell which direction a smell is coming from. characteristic of Cocijo, the rain god. The clay is yellow without any indication of painted decoration, and appears to have a rough texture. The mineral content of clay varies around the Oaxaca Valley, which could account for such differences. The seated urn is a male figure indicated by the hands-on-knees pose. The sophisticated, three-dimensional quality of the standing figure camouflages the fact that the slabs are simple flat surfaces. The slabs of the seated figure are clearly flat. Both urns were used to hold ashes or bone fragments.
The seated urn has a C glyph headdress identifying it as Zapotec. The central enclosed area has a wavy horizontal line as if it contained water. The top of the headdress looks like water coming from the top of the vessel. Just above the shape over the nose is the horizontal line with the curved ends which comprise the alligator motif.
The Zapotec lived primarily in the area of Mexico known as the Oaxaca Valley. Their culture was at its height from 500 BC to 1000 AD.
* The major archeological site of this group is Monte Alban Mon·te Al·bán
A ruined Zapotec city of southern Mexico near Oaxaca. Excavations (begun in 1931) have revealed that an advanced culture flourished here c. 200 b.c. . Objects found at this site helped establish the stylistic dating system A dating system is any systemic means of improving matchmaking via rules or technology. It is a specialized meeting system where the objective of the meeting, be it live or phone or chat based, is to go on a live date with someone, with usually romantic implications. used for objects created by the Zapotec.
* The C glyph, or nonverbal symbol, often seen in Zapotec work before 900 AD, varies from work to work, but often includes an alligator symbol and representation of a full vessel.
* The Zapotec created urns for ritual purposes. These ceramic objects were created using tools made of natural objects such as bamboo and gourds.
In discussing Mexican art objects, we hear most about the Mayans or Aztecs, but wonderful contributions in art come from the Olmec, Mixtec, Toltec and Zapotec to name a few. The Zapotec of the Oaxaca Valley (pronounced wah-ha'-ca) were strong as a cultural group from 500 BC to 1000 AD. This time period corresponds with the great days at Teotihuacan near Mexico City Mexico City
Spanish Ciudad de México
City (pop., 2000: city, 8,605,239; 2003 metro. area est., 18,660,000), capital of Mexico. Located at an elevation of 7,350 ft (2,240 m), it is officially coterminous with the Federal District, which occupies 571 sq mi and the classic period of the Maya. Evidence that the Zapotec traded with other groups can be found in objects of one culture found at the site of another.
The archaeological ruin of Monte Alban, discovered and excavated in 1931-32 by Alphonso Caso, has come to serve as our main source of information on this culture. The ruin was covered by vegetation and hidden from the Spanish, so much of the site was intact when Caso arrived. The objects of Monte Alban provided information to establish a stylistic dating system for all Zapotec objects. The periods of the system are titled Monte Alban I, II, Transition, IIIa, IIIb and IV. Each period represents an expanse of time and can be characterized by different techniques and aesthetics. A stylistic dating system offers a reliable alternative to such methods as Carbon 14, which requires that a small piece of the object be destroyed. The seated figure has been dated stylistically to the Transition Period. The dramatic vigor of Monte Alban II can still be seen in the mystery of the masked face. The standing figure has been dated to the Monte Alban IlIa period when work became flowery flow·er·y
adj. flow·er·i·er, flow·er·i·est
1. Of, relating to, or suggestive of flowers: a flowery perfume.
2. Abounding in or covered with flowers.
3. and elaborate. Urns of this time were carved right after drying and just before firing to produce clear-cut planes.
The Zapotec, like other cultural groups of their time, used natural tools to work the clay. Dried gourds were used to hold water to keep clay moist as it was worked. The gourds were also used as a mold. By cutting a triangular shape from a gourd gourd (gôrd, grd), common name for some members of the Cucurbitaceae, a family of plants whose range includes all tropical and subtropical areas and extends into the temperate zones. , a scraper See scraping. was created. This convex scraper was used to smooth the clay. Bamboo-like cane made strong tools. The ends could be angle-cut and rounded or squared off while green and workable. Once the tools dried, they were very tough.
The clay of the area has a high refractory quality due to feldspar feldspar (fĕl`spär, fĕld`–) or felspar (fĕl`spär), an abundant group of rock-forming minerals which constitute 60% of the earth's crust. and volcanic ash See under Ashes.
See also: Ash , which means it can endure high temperatures. Different types of clay can be located in different parts of the valley. Often the color of clay was affected by the method of firing (reduction or oxidation). Fuel was limited in the cactus covered Oaxaca Valley, although oak, pine and even cane were used.
The following activities may be adapted for both elementary and secondary students.
* Create a ceramic sculpture which is both an urn and a human figure. To show your influence from the Zapotec, incorporate your own version of a C glyph somewhere in the piece.
* Read the 1932 article in National Geographic in which Alphonso Caso described Monte Alban. Faced with the fact that almost nothing had been known about the Zapotec before this point, Caso pieces together legend and fact. Today, Caso's work is revered in the study of this cultural group. Discuss how the article is written to include questions as possible solutions. Have students read Caso's account of opening the treasure Tomb 7. Discuss what might have happened if this tomb had been discovered at another time--1540, 1980 or 2050.
* Locate the Oaxaca Valley on a map of Mexico. Gather information on what life is like there today. What are the natural resources in this area? The arts are still important locally. Have students consider how the arts today have been influenced by the Zapotec culture.
* Using clay, sculpt sculpt
v. sculpt·ed, sculpt·ing, sculpts
1. To sculpture (an object).
2. To shape, mold, or fashion especially with artistry or precision: a face to match closely that of the standing figure. Add a unique headdress experimenting with coils, slabs and decorating techniques.
* Gather green bamboo or sticks in pencil lengths. Using sandpaper sandpaper, abrasive originally made by gluing grains of sand to heavy paper sheets. Today sandpaper is made primarily with quartz, aluminum oxide, or silicon carbide grains, and is graded according to the size of the grains. to shape the ends, create a variety of tools to use on clay. Cut triangular pieces from gourds, or even plastic bowls, to create scrapers. Use only these handmade tools to create works in clay.
* Create a bulletin-board display of a time line that shows when and where different cultural groups of Mexico existed. Include drawings or copies of artwork or architectural structures from each group. Students may find it interesting to know how late the Aztecs were in the development of Mexico.
* The Zapotec, like the Mayans, played an important ball game. The I-shaped ball court is evident at Monte Alban as well as other archaeological sites. In the Zapotec version of the game, the players tried to get a hard rubber ball into a niche at the end of the ball court to score. Read about the pre-Columbian ball game and recreate a Zapotec version.
* Recreate your own version of the C-glyph design. Be sure to include the central vessel cross section with the water line and the horizontal alligator line.
Slides of Standing Figure with Urn as well as other work is available for a small fee from the Resource Center at The Saint Louis Art Museum The Saint Louis Art Museum is rated as one of the principal art museums in the United States and is visited by up to a half million people every year. Admission is free.
Located in Forest Park in St. , Forest Park, St. Louis, MO 63110-1380; (314) 721-0067, ext. 266. Caso, Alphonso. "Monte Alban, Richest
Archeological Find in America."
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Mexican Ruins. Norman, OK:
University of Oklahoma Press The University of Oklahoma Press is the publishing arm of the University of Oklahoma. It has been in operation for over seventy-five years, and was the first university press established in the American Southwest. , 1977. McIntosh, Jane. The Practical Archaeologist:
How We Know What We Know
About the Past. New York: Facts on
File, Inc., 1988. Paddock, John. Ancient Oaxaca: Discoveries
in Mexican Archeology and
History. Stanford, CA: Stanford
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