Bowl, Mythic Figures - Unknown Wari (Peruvian) Artisan, 6th–9th century
Ceramic, H. 3 1/8 x Diam. 4 13/16 in. (7.9 x 12.2 cm)
During the second half of the first millennium A.D., the Wari peoples, centered in the Ayacucho region, dominated the south-central Andes. They interacted with contemporary peoples in far-flung areas such as the powerful city of Tiwanaku in present-day Bolivia and the peoples of the Nazca region on the southern coast of Peru. The nature of Wari’s relationship with these and other peoples is still unclear, but their influence on Wari art is undisputed. While the shape of this vessel and the painting style—vivid slip paints of red, purple, yellow, gray, and white and the use of thick black outline—follows a long-standing southern coast tradition, its religious imagery is found on major stone monuments at Tiwanaku. The outer surface of the straight-sided bowl is divided into four panels; two are decorated with the square face of an abstract supernatural. It has a rayed headdress resembling Tiwanaku’s principal deity. The fangs and split white and black eyes are characteristic Wari features. The two other panels show the profile bird head with a prominent curved beak; the heads are framed by a U-shape from which alternating bird heads and stylized plants, perhaps corn, emanate.