Tembladera Feline-Head Bottle, Ceramic, 9th-5th Century BC, Peru
Ceramic vessels made up a large percentage of mortuary offerings in ancient Peru. Early fine examples were fired to create muted, matte tones of gray, black, and tan, with highly polished or incised surfaces. This tall bottle, with its well-preserved surface paint, is said to come from the area known as Tembladera in the Jequetepeque Valley of northern Peru. A modeled, stylized feline head in profile is worked on the front. The head is upended, and the long, conventionalized snout has teeth that continue almost to the top of the “nose.” A looped-over tongue projects from the mouth. A smaller feline profile appears on the opposite side of the bottle. The feline associations are probably those of the jaguar, the most impressive wild cat of the Americas and one long revered in ancient times for its prowess.