By Mary W. Helms
This quantity brings a clean point of view to the multicolored Cocl? ceramic wares excavated at Sitio Conte in important Panama in the course of the Nineteen Thirties. The Cocl? tradition was once a hierarchical and centralized society that flourished a couple of thousand years in the past. Many of those ceramic wares have been unearthed in caches and burials of elite figures. Cocl? artists adorned their ceramics with a mixture of geometrical varieties and vigorous, picture depictions of curious birds and beasts. Helms sees in those polychromes a semiotic code expressing sociological and cosmological options of the Cocl? tradition. person chapters discover chromatics, serpents, mammals, birds and bird, physique elements and tactics, the tree of existence, and different issues. This quantity is handsomely illustrated with black-and-white and colour plates and dozens of line drawings.
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Extra info for Creations of the rainbow serpent: polychrome ceramic designs from ancient Panama
Briefly, an evil spirit that took the form of a boa stole and swallowed the wife of Thunder, who had been sent to earth by God to instruct people in agriculture and various other arts and crafts. 10. From Lothrop (1976:49). 11. From Lothrop (1976:29). who then swallowed his own wife, too, to keep her from falling into the hands of Thunder. The two enemies then vied with each other to see who could grow tallest and reach the clouds. Thunder won and immediately killed the boa, cut him in pieces, and restored to life the people who had been swallowed.
In the process he needed a vine to tie the house together (as traditional Talamancan houses are constructed). Lacking such a vine, he turned instead to a large serpent with great whiskers who dwelt in the east where the sun rises. He sent a group of men to the serpent to pull out a whisker (it was so large it took twenty-five men to roll it up and carry it to Sibu), and used it to tie his house (Stone 1962:55). Conceivably, such a whiskered serpent is indicated in the Coclé ceramics in Fig. 18.
I seek to interpret ceramic motifs from a more ethnographically based or "emic" perspective. Accepting the dictum that "all art is metaphor and form" (Vansina 1985:11), I wish to view Coclé designs as a semiotic code expressing sociological and especially cosmological concepts that also may have had some bearing upon the ideology legitimizing the status and activities of political elites. Page 6 Although it is obviously impossible to ascertain directly the political, ideological and cosmological concepts held by ancient Panamanians, it may be possible to suggest some general themes by seeking parallels in the exegesis of ethnographically known art forms and design motifs of still-extant indigenous cultures of the Americas.
Creations of the rainbow serpent: polychrome ceramic designs from ancient Panama by Mary W. Helms