Creations of the rainbow serpent: polychrome ceramic designs by Mary W. Helms

By Mary W. Helms

This quantity brings a clean point of view to the multicolored Cocl? ceramic wares excavated at Sitio Conte in valuable Panama through the Nineteen Thirties. The Cocl? tradition used to be 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 mix of geometrical kinds and energetic, image 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 methods, the tree of lifestyles, and different topics. This quantity is handsomely illustrated with black-and-white and colour plates and dozens of line drawings.

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Extra resources for Creations of the rainbow serpent: polychrome ceramic designs from ancient Panama

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From Lothrop (1976:58). the ovals-cum-figured panels, are considered to contain and/or to represent the particular generative, life-giving or life-identifying qualities of the serpent; that is, they reveal the serpent as the "source" of other life forms. Support for this theory may be found in Fig. ), which may depict a close-up of a boa oval (in this depiction a circle) flanked by portions of the adjacent boa rectangles. The oval/circle contains a bird and may represent the boa-cum-Great Serpent as generative source or origin point of the bird.

In typologies of prehistoric Panamanian ceramic styles they are designated as Conte polychrome (ca. D. 500-800) and as Macaracas polychrome (ca. D. 800-1100), but I will refer to them simply as Coclé polychromes since the finer stylistic distinction is not pertinent to this analysis (see Cooke 1985). Page 5 The ceramics are currently housed in Harvard University's Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. Other pieces from the Sitio Conte are in the collection of the University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania (Hearne and Sharer 1992:13, 126).

Distinctive characteristics of the serpent, including its particular pattern of markings, the duality of identical head-end and tail-end, and kennings based on serpent forms and markings, will be found to underlie the overall patterning of many ceramic designs, even when the serpent per se does not appear. The serpent is sometimes portrayed in very straightforward terms (Fig. 3; see also Lothrop 1976:27). More frequently, however, it appears as a basic body form for other animal depictions. Fig.

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