Feline-Head Bottle

Date: 9th–5th century B.C.

Geography: Peru, Tembladera

Culture: Tembladera

Medium: Ceramic, postfired paint

Dimensions: H. 12 3/4 x W. 8 1/16 x D. 5 1/4 in. (32.4 x 20.5 x 13.3 cm)

Classification: Ceramics-Containers

Credit Line: The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Purchase, Nelson A. Rockefeller Gift, 1967

Accession Number: 1978.412.203


Ceramic vessels, often in the form of bottles of different spout shape and decorated with religious imagery, were important mortuary offerings in ancient Peru for thousands of years. Early northern coast vessels are fired to muted tones of gray, black, and tan and have well-finished surfaces that could be highly polished or textured or a combination of both, as is the case here. This impressive, tall bottle with its well-preserved surface paint is said to have come from Tembladera, an ancient burial site in the Jequetepeque Valley on Peru's north coast. On its front, a large incised and modeled feline head in profile looks upward; its long, stylized snout is studded with teeth and ends in a curled nose. The looped tongue projects from the mouth and extends beyond the shoulder of the chamber. A half-closed eye appears under the bulging brow. A smaller fanged profile head opposite may be that of a snake, its scaly body shown as a series of adjoining hook shapes along the sides and bottom of the vessel; similar shapes appear on the back of the vessel. Circular pelt markings suggest that a jaguar is depicted.