<< Search Results
Bookmark and Share


Core Record

Title effigy conch shell
Collection Artworld: Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts
Date 300-899 CE
Description This is a large effigy of a conch shell which lies horizontally, the interior of the shell visible from one side. It is made from terracotta which has been polished smooth and covered in a white glaze although the natural material shows through giving the glaze a translucent quality. A very small chip can be found on one side.
Description Source Hannah Thomas
Cultural Context Mesoamerican
Id Number Current Accession 673
Location Creation Site México, Campeche, Jaina
Location Current Repository Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts
Subject implements and utensils, musical instrument
Measurements 450 x 220 x 270 mm
Context Conch shells and ceramic effigies of conch shells were used as musical instruments, paint pots and offerings in ancient Mesoamerica. Schele and Miller (1986: 83-4, 308-9, pls. 27, 121) have suggested that in the Maya region conch trumpets may have been used during rituals to recall ancestors or supernaturals. Conches were modified into trumpets by removing the columellae, and at Teotihuacan and elsewhere ceramic effigies were also used as trumpets and whistles (Kolb, 1987: 43, fig. 18; Clancy, 1985: no. 103). This large finely modelled effigy was probably used as a votive offering, sinced it is unpierced and cannot be blown.
Conch shells and effigies of shells have been recovered from a variety of context throughout Mesoamerica. Incised, perforated and plain conch shells are known from burials and offerings (Andrews, 1969; Caso, 1969: lam. 111; Kidder et al., 1946: fig. 162, a-b). In some instances the use of conch shells can be linked with specific deities. Large stone effigies of conches and conch shells themselves were excavated at Templo Mayor, where they were closely associated with the Central Mexican rain god, Tlaloc (Matos Moctezuma, 1990: 138-9, 148-9; Broda, 1987a, 1987b). In the Maya region, conch shells were associated with the Underworld: God N, one of the old gods of Xibalba, is often portrayed emerging from a shell.
White-slipped ceramics are known from may parts of Mesoamerica, but it is difficult to give a precise attribution for this sculpture. Although it was reported by the vendor to be from the island of Jaina, Virginia Fields (personal communication, 1994) has noted a very similar white-slipped ceramic shell in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (AC1993.217.14). It is reportedly from Colima in West Mexico, raising the possibility that the present example is from western, rather than southern Mesoamerica, and of a slightly earlier date.
Context Source Joanne Pillsbury and Ted. J. J. Leyenaar. In: Steven Hooper (ed.). 1997. Catalogue to the Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection. University of East Anglia.
Context Title Published Catalogue
Relation Referenced By Joanne Pillsbury and Ted J. J. Leyenaar
Relation References Schele, L and M. E Miller, 1986. The Blood of Kings, Dynasty and Ritual in Maya Art. Kimbell, Fort Worth.

Kolb, C. C., 1987, Marine Shell Trade and Classic Teotihuacan, Mexico. Oxford. (British Archaeological Reports, International Series, 364).
Rights Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, UEA, Norwich, 2002. All Rights reserved
Style Period Mesoamerican periods, Classic, Late Classic
Work Type musical instrument



about        contact        terms of use        image credits        © 2019