By Olga Linares
Olga Linares deals a reinterpretation of the vintage rank-societies of the important Panamanian provinces in line with archaeological, ecological, iconographic, ethnohistoric, and ethnographic proof, and concludes that the artwork type of this region used animal motifs as a metaphor in expressing the characteristics of aggression and hostility attribute of social and political lifestyles within the significant provinces.
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Extra info for Ecology and the arts in ancient Panama: On the development of social rank and symbolism in the central provinces (Studies in pre-Colombian art and archaeology)
His comments on this subject are pertinent here, because whatever may have been the symbolic or social value of Panamanian art, one thing seems obvious— the polychrome designs on their vessels were done in a highly sophisticated style chosen by potters for aesthetic reasons of their own. A strong “formal element” characterized their work in the patterning of their painted designs as well as in the motifs that they chose. In order to realize their aesthetic ideals, these artists corrected their mistakes, varied designs so that no two would be identical, duplicated the same vessel when it was pleasing to their eyes, and “distorted nature” to gain certain effects.
Left) Old photograph of the 1926 excavations of A. Hyatt Verrill. (center and right) Stone figures found at the site. Photos courtesy of the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation, New York. placed in the middle (Fig. 16b). Originally seated on a wooden stool, long since decayed and disintegrated, he had some sort of makeshift shelter around him for protection and on every side were rows of corpses with heads pressed into the ground and the outstretched bodies generally facing east (see Fig.
D. Carved vertebra. Photos courtesy of the Peabody Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge. C figurines in ivory, copal (resin), and bone found in Grave II by the University of Pennsylvania Museum’s expedition of the 1940s (Mason 1940). Ivory came from the teeth of the lower jaw of the female sperm whale, the resin from one or more trees of unknown name, and the bone from the ribs of the manatee or from the vertebrae of deer. Two, or perhaps three, inches high, these figurines were carved from such materials and then decorated with additions of gold sheathing.