For almost a thousand years the Nasca peoples of Peru's south coast produced quantities of ceramic vessels in a variety of shapes. The smooth and shiny surfaces of Nasca vessels bear designs in as many as thirteen colors ranging from geometric forms to identifiable plants and animals to complex composite mythological beings. The outer, slightly incurved wall of this round-bottomed bowl is decorated with ten lizards with orange claws and noses. It is thought that in the worldview of the ancients, lizards like snakes and frogs had symbolic associations with the earth and seasonal water supply in the coastal river valleys. Monumental depictions of lizards are also among the famed Nazca Lines, or geoglyphs, created on the desert surface near the town of Nazca.
Nelson Rockefeller first traveled to South America in the late 1930s, initially to Venezuela on family business and then to Peru, where he found "tremendous archaeological richness" that "fired his imagination." Later trips to South America took him to countries such as Argentina, where his first Precolumbian antiquities were apparently purchased. This bowl was one of a group said to have been acquired in 1939 in Buenos Aires. Rockefeller published it in an article in 1968, "Collecting Peruvian Art," in New York's Arts Magazine.