|From the Nasca province (ancient Peru).|
Strange question, isn’t it? I mean, someone is either dead or alive. Right?
Not for the folks who lived in the ancient Americas. They believed there was an “in between” state–a spirit world where shamans traveled to obtain information that would help or heal their people in the living world.
Dr. Rebecca Stone, curator of the ancient American galleries at the Carlos Museum discussed the issue of “dead, alive or in between” in relation to Nascan pottery. In a docent training session, she pointed out a pot (similar to the one above) showcasing a series of disembodied heads meant to represent the staked heads of enemies. No question there–all dead!
I also loved Dr. Stone’s explanation of “anomalous bodies”–statuettes of shamans with some kind of physical challenge, such as being visually impaired, having a hunchback, having ravaged skin, or the like. Instead of being shunned, differently-abled people were revered for their spiritual strength. Their suffering or difficulties made them important and powerful shamans on the spiritual plane. Being “different” in these cultures was a positive, empowering thing.
I tend to focus my tours on the Egyptian and Greek/Roman galleries because they are my favorite periods in history; however, it’s always good to be reminded that just across the hall, entire worlds of wonder and awe await.
The Carlos Museum’s comprehensive collection of ancient American art (more than 2,000 pieces) will re-open to the public February 9th. Come on out y’all!