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Mirrors of Clay

Mirrors of Clay: Reflections of Ancient Andean Life in Ceramics from the Sam Olden Collection

Yumi Park
With an introduction by Sam Olden
Photography by Eric Huntington
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 96
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  • Book Info
    Mirrors of Clay
    Book Description:

    Mirrors of Clay: Reflections of Ancient Andean Life in Ceramics from the Sam Olden Collectionfeatures photographs and descriptions of sixty ceramic vessels from ancient Andean American cultures, including the Cupisnique, Chavín, Vicús, Nazca, Moche, Tiwanaku, Lambayeque, and Chimú, which flourished between 1200 BCE and 1550 CE. These distinctive ceramic vessels, selected from the collection of Sam Olden, were given to the Mississippi Museum of Art and are included in a special exhibition presented by the museum and Jackson State University. The pieces reveal each culture's stylistic aesthetics, religious ideologies, and political roles.

    The Pre-Columbian ceramic vessels presented in this catalogue are mainly from the Andean region of South America, which includes the modern countries of Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. By analyzing technologies, forms, and decorative designs, author Yumi Park reveals the unique aesthetics, social stratifications, religious ideologies, and political roles within each culture. Ancient Andean potters expressed their native individualities by depicting the forms of warriors, deities, architecture, flora, fauna, and daily life on their ceramic vessels.

    Collector Sam Olden lived in Peru during the 1960s. After visiting various archaeological sites and museums, including the Rafael Larco Herrera Museum in Peru, he became enamored with the ceramic vessels of the ancient Andes. Olden later settled in Yazoo City, Mississippi, and began to build an extensive collection of ancient Andean ceramics, eventually making a large donation to the Mississippi Museum of Art. Because of his passion for these artifacts, the people of Mississippi are now afforded a window on the ancient Andean world. The Sam Olden Collection gives us tangible and visible evidence of the social activities, political events, and ideological beliefs of ancient Andean cultures.

    eISBN: 978-1-62103-963-1
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-5)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. 6-6)
    Betsy Bradley and Beth Batton

    Wonder is evoked when we look at the pre-Columbian ceramic vessels that Sam Olden has generously donated and loaned to the Mississippi Museum of Art. This catalogue accompanies the exhibitionMirrors of Clay: Reflections of Ancient Andean Life in Ceramics from The Sam Olden Collectionat Jackson State University in the Fall of 2012, and it imparts Dr. Yumi Park’s valuable research on the ancient Andean cultures that created and used the vessels. Sam Olden lovingly collected these objects and skillfully cared for them until he made the generous gifts and loans to the Museum. His discerning eye and informed...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 7-7)
  5. [Illustration]
    (pp. 8-8)
  6. Introduction by Sam Olden
    (pp. 9-10)

    When in 1966 my employer, the then Mobil Oil Corporation (now ExxonMobil), transferred me after three years as general manager of its affiliate in Algeria, to become general manager of its two affiliates in Peru, I was not heading to an unfamiliar part of the world. In 1941, immediately after receiving my master’s degree at the University of Mississippi, I had joined the American Foreign Service and was soon sent to Ecuador, Peru’s northern neighbor. There I had served two years as a vice consul in our embassy in Quito.

    The two Andean countries have similar geographical, ecological, and climatic...

  7. Early Andean Cultures: Ceramic Traditions
    (pp. 11-13)

    The Andean region of western South America contains diverse and dramatic natural environments that deeply affected the ancient cultures and peoples who lived there. The southern Pacific Ocean brought nutritious seafood and prosperity to early Andean societies, while inland from the western coast, an arid desert challenged the local inhabitants. That challenge eventually led the Andean peoples to develop a remarkable skill in agricultural irrigation using rivers and underground water sources, which allowed the coastal peoples to flourish even in the desert. The magnificent Andean mountain ranges, themselves, are desolate and cold, but the Andean highlands provided the perfect temperature...

  8. Timeline of Early Andean Cultures
    (pp. 14-14)
    (pp. 15-18)

    The application of the term “Cupisnique” to a culture and an artistic style first came into use after Rafael Larco Hoyle, a well-known Peruvian researcher, excavated the Cupisnique ravine located between the Jequetepeque and Chicama valleys of northern Peru. He proposed that the Cupisnique name could be applied both to the unique style of ceramics found there and the people that created those artifacts. This Cupisnique culture flourished between approximately 1200 and 200 bce. Stirrup-spouted Cupisnique ceramic vessels are commonly found at burial sites along with human remains. The Cupisnique ceramic style is distinctive and characterized by four major features:...

  10. CHAVÍN CULTURE (900–200 BCE)
    (pp. 19-21)

    Chavín culture has been called the first great pan-Andean civilization of the ancient Americas. The name “Chavín,” which is applied both to an ancient culture and the particular artistic style of their artifacts, comes from the archaeological site of Chavín de Huántar, where objects in this style were first excavated by Julio Tello in 1919. In fact, the Chavín’s sophisticated artistic style was adopted and reused by many subsequent Andean cultures, supporting Tello’s argument that Chavín culture strongly influenced the entire Andean region from the coast to the tropical rain forest. The site of Chavín de Huántar is one of...

  11. VICÚS CULTURE (100 BCE–600 CE)
    (pp. 22-27)

    “Vicús” is the name for the distinctive pottery style mostly excavated from Piura located on the extreme northern coast of Peru. Although the Vicús culture or cultural sites are not well-known or well-researched, the Vicús ceramic style has been well-studied. Because the Vicús culture was located between the northern coast of Peru and the border with Ecuador, Vicús ceramics show an eclectic style influenced by local variants of the Chorrera culture (ca. 1800–300 bce), the Bahia culture (ca. 500 bce–500 ce) that developed in coastal Ecuador, and the Gallinazo culture (Virú, ca. 1–100 ce) that flourished in...

  12. NAZCA CULTURE (1 CE–700 CE)
    (pp. 28-44)

    The Nazca culture flourished approximately between 1 ce and 700 ce in the Ica and Nazca Valleys of southern coastal Peru. In arid and demanding environments, Nazca people relied heavily on agriculture and built a formidable irrigation system using rivers and underground water resources. Many of the Nazca’s defining artistic styles originated directly out of earlier Paracas works, which were created approximately between 700 bce and 1 ce. During the time that the Nazca thrived on the southern coast of Peru, the Moche culture developed a centralized government on the northern coast, but the Nazca did not have a unitary...

  13. MOCHE CULTURE (50–800 CE)
    (pp. 45-83)

    The Moche culture flourished between approximately 50 and 800 ce on the northern coast of Peru, preceded in the same region by the Cupisnique culture, which existed between approximately 1200 and 200 bce. The core of Moche culture grew in the Moche and Chicama river valleys, but its influence and style spread north as far as present-day Piura and south as far as the Huamey Valley. The Moche are well-known for masterful pottery and created a distinctive style that used sculptured decoration and themes varying from the naturalistic to the supernatural. Professional Moche craftsmen were capable of creating both sculptural...

  14. TIWANAKU CULTURE (400–800 CE)
    (pp. 84-86)

    The Tiwanaku culture was widespread in the southernmost section of the Andes and centered in the Lake Titicaca region. The heart of this culture was the ceremonial center known as Tiwanaku. Three important ritual ceremonial structures are located there: the Akapana, a large stepped pyramid mound, the Kalasasaya, a rectangular gathering plaza, and the Puma Punku, a ceremonial structure situated separately from the two previous main ritual centers. The most elaborate and intriguing deity image of this culture is carved on the Sun Gate of the Kalasasaya complex, holding a spear thrower in his right hand and a spear in...

  15. LAMBAYEQUE CULTURE (Sicán, 900–1100 ce)
    (pp. 87-89)

    The Lambayeque culture developed in the Lambayeque Valley between approximately 900 and 1100 ce, prior to the Chimú culture that conquered that region around the twelfth century. Two major city complexes served as powerful centers of the Lambayeque culture, Batán Grande located in La Leche Valley and Túcume situated on the hill of Purgatorio. The most common artistic motif of the Lambayeque culture is depiction of the heads of a mythical supreme ruler called the Sicán Lord. Portrayal of this figure was standardized, so that the head of a Sicán Lord is typically shown wearing a great mask with winged...

  16. CHIMÚ CULTURE (1100–1550 CE)
    (pp. 90-94)

    The Chimú culture was centered in the Moche River Valley and flourished between approximately 1100 and 1150 ce, before the Inca conquered northern Peru around the fifteenth century. The capital of this famous civilization was Chan Chan, an adobe-brick city dominating an area of more than twenty square kilometers. Remarkably, this city existed until quite recently, but most areas have now been destroyed because of the effects of El Niño. Fortunately, beautiful and extravagant Chimú adobe structures are still visible in the surviving central urban area of Chan Chan city, decorated with various mythical creatures and intricate geometric designs. Based...

  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 95-96)