Double-Spout Bottle: Guardian

Date: 2nd–4th century

Geography: Peru

Culture: Nasca

Medium: Ceramic

Dimensions: H. 6 1/4 x W. 6 1/4 in. (15.9 x 15.9 cm)

Classification: Ceramics-Containers

Credit Line: Purchase, Arthur M. Bullowa Bequest, 1996

Accession Number: 1996.174


The Nazca people of Peru's southern coast produced quantities of ceramic vessels in a variety of shapes. The surfaces of these vessels are usually very smooth and shiny, and—unlike contemporary wares from the north coast—they are painted in as many as thirteen colors, including white, red, brown, gray, yellow, orange, and pink. The vibrant tones were achieved by applying slips colored with mineral-based pigments, outlined in black, to the hardened, smooth surface before firing. This bottle is dome-shaped with two spouts joined by a straplike handle, hence the name "double-spout-and-bridge" bottle, a vessel type with a long history in the area. Two identical figures grasping heads in one hand, presumably trophy heads, and a staff in the other are represented. Their short bodies float sideways on a clean white background. They wear elaborate costumes consisting of a forehead ornament, mouth mask, pendant disks, necklace, tunic, loincloth, and cape, and have white staring eyes and protruding tongues. Little faces animate the forehead ornament, the whiskers of the mouth mask, and staff, while profile heads appear on the cape. Such masked figures are common in Nazca art, where they are generally identified as mythical beings or demons, or they may depict real masked individuals involved in ritual headhunting.