Date: 1st century B.C.–A.D. 4th century

Geography: Colombia or Ecuador

Culture: Tolita-Tumaco

Medium: Ceramic

Dimensions: H. 5 x W. 7 1/2 in. (12.7 x 19.1 cm)

Classification: Ceramics-Ornaments

Credit Line: Gift of Margaret B. Zorach, 1980

Accession Number: 1980.34.21


Ceramic masks are known from many parts of the Precolumbian world, and the current example is characteristic of a type found in the hot, humid coastal region of northern Ecuador and southern Colombia. The almost impish face has wide eyes with pupils gazing left. The nostrils are flared and the cheeks puffed, and deep grooves lend the face vitality and volume. Holes in the modeled earlobes and one in the septum once held ornaments, perhaps of gold. On the forehead is an unusual raised, coffeebean-shaped ornament. White pigment is present in the eyes, while the rest of the face is covered with traces of a yellow pigment. Two holes at the top of the forehead suggest that the mask was suspended or attached to a wearer.