Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Andean Flutists

Andean Aymara flutists.
Flutist in Cuenca, Ecuador.
CUENCA, ECUADOR - MAY 27: Andean Indian plays traditional instrument on May 27, 2011 in Cuenca, Ecuador. Indigenous descendants are found in the towns of the Andes mountain range in South America.
This Andean pan pipe flutist is wearing a North American Plains Indian inspired costume.
Quechuan flutist.
Traditional Andean flutists.

Salasaca Indians of Ecuador

Salasaca tapestry.
Fiesta de la Novia.
Salasacan men outside the church after Sunday mass.
Male dancers at the festival of Corpus Christi.
Ecuador, Tungurahua province, Salasaca, portrait of a Salasaca Indian woman.
Salasacan Fiesta de Corpus Christi - Ecuador.

Araucanian Mapuche Indians of Chile

Povo Mapuche.
Mapuche female dancer`s costume.
Traditional Mapuche silver ornaments.

Indians of Ecuador - Andes and Amazon

Achuar boys in Ecuador
"A Sarayaku Indian girl shades herself with a large leaf as she watches a celebration in the village of Sarayaku, Ecuador, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012. The Sarayaku people are gathering to celebrate a ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in their favor, winning a 2003 lawsuit against oil activity on their ancestral Amazon lands. The court ruled that Ecuador's state violated the Sarayaku's property rights for not consulting them before signing an oil contract with the Argentine oil company Compania General de Combustibles (CGC) in 1996. The state must pay the Sarayaku $1.4 million dollars for property damage on communal land caused by oil exploration and for court costs. The company withdrew from Ecuador in 2011 after violent protests by the Sarayaku."
Guarani girl - Amazon.
Andes Otavalo Indian dressed as the Inca king at the Fiesta de San Luis Obispo - Ecuador.
Otavalo Indian woman - northern Ecuador.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Chocolate Warrior

This imposing Mayan warrior figurine was discovered on the funerary island of Jaina in Campeche, Mexico off of the northeastern coast of the Yucatan peninsula. He is being used to illustrate an article about prehistoric war, but is he ready for battle or for a ballgame with the powers of the Underworld? This statuette is painted with the famous “Maya blue” which colors the headdress, ear spools, padding, and two fringed shields. The tunic is scaled like the overlaying scales of a fish and the figure wears a broad collar. Ballplayers were warriors and the opposing team was made up of prisoners of war. The player holds no weapon, but he lifts two protective decorated shields. A Mayan ballplayer can often be identified by the masked knee pad he wears in order to kneel down to hit the large ball, which was made of latex tree sap, with his hip. The target of the goal was the carved stone hoop set high up on the wall of the ballcourt, the hoop was decorated with carvings of the feathered serpent. This player does not seem to be wearing a knee pad but instead he displays two thick padded blocking devices – does this indicate that there was another, more defensive, position to be manned in the ballgame? The ballcourt itself was set low into the ground in order to be closer to the Underworld and the game reflected the story of the Hero Twins who played against the gods of the Underworld in exchange for their lives. This story is from their book of creation ”The Popul Vuh”, much of Mayan art relates back to the tales in this important and ancient source. The most interesting element of the warrior`s costume consists of the pods attached to his shirt. Are these perhaps water-lily buds that represent the underwater realm? These pods actually portray the sacred food of the gods, they are the pods of the cacao plant whose seeds within are the source of chocolate. The Maya were very attached to their whipped chocolate drink, the kings drank it constantly. The seeds of the plants were so valuable that they were used for money. The losers of the ballgame were sent to Xibalba - the Underworld. This figurine portrays the occupant of a tomb on Jaina (pronounced “high-nah” with the accent on the last syllable). He was a member of the ruling class and he played the sacred ballgame dressed as the god of chocolate in order to honor the god of chocolate. (Click on image to enlarge).

The Dancing King of Dos Pilas Part I

Dos Pilas is a late classic Mayan city located at the headwaters of the Usumacinta River in Guatemala on the border with Mexico. It is upriver from the major city of Yaxchilan on this main highland waterway that runs into the Gulf of Mexico to the east. What we know of Dos Pilas has been discovered in the ruin of its destruction. At the end, its last defense was a barrier constructed of the stone blocks from its decorative roofcombs. The stela carving of the dancing king has obviously been broken and not by an earthquake given the destruction of war all around it. It is apparent from the break that this monument was carved from a comparitively thin slab of rock. Much gratitude is due the team of archaeologists who took the time to reassemble this unique carving. The chieftans of the Maya participated in the ballgame that symbolized the co-existence of the Underworld and its dieties with the terrestrial plane. They played the game for high stakes as did the participants in their book of creation "The Popul Vuh". The ballcourts were dug low to represent the lower world. If the hosting team were victorious, the king would perform a victory dance much like the football players of today dance when they`ve made a touchdown. The profile portrait of the dancing king of dos Pilas portrays just such an event. The action on this stela has been captured by a talented an innovative artist. It stands in sharp contrast to the stiff poses and static archaic style of the majority of other Mayan monuments even those other monuments of Dos Pilas itself. The motion in this piece indicates that it is from the late stage of the civilization. The headdress of the king is made of the feathers of the Harpy eagle with its distinctive large eyes, raised comb of feathers, and screaming eagle pose. Most Mayan royalty wore green quetzal plumes, but this ruler is adorned with the black and white striped wing feathers of the Harpy. The Aztecs painted the Harpy as a black and white striped eagle in their codices.
The carving with line drawing overlay.

The Dancing King of Dos Pilas in Color

The Dancing King of Dos Pilas in Color - The king wears a headress made of the striped feathers of the Harpy eagle which swoops down to capture monkeys right out of the trees of the towering jungle forest. On his chest, he wears a winged pectoral. He has a necklace made of blue jade as well as a face carved of precious green jade below his chest pectoral. The colors of green and yellow used here represent the corn god in whose honor many of the sacrifices were conducted. It is apparent that this warrior king is a ballplayer from the fringed masked knee pad that he wears on his right knee. The ballplayers knelt down on one knee in order to hit the large rubber ball with their hip to send it through a stone hoop set high on the ballcourt wall. Unfortunately, the losers of the ballgame were dispatched to the Underworld as offerings to the gods of Xibalba. The padded costumes of the warriors on the court were incredibly ornate and individualistic, there was no team uniform. They wore full headresses adorned with gold, plumes, and gems as they portrayed the gods of the "Popul Vuh" their book of creation. Judging from the profile of the king, he was from a different tribe than those depicted in the art of the other Mayan cities in the Peten such as Palenque. The rulers of Palenque bound their heads and had long deformed skulls as well as pronounced Roman noses. In the later stage of the civilization in this area, the Maya had merged with the tribal types from the Yucatan - the Toltec Maya, and the inhabitants of the great city of Teotihuacan. Our dancing king`s profile more closely resembles that of the bearded Toltec race that had joined with the civilization of the Usumacinta River basin and highlands. These overgrown jungle cities lay buried and unknown until the 19th century when they were discovered by the workers of the rubber tree sap harvesting industry. Archaeologists found one of the tall carved monuments overturned and reburied upside-down, it had remained in that position undisturbed for hundreds of years. These cities were destroyed at the same time. Fortification walls had been erected between the hills to keep out the invaders, but they were overrun from the south. Perhaps the El Nino storms had devasted the war-like tribes in South America who then came north to invade Mesoamerica. The motion shown in the carving of the smashed and reconstructed stela of the dancing king of Dos Pilas shows that it was carved in the late phase of the city. Much is made of the Mayan prophecies concerning 2012 and the Apocalypse, but we can see from the destruction suffered by this artifact that the apocalypse hit the city of Dos Pilas centuries ago. (Click on color image to enlarge).