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Title: Ancient art of the province of Chiriqui, Colombia - Sixth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology to the - Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1884-1885, - Government Printing Office, Washington, 1888, pages 3-188
Author: Holmes, William Henry, 1846-1933
Language: English
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  of the





  Introduction                                            13
      Geography                                           13
      Literature                                          14
      Peoples                                             15
      The cemeteries                                      16
      The graves                                          17
      Human remains                                       20
      Placing of relics                                   21
  Objects of art                                          21
      Stone                                               21
          Pictured rocks                                  21
          Columns                                         22
          Images                                          23
          Mealing stones                                  25
          Stools                                          27
          Celts &c.                                       29
          Spearheads                                      34
          Arrowpoints                                     34
      Metal                                               35
        Gold and copper                                   35
        Bronze                                            49
      Clay: Pottery                                       53
          Preliminary                                     53
          How found                                       55
          Material                                        55
          Manufacture                                     56
          Color                                           57
          Use                                             57
          Forms of vessels                                58
          Decoration                                      62
        Unpainted ware                                    66
          Terra cotta group                               67
          Black incised group                             80
        Painted ware                                      84
          Scarified group                                 87
          Handled group                                   90
          Tripod group                                    97
          Maroon group                                   107
          Red line group                                 109
          White line group                               111
          Lost color group                               113
          Alligator group                                130
          Polychrome group                               140
          Unclassified                                   147
      Clay: Miscellaneous objects                        149
          Spindle whorls                                 149
          Needlecases                                    150
          Figurines                                      151
          Stools                                         154
          Musical instruments                            156
              Rattles                                    156
              Drums                                      157
              Wind instruments                           160
      Life forms in vase painting                        171
  Résumé                                                 186


PLATE I. Map of Chiriqui                                          13

Fig.  1. Section of oval grave                                    17
      2. Section of a quadrangular grave                          18
      3. Grave with pillars                                       18
      4. Compound cist                                            19
      5. Southwest face of the pictured stone                     22
      6. A goddess of the ancient Chiriquians                     23
      7. A god of the ancient Chiriquians                         24
      8. Fragmentary human figure in gray basaltic rock           25
      9. Mealing stone with large tablet ornamented with
           animal heads                                           26
     10. Puma shaped metate                                       27
     11. Stool shaped object                                      28
     12. Stool with columnar base                                 28
     13. Stool with perforated base                               29
     14. Large partially polished celt                            30
     15. Celt of hexagonal section                                31
     16. Small wide bladed celt                                   31
     17. Celt with heavy shaft                                    31
     18. Celt or ax with constriction near the top                31
     19. Flaked and partially polished celt                       32
     20. Well polished celt                                       32
     21. Narrow pointed celt                                      32
     22. Narrow pointed celt                                      32
     23. Cylindrical celt with narrow point                       33
     24. Leaf shaped objects suggesting spearpoints               34
     25. Arrowpoints                                              34
     26. Human figure, formed of copper-gold alloy                41
     27. Grotesque human figure in gold                           42
     28. Rudely shaped human figure in gold                       42
     29. Grotesque human figure in nearly pure copper             43
     30. Grotesque human figure in nearly pure gold               43
     31. Rudely executed image of a bird in gold                  44
     32. Image of a bird in gold                                  45
     33. Puma shaped figure in gold                               45
     34. Puma shaped figure in base metal                         45
     35. Quadruped with grotesque face in base metal              46
     36. Figure of a fish in gold                                 46
     37. Large figure of a frog, in base metal plated
           with gold                                              47
     38. Small figure of a frog, in base metal plated
           with gold                                              47
     39. Figure of an alligator in gold                           48
     40. Animal figure, in base metal plated with gold            48
     41. Bronze bells plated or washed with gold                  50
     42. Bronze bell with human features                          50
     43. Triple bell or rattle found on the Rio Grande            51
     44. Ancient Mexican bell                                     51
     45. Fundamental forms of vases--convex outlines              58
     46. Fundamental forms of vases--angular outlines             59
     47. Vases of complex outlines--exceptional forms             59
     48. Vases of compound forms                                  59
     49. Square lipped vessel                                     59
     50. Variations in the forms of necks and rims                60
     51. Arrangement of handles                                   60
     52. Types of annular bases or feet                           61
     53. Forms of legs                                            61
     54. Grotesque figure forming the handle of
           a small vase                                           63
     55. Grotesque figure forming the handle of
           a small vase                                           63
     56. Grotesque figure forming the handle of
           a small vase                                           63
     57. Monstrous figure with serpent shaped extremities         63
     58. Monstrous figure with serpent shaped extremities         63
     59. Grotesque figure                                         64
     60. Grotesque figure                                         64
     61. Grotesque figure                                         64
     62. Figure of a monkey                                       64
     63. Figure of a monkey                                       64
     64. Figure of a monkey                                       64
     65. Animal forms exhibiting long proboscis                   65
     66. Vase illustrating ornamental use of animal figures       65
     67. Vase illustrating ornamental use of animal figures       65
     68. Vase illustrating ornamental use of animal figures       66
     69. Vase illustrating ornamental use of animal figures       66
     70. Series of bowls and cups of unpainted ware               67
     71. Vase of graceful form                                    68
     72. Vase of graceful form                                    68
     73. Vase of fine form, ornamented with grotesque heads       68
     74. Vase of fine form, ornamented with grotesque heads       69
     75. Vase with ornament of applied nodes and fillets          69
     76. Vase with mantle covered with incised figures            70
     77. Vase with frieze of grotesque heads                      70
     78. Vases with flaring rims and varied ornament              71
     79. Vases with complex outlines and varied ornament          71
     80. Large vase with two mouths and neatly
           decorated necks                                        72
     81. Large vase with high handles                             72
     82. Top view of high handled vase                            73
     83. Handled vase                                             73
     84. Handled vase                                             73
     85. Handled vase                                             73
     86. Small cup with single handle, ornamented with
           grotesque figure                                       74
     87. Small cup with single handle, ornamented with
           grotesque figure                                       74
     88. Vase of eccentric form                                   74
     89. Vessel illustrating forms of legs                        75
     90. Vessel illustrating forms of legs                        75
     91. Vessel with large legs, decorated with stellar
           punctures                                              75
     92. Vases of varied form with plain and animal
           shaped legs                                            75
     93. Large vase of striking shape                             76
     94. Cup with legs imitating animal forms                     76
     95. Cup with legs imitating a grotesque animal form          77
     96. Cup with legs imitating the armadillo                    77
     97. Cup with legs imitating the armadillo                    77
     98. Cup with frog shaped legs                                77
     99. Cup with legs imitating an animal and its young          77
    100. Cups supported by grotesque heads                        77
    101. Large cup supported by two grotesque figures             78
    102. Cup with two animal heads attached to the sides          78
    103. Cup with two animal heads attached to the sides          78
    104. Vase shaped to imitate an animal form                    79
    105. Vase shaped to imitate an animal form                    79
    106. Vase shaped to imitate an animal form                    79
    107. Fish shaped vessel                                       79
    108. Top view of a fish shaped vessel                         80
    109. Cup with grotesque head attached to the rim              80
    110. Black cup with incised reptilian figures                 81
    111. Black cup with incised reptilian figures                 81
    112. Black vase with conventional incised pattern             81
    113. Small cup with conventional incised pattern              82
    114. Small tripod cup with upright walls                      82
    115. Vase with flaring rim and legs imitating
           animal heads                                           82
    116. Vase modeled to represent the head of an animal          83
    117. Pattern upon the back of the vase                        83
    118. Tripod bowl of red scarified ware                        87
    119. Tripod bowl of red scarified ware                        87
    120. Oblong basin with scarified design                       88
    121. Large scarified bowl with handles imitating
           animal heads                                           88
    122. Jar with flat bottom and vertical bands
           of incised ornament                                    89
    123. Vase with stand and vertical incised bands               89
    124. Vase with handles, legs, and vertical ribs               89
    125. Tripod with owl-like heads at insertion of legs          90
    126. Tripod with legs rudely suggesting animal forms          90
    127. Heavy red vase with four mouths                          90
    128. Vase with horizontally placed handles and
           rude designs in red                                    91
    129. Unpolished vase with heavy handles and coated
           with soot                                              92
    130. Round bodied vase with unique handles and incised
           ornament                                               92
    131. Vase with grotesque figures attached to the handles      93
    132. Vase with upright handles and winged lip                 93
    133. Top view of vase with winged lip                         94
    134. Vase with grotesque animal shaped handles                94
    135. Vase with handles representing strange animals           95
    136. Vase with handles representing grotesque figures         95
    137. Vase with handles representing animal heads              96
    138. Vase with arched handles embellished with life forms
           in high relief                                         96
    139. Vase with arched handles embellished with life forms
           in high relief                                         97
    140. Tripod vase with shallow basin and eccentric handles     99
    141. Tripod vase with shallow basin and eccentric handles     99
    142. Tripod vase with shallow basin and eccentric handles     99
    143. Tripod vase of graceful shape and neat finish           100
    144. Heavy tripod vase with widely spreading feet            100
    145. Neatly modeled vase embellished with life forms and
           devices in red                                        101
    146. High tripod vase with incised designs and
           rude figures in red                                   101
    147. Handsome tripod vase with scroll ornament               102
    148. Vase with lizard shaped legs                            102
    149. Vase with scroll ornament                               103
    150. Large vase with flaring rim and widespreading legs      103
    151. Fragment of a tripod vase embellished with figure
           of an alligator                                       104
    152. Vase supported by grotesque human figures               105
    153. Round bodied vase embellished with figures
           of monsters                                           106
    154. Cup with incurved rim and life form ornamentation       107
    155. Cup with widely expanded rim and constricted neck       107
    156. Small tripod cup with animal features in high relief    108
    157. Handsome vase supported by three grotesque figures      108
    158. Vase decorated with figures of frogs and devices
           in red                                                110
    159. Vase of unique shape and life form ornamentation        110
    160. Two-handled vase with life form and linear
           decoration                                            110
    161. Small tripod vase with animal figures in white          111
    162. Shapely vase with designs in white paint                112
    163. Small red bottle with horizontal bands of ornament      115
    164. Small red bottle with encircling geometric devices      115
    165. Bottle with zone occupied by geometric devices          116
    166. Bottle with broad zone containing geometric figures     116
    167. Bottle with decoration of meandered lines               117
    168. Bottle with arched panels and geometric devices         117
    169. Bottle with arched panels and elaborate devices         118
    170. Vase with rosette-like panels                           118
    170a. Ornament from preceding vase                           118
    171. Vase with rosette-like panels                           119
    172. Vase with rosette-like panels                           119
    173. Theoretical origin of the arched panels                 120
    174. Theoretical origin of the arched panels                 120
    175. Theoretical origin of the arched panels                 120
    176. Vase decorated with conventional figures
           of alligators                                         120
    177. Portion of decorated zone illustrating treatment
           of life forms                                         121
    178. Portion of decorated zone illustrating treatment
           of life forms                                         121
    179. Vase decorated with highly conventional life forms      121
    179a. Design from preceding vase                             122
    180. Vase decorated with highly conventional life forms      122
    181. Vase decorated with highly conventional life forms      123
    182. Decorated panel with devices resembling
           vegetal growths                                       124
    183. Vase of unusual shape                                   124
    184. Vase of unusual shape                                   124
    185. Vase of unusual shape                                   124
    186. Double vessel with high arched handle                   125
    187. Double vessel with arched handle                        125
    188. Vase embellished with life forms in color
           and in relief                                         126
    189. Vase modeled to represent a peccary                     127
    190. Under surface of peccary vase                           127
    191. Small vessel with human figures in high relief          127
    192. Tripod cup with figures of the alligator                128
    193. Large shallow tripod vase with geometric decoration     129
    194. Large bottle shaped vase with high tripod
           and alligator design                                  130
    195. Large bottle with narrow zone containing figures
           of the alligator                                      132
    196. Vase with decorated zone containing four
           arched panels                                         133
    197. Vase with four round nodes upon which are painted
           animal devices                                        133
    198. Vases of varied form and decoration                     134
    199. Alligator vase with conventional markings               135
    200. Alligator vase with figures of the alligator painted
           on the sides                                          135
    201. Vase with serpent ornamentation                         136
    202. Vase representing a puma with alligator figures
           painted on sides                                      137
    203. Shallow vase with reptilian features in relief
           and in color                                          137
    204. Vase with funnel shaped mouth                           138
    205. Top view of vase in Fig. 204                            139
    206. End view of vase in Fig. 204                            139
    207. Large vase with decorations in red and black            140
    208. Devices of the decorated zone of vase in Fig. 207,
           viewed from above                                     141
    209. Handsome vase with four handles and decorations
           in black, red, and purple                             142
    210. Painted design of vase in Fig. 209,
           viewed from above                                     143
    211. Vase of unusual shape with decoration in black,
           red, and purple                                       144
    212. Ornament occupying the interior surface of
           the basin of vase in Fig. 211                         144
    213. Large vase of fine shape and simple decorations         145
    214. Vase with extraordinary decorative designs              146
    215. Painted design of vase in Fig. 214, viewed
           from above                                             147
    216. Vase of unique form and decoration                      148
    217. Painted design of vase in Fig. 216                      148
    218. Spindle whorl with annular nodes                        149
    219. Spindle whorl decorated with animal figures             149
    220. Spindle whorl with perforations and incised
           ornament                                              149
    221. Needlecase                                              150
    222. Needlecase                                              150
    223. Needlecase with painted geometric ornament              151
    224. Needlecase with incised geometric ornament              151
    225. Needlecase with incised geometric ornament              151
    226. Statuette                                               152
    227. Statuette                                               152
    228. Statuette                                               152
    229. Statuette                                               152
    230. Stool of plain terra cotta                              154
    281. Stool of plain clay, with grotesque figures             155
    232. Stool of plain terra cotta                              155
    233. Rattle                                                  157
    234. Section of rattle                                       157
    235. Rattle, with grotesque figures                          157
    236. Drum of gray unpainted clay                             158
    237. Drum with painted ornament                              159
    238. Painted design of drum in Fig. 237                      159
    239. Double whistle                                          161
    240. Section of double whistle                               161
    241. Tubular instrument with two finger holes                162
    242. Section of whistle                                      162
    243. Small animal shaped whistle                             162
    244. Small animal shaped whistle                             162
    245. Top shaped whistle                                      163
    246. Section, top, and bottom views of whistle               164
    247. Drum shaped whistle                                     165
    248. Vase shaped whistle                                     165
    249. Crab shaped whistle                                     166
    250. Alligator shaped whistle                                166
    251. Cat shaped whistle                                      167
    252. Whistle with four ocelot-like heads                     168
    253. Bird shaped whistle                                     169
    254. Bird shaped whistle                                     169
    255. Bird shaped whistle                                     170
    256. Whistle in grotesque life form                          170
    257. Conventional figure of the alligator                    173
    258. Conventional figure of the alligator                    173
    259. Conventional figure of the alligator                    174
    260. Conventional figure of the alligator                    174
    261. Conventional figure of the alligator                    174
    262. Conventional figure of the alligator                    175
    263. Conventional figure of the alligator                    175
    264. Conventional figure of the alligator                    176
    265. Conventional figure derived from the alligator          176
    266. Conventional figure derived from the alligator          176
    267. Conventional figure derived from the alligator          176
    268. Conventional figure derived from the alligator          177
    269. Conventional figure derived from the alligator          177
    270. Conventional figure derived from the alligator          177
    271. Conventional figure derived from the alligator          178
    272. Conventional figure derived from the alligator          178
    273. Conventional figure derived from the alligator          178
    274. Conventional figures derived from the alligator         179
    275. Conventional figure derived from the alligator          179
    276. Conventional figure derived from the alligator          180
    277. Conventional figures derived from the alligator         180
    278. Conventional figures derived from the alligator         181
    279. Conventional figures derived from the alligator         182
    280. Conventional figures derived from the alligator         182
    281. Conventional figures derived from the alligator         182
    282. Conventional figures derived from the alligator         182
    283. Conventional figures derived from the alligator         183
    284. Vase with decorated zone containing
           remarkable devices                                    185
    285. Series of devices                                       185



By William H. Holmes.



Until comparatively recent times the province of Chiriqui has remained
almost unknown to the world at large. The isthmus was traversed a number
of times by the conquerors, who published accounts of their discoveries,
but it was reserved for the period of railroad and canal exploration to
furnish trustworthy accounts of its character and inhabitants. The
situation of Chiriqui is unique. Forming, politically, a part of South
America, it belongs in reality to the North American continent. It
occupies a part of the great southern flexure of the isthmus at a point
where the shore lines begin finally to turn toward the north.

The map accompanying this paper (Plate I) conveys a clear idea of the
position and the leading topographic features of the province. The
boundaries separating it from Veragua on the east and Costa Rica on the
west run nearly north and south. The Atlantic coast line has a northwest
and southeast trend and is indented by the bay or lagoon of Chiriqui.
The Bay of David extends into the land on the south and the Gulf of
Dolce forms a part of the western boundary. A range of mountains,
consisting principally of volcanic products, extends midway along the
province, forming the continental watershed.[1] The drainage comprises
two systems of short rivers that run, one to the north and the other to
the south, into the opposing oceans. Belts of lowland border the shore
lines. That on the south side is from twenty to thirty miles wide and
rises gradually into a plateau two or three thousand feet in elevation,
which is broken by hills and cut by cañons. This belt affords a natural
thoroughfare for peoples migrating from continent to continent, and
doubtless formed at all periods an attractive district for occupation.
It is in the middle portion of this strip of lowland, especially in the
drainage area of the Bay of David, that the most plentiful evidences of
ancient occupation are found. Scattering remains have been discovered
all along, however, connecting the art of Costa Rica with that of
Veragua, Panama, and the South American continent. The islands of the
coast furnish some fragmentary monuments and relics, and there is no
doubt that a vast quantity of material yet remains within the province
to reward the diligent search of future explorers.

    [Footnote 1: For physical features, see report of Lieutenant
    Norton (Report Chiriqui Commission, Ex. Doc. 41, 1860).]


The antiquarian literature of the province is extremely meager, being
confined to brief sketches made by transient visitors or based for the
most part upon the testimony of gold hunters and government explorers,
who took but little note of the unpretentious relics of past ages. As
there are few striking monuments, the attention of archæologists was not
called to the history of primeval man in this region, and until recently
the isthmus was supposed to have remained practically unoccupied by that
group of cultured nations whose works in Peru and in Mexico excite the
wonder of the world. But, little by little, it has been discovered that
at some period of the past the province was thickly populated, and by
races possessed of no mean culture.

The most important contributions to the literature of this region, so
far as they have come to my knowledge, are the following: A paper by Mr.
Merritt, published by the American Ethnological Society;[2] a paper by
Bollaert, published by the same society, and also a volume issued in
London;[3] a valuable pamphlet, with photographic illustrations, by
M. De Zeltner, French consul to Panama in 1860;[4] a short paper by
Mr. A. L. Pinart, published in the Bulletin de la Société de Géographie
(Paris, 1885, p. 433), in which he gives valuable information in regard
to the peoples, ancient and modern; and casual notes by a number of
other writers, some of which will be referred to in the following pages.
A pretty full list of authorities is given by Mr. H. H. Bancroft in his
Native Races, Vol. V, p. 16.

One of the most important additions to our knowledge of the province and
its archæologic treasures is furnished in the manuscript notes of Mr.
J. A. McNiel, who made the greater part of the collection now deposited
in the National Museum. This explorer has personally supervised the
examination of many thousands of graves and has forwarded the bulk of
his collections to the United States. His explorations have occupied a
number of years, during which time he has undergone much privation and
displayed great enthusiasm in pursuing the rather thorny pathways of
scientific research. In the preparation of this paper his notes have
been used as freely as their rather disconnected character warranted,
and since Mr. McNiel’s return to the United States, in July, 1886,
I have been favored with a series of interviews with him, and by this
means much important information has been obtained.

    [Footnote 2: J. King Merritt: “Report on the huacals or ancient
    graveyards of Chiriqui.” Bulletin of the American Ethnological
    Society, 1860.]

    [Footnote 3: Bollaert: Antiquarian Researches in New Granada.
    London, 1860.]

    [Footnote 4: A. De Zeltner: Notes sur les sépultures indiennes
    de département de Chiriqui.]


At the present time this district is inhabited chiefly by Indians and
natives of mixed, blood, who follow grazing and agriculture to a limited
extent, but subsist largely upon the natural products of the country.
These peoples are generally thought to have no knowledge or trustworthy
tradition of the ancient inhabitants and are said to care nothing for
the curious cemeteries among which they dwell, except as a source of
revenue. Mr. A. L. Pinart states, however, that certain tribes on both
sides of the continental divide have traditions pointing toward the
ancient grave builders as their ancestors. There is probably no valid
reason for assigning the remains of this region to a very high
antiquity. The highest stage of culture here may have been either
earlier or later than the period of highest civilization in Mexico and
South America or contemporaneous with it. There is really no reason for
supposing that the tribes who built these graves were not in possession
of the country, or parts of it, at the time of the conquest. As to the
affinities of the ancient middle isthmian tribes with the peoples north
and south of them we can learn nothing positive from the evidences of
their art. So far as the art of pottery has come within my observation,
it appears to indicate a somewhat closer relationship with the ancient
Costa Rican peoples than with those of continental South America; yet,
in their burial customs, in the lack of enduring houses and temples, and
in their use of gold, they were like the ancient peoples of middle and
southern New Granada.[5]

The relics preserved in our museums would seem to indicate one principal
period of occupation or culture only; but there has been no intelligent
study of the contents of the soil in sections exposed in modern
excavations, the exclusive aim of collectors having generally been to
secure either gold or showy cabinet specimens. The relics of very
primitive periods, if such are represented, have naturally passed
unnoticed. Mr. McNiel mentions the occurrence of pottery in the soil in
which the graves were dug, but, regarding it as identical with that
contained in the graves, he neglected to preserve specimens.

In one instance, while on a visit to Los Remedios, a pueblo near the
eastern frontier of Chiriqui, he observed a cultivated field about which
a ditch some 8 or 9 feet in depth had been dug. In walking through this
he found a continuous exposure of broken pottery and stone implements.
Some large urns had been cut across or broken to conform to the slope of
the ditch, and were exposed in section.

Although not apparently representing a very wide range of culture or
distinctly separated periods of culture, the various groups of relics
exhibit considerable diversity in conception and execution,
attributable, no doubt, to variations in race and art inheritance.

    [Footnote 5: R. B. White: Jour. Anthrop. Inst. Great Britain and
    Ireland, p. 241. February, 1884.]


The ancient cemeteries, or huacals, as they are called throughout
Spanish America, are scattered over the greater part of the Pacific
slope of Chiriqui. It is said by some that they are rarely found in the
immediate vicinity of the sea, but they occur in the river valleys, on
the hills, the plateaus, the mountains, and in the deepest forests. They
are very numerous, but generally of small extent. The largest described
is said to cover an area of about twelve acres. They were probably
located in the immediate vicinity of villages, traces of which, however,
are not described by explorers; but there can be no doubt that diligent
search will bring to light the sites of dwellings and towns. The absence
of traces of houses or monuments indicates either that the architecture
of this region was then, as now, of destructible material, or, which is
not likely, that so many ages have passed over them that all traces of
unburied art, wood, stone, or clay, have yielded to the “gnawing tooth
of time.”

One of the most circumstantial accounts of these burial places is given
by Mr. Merritt, who was also the first to make them known to science.[6]
Mr. Merritt was director of a gold mine in Veragua, and in the summer of
1859 spent several weeks in exploring the graves of Chiriqui; he
therefore speaks from personal knowledge. In the autumn of 1858 two
native farmers of the parish of Bugaba, or Bugava, discovered a golden
image that had been exposed by the uprooting of a plant. They proceeded
secretly to explore the graves, the existence of which had been known
for years. In the following spring their operations became known to the
people, and within a month more than a thousand persons were engaged in
working these extraordinary gold mines. The fortunate discoverers
succeeded in collecting about one hundred and thirty pounds weight of
gold figures, most of which were more or less alloyed with copper. It is
estimated that fifty thousand dollars’ worth in all was collected from
this cemetery, which embraced an area of twelve acres.

Although there are rarely surface indications to mark the position of
the graves, long experience has rendered it comparatively easy to
discover them. The grave hunter carries a light iron rod, which he runs
into the ground, and thus, if any hard substance is present, discovers
the existence of a burial. It is mentioned by one or two writers that
the graves are in many cases marked by stones, either loose or set in
the ground in rectangular and circular arrangements. The graves do not
often seem to have had a uniform position in relation to one another or
to the points of the compass. In some cases they are clustered about a
central tomb, and then assume a somewhat radiate arrangement; again,
according to Mr. McNiel, they are sometimes placed end to end, occupying
long trenches.

    [Footnote 6: J. King Merritt: Paper read before the American
    Ethnological Society, 1860.]


Graves of a particular form are said to occur sometimes in groups
occupying distinct parts of the cemetery, but the observations are not
sufficiently definite to be of value. The graves vary considerably in
form, construction, and depth, and are classified variously by
explorers. In the Bugaba cemetery Mr. Merritt found two well marked
varieties, the oval and the quadrangular, reference being had to the
horizontal section. The oval grave pits were from 4½ to 6 feet deep and
from 3 to 4 feet in greatest diameter. A wall of rounded river stones 2½
to 3 feet high lined the lower part of the pit, and from the top of this
the entire space was closely packed with rounded stones. Within the
faced up part of this cist the remains of the dead, the golden figures,
pottery, and implements had been deposited. This form is illustrated in
Fig. 1 by a vertical section constructed from the description given by
Mr. Merritt.

  [Illustration: Fig. 1. Section of oval grave.]

The quadrangular graves were constructed in two somewhat distinct ways.
One variety was identical in most respects with the oval form
illustrated above. They were sometimes as much as 6 feet deep and
frequently 4 by 7 feet in horizontal dimensions. In the other form a pit
4 by 6½ feet in diameter was sunk to the depth of about 3 feet.
Underneath this another pit some 2 feet in depth was sunk, leaving an
offset or terrace 8 or 10 inches in width all around. The smaller pit
was lined with flat stones placed on edge. In this cist the human
remains and the relics were placed and covered over with flat stones,
which rested upon the terrace and prevented the superincumbent mass,
which consisted of closely packed river stones, from crushing the
contents. A section of this tomb is given in Fig. 2, also drawn from the
description given by Mr. Merritt.

  [Illustration: Fig. 2. Section of a quadrangular grave, showing the
  surface pack of river stories and the positions of the slabs and
  objects of art.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 3. Grave with pillars, described by De Zeltner.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 4. Compound cist, described by De Zeltner.]

Mr. Merritt and others mention that in some of the graves pillars are
employed to support the roof of the cist. These pillars are mentioned
briefly by De Zeltner, from whose account the following illustrations
are drawn. This author does not state that he made any personal
investigations, and if his accounts were obtained from the natives their
entire trustworthiness may very properly be questioned. The first two
forms mentioned by him are similar to those already given. The third is
described as having at the corners square pillars of stone to support
the covering, which, however, is not described. The fourth has four
pillars, placed in the corners of the pit. These serve to support a
vault of flagstones. The walls between the pillars are faced with
pebbles, as in the cases previously described. Fig. 3 will make this
form clear at a glance. The fifth variety described by De Zeltner is
quite extraordinary in construction. His account is somewhat confusing
in a number of respects, and the section given in Fig. 4 cannot claim
more than approximate accuracy in details and measurements. Near the
surface a paving, perhaps of river stones, was found covering an area of
about 10 by 13 feet. This paving was apparently the surface of a pack
about 2 feet thick, and covered the mouth of the main pit, which was
some 6 or 7 feet deep. Pillars of cobble stones about 10 inches in
diameter occupied the corners of the pit, and probably served in a
measure to support the paving. In the bottom of this excavation a second
pit was dug, the mouth of which was also covered by a paving 2½ by
upwards of 3 feet in horizontal dimensions. This lower pit consisted of
a shaft several feet in depth, by which descent was made into a chamber
of inverted pyramidal shape. This chamber approximated 6 by 9 feet in
horizontal dimensions and was some 4 or 5 feet deep. At the bottom of
this cistern the human remains and most of the relics were deposited.
The shaft was filled in with earth and the pavings described. The total
depth, computed from the figures given, is about 18 feet, a most
remarkable achievement for a barbarous people; yet this is equaled by
the ancient tribes of the mainland of New Granada, where similar burial
customs seem to have prevailed. Mr. White,[7] who traveled extensively
in the northwestern part of the state, says:

  A dry, elevated ridge, composed of easily excavated material, was
  selected as the cemetery. A pit of only a yard or so in diameter was
  sunk, sometimes vertically, sometimes at an angle, or sometimes it
  varied from vertical to inclined. It was sunk to depths varying from
  15 to 60 feet, and at the bottom a chamber was formed in the earth.
  Here the dead was deposited, with his arms, tools, cooking utensils,
  ornaments, and chattels generally, with maize and fermented liquor
  made of maize. The chamber and passage were then rammed tightly full
  of earth, and sometimes it would appear that peculiar earth, other
  than that excavated on the spot, was used. One not unfrequently
  detects a peculiar aromatic smell in the earth, and fragments of
  charcoal are always found mixed with it in more or less quantity.

M. De Zeltner describes other very simple graves which are filled in
with earth, excepting a surface paving of pebbles.

Mr. McNiel, who has examined more examples than any other white man, and
over a wide district with David as a center, discredits the statements
of De Zeltner in respect to the form illustrated in Fig. 4, and states
that generally the graves do not differ greatly in shape and finish from
the ordinary graves of to-day. He describes the pits as being oval and
quadrangular and as having a depth ranging from a few feet to 18 feet.
The paving or pack consists of earth and water worn stones, the latter
pitched in without order and forming but a small percentage of the
filling. He has never seen such stones used in facing the walls of the
pit or in the construction of pillars. The flat stones which cover the
cist are often 10 or 15 feet below the surface and are in some cases
very heavy, weighing 300 pounds or more. A single stone is in cases
large enough to cover the entire space, but more frequently two or more
flat stones are laid side by side across the cavity. These are supported
by river stones, a foot or more in length, set around the margin of the
cist. He is of the opinion that both slabs and bowlders were in many
cases carried long distances. No one of the pits examined was of the
extraordinary form described in detail by De Zeltner and others.

    [Footnote 7: B. B. White: Jour. Anthrop. Inst. Great Britain and
    Ireland, p. 246. February, 1884.]


The almost total absence of human remains has frequently been remarked,
and the theory is advanced that cremation must have been practiced. We
have no evidence, however, of such a custom among the historic tribes of
this region, and, besides, such elaborate tombs would hardly be
constructed for the deposition of ashes. Yet, considering the depth of
the graves, their remarkable construction, and the character of the soil
selected for burial purposes, it is certainly wonderful that such meager
traces of human remains are found. Pinart surmises, from the analogies
of modern burial customs upon the north coast, that the bones only were
deposited in the graves, the flesh having been allowed to decay by a
long period of exposure in the open air. This, however, would probably
not materially hasten the decay of the bones.

Mr. Merritt states that human hair was obtained from graves at Bugaba,
and that he has himself secured the enamel of a molar tooth from that
locality. De Zeltner tells us that in three varieties of graves remains
of skeletons are found, always, however, in a very fragile condition.
One skull was obtained of sufficient stability to be cast in plaster,
but De Zeltner is not certain that it belonged to the people who built
the tombs.

Mr. McNiel reports the occasional finding of bones, and a number of
bundles of them are included in his collection. He reports that there
are no crania and that nothing could be determined as to the position of
the bodies when first buried.

Pinart observes that in some cases the bodies or remnants of bodies were
distributed about the margin of the pit bottom, with the various
utensils in the center, and again that the remains were laid away in
niches dug in the sides of the main pit.

These scattering observations will serve to give a general idea of the
modes of sepulture practiced in this region, but there must be a closer
record of localities and a careful correlation of the varying phenomena
of inhumation before either ethnology or archaeology can be greatly


The pieces of pottery, implements, and ornaments were probably buried
with the dead, pretty much as are similar objects in other parts of
America. The almost total disappearance of the human remains makes a
determination of exact relative positions impossible. The universal
testimony, however, is that all were not placed with the body, but that
some were added as the grave was filled up, being placed in the crevices
of the walls or pillars or thrown in upon the accumulating earth and
pebbles of the surface pavement. The heavy implements of stone are
rarely very far beneath the surface.


From the foregoing account it is apparent that our knowledge of the art
of ancient Chiriqui must for the present be derived almost entirely from
the contents of the tombs. The inhabitants were skillful in the
employment and the manipulation of stone, clay, gold, and copper; and
the perfection of their work in these materials, taken in connection
with the construction of their remarkable tombs, indicates a culture of
long standing and a capacity of no mean order.

Of their architecture, agriculture, or textile art we can learn little
or nothing.

The relics represented in the collection of the National Museum consist
chiefly of articles of stone, gold, copper, and clay.


Works executed in stone, excluding the tombs, may be arranged in the
following classes: Pictured rocks, sculptured columns, images, mealing
stones, stools, celts, arrowpoints, spearpoints (?), polishing stones,
and ornaments.

_Pictured rocks._--Our accounts of these objects are very meager. The
only one definitely described is the “_piedra pintal_.” A few of the
figures engraved upon it are given by Seemann, from whom I quote the
following paragraph:

  At Caldera, a few leagues [north] from the town of David, lies a
  granite block known to the country people as the piedra pintal, or
  painted stone. It is 15 feet high, nearly 50 feet in circumference,
  and flat on the top. Every part, especially the eastern side, is
  covered with figures. One represents a radiant sun; it is followed
  by a series of heads, all, with some variation, scorpions and
  fantastic figures. The top and the other side have signs of a
  circular and oval form, crossed by lines. The sculpture is ascribed
  to the Dorachos (or Dorasques), but to what purpose the stone was
  applied no historical account or tradition reveals.[9]

  [Illustration: Fig. 5. Southwest face of the pictured stone.]

These inscriptions are irregularly placed and much scattered. They are
thought to have been originally nearly an inch deep, but in places are
almost effaced by weathering, thus giving a suggestion of great
antiquity. I have seen tracings of these figures made recently by Mr.
A. L. Pinart which show decided differences in detail, and Mr. McNiel
gives still another transcript. I present in Fig. 5 Mr. McNiel’s sketch
of the southwest face of the rock, as he has given considerably more
detail than any other visitor. Mr. McNiel’s sketches show seventeen
figures on the opposite side of the rock. Seemann gives only twelve,
while Mr. Pinart’s tracings show upwards of forty upon the same face.
These three copies would not be recognized as referring to the same
original. That of Mr. Pinart seems to show the most careful study and is
probably accurate. Good photographs would be of service in eliminating
the inconvenient personal equation always present in the delineation of
such subjects. These figures bear little resemblance to those painted
upon the vases of this region.

Other figures are said to be engraved upon the bowlders and stones used
in constructing the burial cists. De Zeltner states that “one often
meets with stones covered with rude allegorical designs, representing
men, pumas (tigre?), and birds. It is particularly in such huacas as
have pillars and a vault that these curious specimens of Indian art are

_Columns._--A number of authors speak casually of sculptured stone
columns, none of which have been found in place. Seemann says that they
may be seen in David, where they are used for building purposes,[11] but
this is not confirmed by others. The sculptures are said to be in
relief, like those of Yucatan and Peru. Cullen says that columns are
found on the Island of Muerto, Bay of David.[12] Others are mentioned as
having been seen in Veragua.

_Images._--Objects that may properly be classed as images or idols are
of rather rare occurrence. Half a dozen specimens are found in the
McNiel collections. The most important of these represents a full length
female figure twenty-three inches in height. It is executed in the
round, with considerable attempt at detail (Fig. 6). I may mention, as
strong characteristics, the flattened crown, encircled by a narrow
turban-like band, the rather angular face and prominent nose, and the
formal pose of the arms and hands. Besides the head band, the only other
suggestion of costume is a belt about the waist.

  [Illustration: Fig. 6. A goddess of the ancient Chiriquians. Gray

The material is a compact, slightly vesicular, olive gray, basaltic
rock. I have seen a few additional examples of this figure, and from the
identity in type and detail conclude that the personage represented was
probably an important one in the mythology of the Chiriquians. In
general style there is a rather close correspondence with the sculptures
of the Central American States. Some of the plastic characters exhibited
in this work appear also in the various objects of clay, gold, and
copper described further on.

There is also a smaller, rudely carved, half length, human figure done
in the same style. Besides these figures there are two large flattish
stones, on one of which a rude image of a monkey has been picked, while
the other exhibits the figure of a reptile resembling a lizard or a
crocodile. The work is extremely rude and has the appearance of being
unfinished. It seems that all of these objects were found upon the
surface of the ground.

In Figs. 7 and 8 I present two specimens of sculpture also collected by
Mr. McNiel, and now in the possession of Mr. J. B. Stearns, of Short
Hills, N.J. The example shown in Fig. 7 was obtained near the Gulf of
Dolce, 82° 55´ west. Three views are presented: profile, front, and
back. It is carved from what appears to be a compact, grayish olive tufa
or basalt, and represents a male personage, distinct in style from the
female figure first presented. The head is rounded above, the arms are
flattened against the sides, and the feet are folded in a novel position
beneath the body. The height is 9 inches.

  [Illustration: Fig. 7. A god of the ancient Chiriquians. Gray
  volcanic rock--½.]

The other specimen, Fig. 8, from near the same locality, is carved from
a yellowish gray basalt which sparkles with numerous large crystals of
hornblende. It is similar in style to the last, but more boldly
sculptured, the features being prominent and the members of the body in
higher relief. The legs are lost. Height, 5¼ inches.

A remarkable figure of large size now in the National Museum was
obtained from the Island of Cana or Cano by Mr. McNiel. It is nearly
three feet in height and very heavy. The face has been mutilated. In
general style it corresponds more closely to the sculpture of the
Central American States than to that of Chiriqui.

  _a, b_
  Fig. 8. Fragmentary human figure in gray basaltic rock--½.]

_Mealing stones._--The metate, or hand mill, which consists of a concave
tablet and a rubbing stone, was an important adjunct to the household
appliances of nearly all the more cultured American nations. It is found
not only in those plain substantial forms most suitable for use in
grinding grain, seeds, and spices by manual means, but in many cases it
has been elaborated into a work of art which required long and skilled
labor for its production.

In the province of Chiriqui these mills must have been numerous; but,
since they are still in demand by the inhabitants of the region, many of
the ancient specimens have been destroyed by use. It seems from all
accounts that they were not very generally buried with the dead, but
were left upon or near the surface of the ground, and were hence
accessible to the modern tribes, who found it much easier to transport
them to their homes than to make new ones.

The metates of Chiriqui present a great diversity of form and possibly
represent distinct peoples or different grades of culture. They are
carved from volcanic rocks of a few closely related varieties, the
texture of which is coarse and occasionally somewhat cellular, giving an
uneven or pitted surface, well suited to the grinding of maize. Three
classes, for convenience of description, may be distinguished, although
certain characters are common to all and one form grades more or less
completely into another. We have the plain slab or rudely hewn mass of
rock, in the upper surface of which a shallow depression has been
excavated; we have the carefully hewn oval slab supported by short legs
of varied shape; and we have a large number of pieces elaborately
sculptured in imitation of animal forms. The first variety is common to
nearly all temperate and tropical America and does not require further
attention here. The second variety exhibits considerable diversity in
form. The tablet is oval, concave above, and of an even thickness. The
periphery is often squared and is in many cases ornamented with carved
figures, either geometric devices or rudely sculptured animal heads. The
legs are generally three in number, but four is not unusual. They are
mostly conical or cylindrical in shape and are rather short.

The finest example of the second class has an oval plate 37 inches in
length, 29 in width, and 2 inches thick, which is nearly symmetrical and
rather deeply concave above. The central portions of the basin are worn
quite smooth. Near the ends, within the basin, two pairs of small
animal-like figures are carved, and ranged about the lower margin of the
periphery are eighty-seven neatly sculptured heads of animals. There are
four short cylindrical legs. This superb piece of work is shown in
Fig. 9.

  [Illustration: Fig. 9. Mealing stone with large tablet ornamented
  with animal heads, from Gualaca--1/9.]

Examples of the third class are all carved to imitate the puma or
ocelot. The whole creature is often elaborately worked out in the round
from a single massive block of stone. The thin tablet representing the
body rests upon four legs. The head, which projects from one end of the
tablet, is generally rather conventional in style, but is sculptured
with sufficient vigor to recall the original quite vividly. The tail
appears at the other end and curves downward, connecting with one of the
hind feet, probably for greater security against mutilation. The head,
the margin of the body, and the exterior surfaces of the legs are
elaborately decorated with tasteful carving. The figures are geometric,
and refer, no doubt, to the markings of the animal’s skin. Nearly
identical specimens are obtained from Costa Rica and other parts of
Central America.

A fine example of medium size is given in Fig. 10. The material is gray,
minutely cellular, basaltic rock. The upper surface of the plate is
polished by use. The entire length is 17 inches.

  [Illustration: Fig. 10. Puma shaped metate of gray andesite, from
  Rio Joca--¼.]

The largest specimen in the McNiel collection is 2 feet long, 18 inches
wide, and 12 inches high. A similar piece has been illustrated by De

The usual office of these metates is considered to be that of grinding
corn, cocoa, and the like. The great elaboration observed in some
examples suggests the idea that perhaps they were devoted exclusively to
the preparation of material (meal or other substances) intended for
sacred uses. A high degree of elaboration in art products results in
many cases from their connection with superstitious usages.

Speculating upon the use of these objects, De Zeltner mentions a mortar
“whose pestle was nothing but a round stone, which still shows traces of
gold here and there. It was evidently with the help of this rude
instrument that the Indians reduced the gold to powder before fusing

The implement or pestle used in connection with these mealing tablets in
crushing and grinding is often a simple river worn pebble, as mentioned
above, but is more usually a cylindrical mass of volcanic rock, worked
into nearly symmetric shape.

_Stools._--The stool-like appearance of some of the objects described as
metates suggests the presentation in this place of a group of objects
that must for the present be classed as stools or seats, although their
true or entire function is unknown to me. They are distinguished from
the mealing stones by their circular plate, their sharply defined,
upright, marginal rim, and the absence of signs of use.

  [Illustration: Fig. 11. Stool shaped object carved from gray,
  minutely cellular basalt--⅓.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 12. Stool with columnar base, carved from gray
  basaltic rock--⅓.]

Two of these objects are from the vicinity of David. The largest and
most interesting is illustrated in Fig. 11. It is carved from a piece of
vesicular basaltic tufa and is in a perfect state of preservation. The
height is 6 inches and the diameter of the top 10 inches, that of the
base being a little less. The slightly concave upper surface is
depressed about half an inch below the upright marginal band. The
periphery is a little more than an inch in width and is decorated with a
simple guilloche-like ornament in relief. The disk-like cap is connected
by open lattice-like work with the ring which forms the base. The
interior is neatly hollowed out. The open work of the sides consists of
two elaborately carved figures of monkeys, alternating with two sections
of trellis work, very neatly executed. The other specimen is somewhat
less elaborate in its sculptured ornament.

Outlines of two additional examples of these objects are given in Figs.
12 and 13. The tablets are round, thick, and slightly concave above and
are margined with rows of sculptured heads. The supporting column in the
first is a plain shaft and the base is narrow and somewhat concave
underneath. In the second the column is hollowed out and perforated.

  [Illustration: Fig. 13. Stool with perforated base, carved from gray
  basaltic rock--⅓.]

As bearing upon the possible use of these specimens it should be noticed
that similar stool-like objects are made of clay, the softness and
fragility of which would render them unsuitable for use as mealing
plates or mortars, and it would also appear that they are rather fragile
for use as stools. I would suggest that they may have served as supports
for articles such as vases or idols employed in religious rites, or
possibly as altars for offerings.

_Celts._--The class of implements usually denominated celts is
represented by several hundred specimens, nearly all of which are in a
perfect state of preservation. They are thoroughly well made and
beautifully finished, and leave the impression upon the mind that they
must represent the very highest plane of Stone Age art.

Although varying widely in form and finish there is great homogeneity of
characters, the marked family resemblance suggesting a single people and
a single period or stage of culture. They are found in the cists along
with other relics and are very generally distributed, a limited number,
rarely more than three, being found in a single grave. They may be
classified by shape into a number of groups, each of which, however,
will be found to grade more or less completely into the others. They
display all degrees of finish from the freshly flaked to the evenly
picked and wholly polished surface. The edges or points of nearly all
show the contour and polish that come from long though careful use. All
are made of compact, dark, volcanic tufa that resembles very closely a
fine grained slate. The following illustrations include all the more
important types of form. There are but few specimens of very large size.
That shown in Fig. 14 is 8¼ inches long, 4 inches wide, and
seven-eighths of an inch thick. The blade is broad at the edge, rounded
in outline, and well polished. The upper end terminates in a rather
sharp point that shows the rough flaked surface of the original blocking
out. The middle portion exhibits an evenly picked surface. The rock is a
dark slaty looking tufa, the surface of which displays ring or
rosette-like markings, reminding one of the polished surface of a
section of fossil coral. These markings probably come from the
decomposition of the mineral constituents of the rock.

  [Illustration: Fig. 14. Large partially polished celt of mottled
  volcanic tufa--½.]

The implement given in Fig. 15 may be taken as a type of a large class
of beautifully finished celts. It also is made of the dark tufa, very
fine grained and compact, resembling slate. The beveled surfaces of the
blade are well polished, the remainder of the surface being evenly
picked. The hexagonal section is characteristic of the class, but it is
not so decided in this as in some other pieces in which the whole
surface is freshly ground.

The contraction of the lateral outline and the sudden expansion on
reaching the cutting edge noticed in this specimen are more clearly
marked in other examples. The small celt shown in Fig. 16 is narrow
above and quite wide toward the edge. A wide, thick specimen is given in
Fig. 17. A specimen quite exceptional in Chiriqui is shown in Fig. 18.
Mr. McNiel states that in many years’ exploration this is the only piece
seen that exhibits the constriction of outline characteristic of grooved

  [Illustration: Fig. 15. Celt of hexagonal section made of dark
  compact tufa--½.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 16. Small wide bladed celt made of dark

  [Illustration: Fig. 17. Celt with heavy shaft made of dark speckled

  [Illustration: Fig. 18. Celt or ax with constriction near the top.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 19. Flaked and partially polished celt of dark

  [Illustration: Fig. 20. Well polished celt of dark tufa--½.]

Two superb implements are illustrated in Figs. 19 and 20, the one in the
rough excepting at the cutting edge, where it is ground into the desired
shape, and the other neatly polished over nearly the entire surface. The
surfaces are somewhat whitened from decomposition, but within the rock
is nearly black, and the eye could not distinguish it from a dark slate.
The material is shown by microscopic test to be a volcanic tufa. These
examples were evidently intended for more delicate work than the
preceding. The shapes of the specimens illustrated in Figs. 21 and 22
indicate a still different use. The upper end of the implement is large
and rough, as if intended to facilitate holding or hafting, while the
shaft diminishes in size below, terminating in a narrow, symmetrical,
highly polished edge, a shape well calculated to unite delicacy and
strength. The highest mechanical skill could hardly give to stone shapes
more perfectly adapted to the manipulation of stone, metal, or other
hard or compact substances. The material is a very dark, compact, fine
grained tufa.

  [Illustration: Fig. 21. Narrow pointed celt of dark tufa--½.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 22. Narrow pointed celt of dark tufa--½.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 23. Cylindrical celt with narrow point, of dark

  [Illustration: Fig. 24. Leaf shaped objects suggesting spearpoints,
  of dark tufa--½.]

An additional example is given in Fig. 23. The shaft is cylindrical and
terminates in a conical point at one end and in a very narrow, abrupt,
cutting edge at the other. The whole surface is polished. The material
is the same dark tufa.

The class of objects illustrated in this and the two preceding cuts
comprises but a small percentage of the chisel-like implements.

_Spearheads (?)._--Another class of objects made of the same fine
grained, slaty looking tufa is illustrated in Fig. 24. They resemble
spearpoints, yet may have been devoted to a wholly different use. They
are long, leaf-like flakes, triangular in section, slightly worked down
by flaking, sharpened by grinding at the point, and slightly notched at
the top, perhaps for hafting.

_Arrowpoints._--The unique character of the arrowpoints of Chiriqui is
already known to archæologists. The most striking feature is the
triangular section presented in nearly all cases and shown in the
figures (Fig. 25). The workmanship is extremely rude. The material is
generally a flinty jasper of reddish and yellowish hues. The number
found is comparatively small. The specimens given are of average size.

  [Illustration: Fig. 25. Arrowpoints of jasper--1/1.]

_Ornaments._--It would seem from a study of our collections that
ornaments of stone were seldom used by the inhabitants of Chiriqui.
There are a few medium sized beads of agate and one pendant of dark
greenish stone rudely shaped to resemble a human head. Ornaments of gold
and copper were evidently much preferred.

    [Footnote 8: I am indebted to Mr. J. S. Diller, of the United
    States Geological Survey, for the determination of the species of
    stone in this series of objects.]

    [Footnote 9: Seemann: Voy. Herald, Vol. I, p. 312.]

    [Footnote 10: A. de Zeltner: Notes sur les sépultures indiennes du
    département de Chiriqui.]

    [Footnote 11: Seemann: Voy. Herald, Vol. I, p. 313.]

    [Footnote 12: Cullen’s Darien, p. 38.]

    [Footnote 13: A. De Zeltner: Notes sur les sépultures indiennes,
    p. 7.]



The Chiriquians, like many of their neighbors in the tropical portions
of the American continent, were skilled in the working of metals. Gold,
silver, copper, and tin--the last in alloys with copper forming
bronze--are found in the graves. Gold is the most important, and is
associated with all the others in alloys or as a surface coating. The
inhabitants of the isthmus at the time of the discovery were rich in
objects, chiefly ornaments, of this metal, and expeditions sent out
under Balboa, Pizarro, and others plundered the natives without mercy.
When the Indian village of Darien was captured by Balboa (1510) he
obtained “plates of gold, such as they hang on their breasts and other
parts, and other things, all of them amounting to ten thousand pesos of
fine gold.”[14] From an expedition to Nicaragua the same adventurers
brought back to Panama the value of “112,524 pieces of eight in low
gold, and 145 in pearls.”[15] Early Spanish-American history abounds in
stories of this kind. Among others we read that Columbus found the
natives along the Atlantic coast of Chiriqui and Veragua so rich in
objects of gold that he named the district _Castillo del Oro_. It is
said that the illusory stories of an _El Dorado_ somewhere within the
continent of South America arose from the lavish use of gold ornaments
by the natives whom the Spaniards encountered, and that Costa Rica gets
its name from the same circumstance. It is also recorded that the
natives of various parts of Central and South America at the date of the
conquest were in the habit of opening ancient graves for the purpose of
securing mortuary trinkets. The whites have followed their example with
the greatest eagerness. As far back as 1642 the Spaniards passed a law
claiming all the gold found in the burial places of Spanish America,[16]
the whole matter being treated merely as a means of revenue.

The objects of gold for which the tombs of Chiriqui are justly famous
are generally believed to have been simple personal ornaments, the
jewelry of the primeval inhabitants, although it is highly probable that
many of the figures, at least as originally employed, had an emblematic
meaning. They were doubtless at all times regarded as possessed of
potent charms, and thus capable of protecting and forwarding the
interests of their owners. They have been found in great numbers within
the last twenty-five years, but for the most part, even at this late
date, have been esteemed for their money value only. Very many specimens
found their way to this country, where they were either sold for
curiosities or, after waiting long for a purchaser, even in the very
shadow of our museums, were consigned to the melting pot. Many stories
bearing upon this point have been told me. A Washington jeweler is
represented as having exhibited in his window on Pennsylvania avenue
about the year 1860 a remarkable series of these trinkets, most of which
were afterwards sent to New York to be melted. About the same period a
gentleman on entering a shop in San Francisco was accosted by a stranger
who had his pockets well filled with these curious relics and wished to
dispose of them for cash. A number of my acquaintances have neat but
grotesque examples of these little images of gold attached to their
watch guards, thus approving the taste of our prehistoric countrymen and
at the same time demonstrating the identity of ideas of personal
embellishment in all times and with all peoples.

The ornaments are found only in a small percentage of the graves, those
probably of persons sufficiently opulent to possess them in life;
a majority of the graves contain none whatever. They are often found at
the bottom of the pits, and probably in nearly the position occupied by
them while still attached to the persons of the dead. It is said that
occasionally they are found in niches at the sides of the graves, as if
placed during the filling of the pit.

Strangely enough, the gold is very generally alloyed with copper, the
composite metal ranging from pure gold to pure copper. A small
percentage of silver is also present in some of the specimens examined,
but this is probably a natural alloy. In a few cases very simple figures
appear to have been shaped from nuggets or masses of the native metals;
this, however, is not susceptible of proof. The work is very skillfully
done, so that we find it difficult to ascertain the precise methods of
manipulation. The general effect in the more pretentious pieces
resembles that of our filigree work, in which the parts are produced by
hammering and united by soldering; yet there are many evidences of
casting, and these must be considered with care. As a rule simple
figures and some portions of composite figures present very decided
indications of having been cast in molds, yet no traces of these molds
have come to light, and there are none of those characteristic markings
which result from the use of composite or “piece” molds. Wire was
extensively used in the formation of details of anatomy and
embellishment, and its presence does not at first seem compatible with
ordinary casting. This wire, or pseudo-wire it may be, is generally
about one-twenty-fifth of an inch in diameter.

The manner in which the numerous parts or sections of complex figures
are joined together is both interesting and perplexing. Evidences of the
use of solder have been looked for in vain, and if such a medium was
ever used it was identical in kind with the body of the object or so
small in quantity as to escape detection. At the junction of the parts
there are often decided indications of hammering, or at least of the
strong pressure of an implement; but in pursuing the matter further we
find a singular perfection in the joining, which amounts to a
coalescence of the metals of the two parts concerned. There is no
weakness or tendency to part along the contact surfaces, neither is
there anything like the parting of parallel wires in coils or where a
series of wires is joined side by side and carried through various
convolutions. In a number of cases I made sections of coils and parts
composed of a number of wires, in the hope of discovering evidences of
the individuality of the strands, but the metal in the section is always
homogeneous, breaking with a rough, granular fracture, and not more
readily along apparent lines of junction than across them; and further,
in studying in detail the surface of parts unpolished or protected from
wear by handling, we find everywhere the granular and pitted unevenness
characteristic of cast surfaces. This is true of the wire forms as well
as of the massive parts, and, in addition to this, such defects occur in
the wires as would hardly be possible if they were of wrought gold.

All points considered, I am inclined to believe that the objects were
cast, and cast in their entirety. It is plain, however, that the
original model was made up of separately constructed parts of wire or
wirelike strands and of eccentric and often rather massive parts, and
that all were set together by the assistance of pressure, the
indications being that the material used was sufficiently plastic to be
worked after the manner of clay, dough, or wax. In one case, for
example, the body of a serpent, consisting of two wires neatly twisted
together, is held in the hand of a grotesque figure. The hand consists
of four fingers made by doubling together two short pieces of wire. The
coil has been laid across the hand and pressed down into it until half
buried, and the ends of the fingers are drawn up around it without any
indication of hammer strokes. Indeed, the effect is just such as would
have been produced if the artist had worked in wax. Again, in the
modeling of the eyes we have a good illustration. The eye is a minute
ball cleft across the entire diameter by a sharp implement, thus giving
the effect of the parted lids. Now, if the material had been gold or
copper, as in the specimens, the ball would have been separated into two
parts or hemispheres, which would not exhibit any great distortion; but
as we see them here the parts are flattened and much drawn out by the
pressure of the cutting edge, just as if the material had been decidedly

It seems to me that the processes of manufacture must have been
analogous to those employed by the more primitive metal workers of our
own day. In Oriental countries delicate objects of bronze and other
metals are made as follows: A model is constructed in some such material
as wax or resin and over it are placed coatings of clay or other
substance capable of standing great heat. These coatings, when
sufficiently thickened and properly dried, form the mold, from which the
original model is extracted by means of heat. The fused metal is
afterwards poured in. As a matter of course, both the mold and the model
are destroyed in each case, and exact duplications are not to be
expected. Mr. George F. Kunz, of New York, with whom I have discussed
this matter, states that he has seen live objects, such as insects, used
as models in this way. Being coated with washes of clay or like
substance until well protected and then heavily covered, they were
placed in the furnace. The animal matter was thus reduced to ashes and
extracted through small openings made for the purpose.

As bearing upon this subject it should be mentioned that occasionally
small figures in a fine reddish resin are obtained from the graves of
Chiriqui. They are identical in style of modeling with the objects of
gold and copper obtained from the same source.

In discussing possible processes, Mr. William Hallock, of the division
of chemistry and physics of the United States Geological Survey,
suggested that if the various sections of a metal ornament were embedded
in the surface of a mass of fire clay in their proper relations and
contacts they could then be completely inclosed in the mass and
subjected to heat until the metal melted and ran together. After
cooling, the complete figure could be removed by breaking up the clay
matrix. I imagine that in such work much difficulty would be experienced
in securing proper contact and adjustment of parts of complex figures.
It will likewise be observed that evidences of plasticity in the
modeling material would not exist. I must not pass a suggestion of
Nadaillac[17] which offers a possible solution of the problem of
manipulation. Referring to a statement of the early Spanish explorers
that smelting was unknown to the inhabitants of Peru, he states that it
would be possible for a people in a low state of culture to discover
that an amalgam of gold with mercury is quite plastic, and that after a
figure is modeled in this composite metal the mercury may be dissipated
by heat, leaving the form in gold, which then needs only to be polished.
There is, however, no evidence whatever that these people had any
knowledge of mercury.

There is no indication of carving or engraving in the Chiriquian work.
In finishing, some of the extremities seem to have been shaped by
hammering. This was a mere flattening out of the feet or parts of the
accessories, which required no particular skill and could have been
accomplished with comparatively rude stone hammers. It is a remarkable
fact that many, if not most, of the objects appear to be either plated
or washed with pure gold, the body or foundation being of base gold or
of nearly pure copper. This fact, coupled with that of the association
of objects of bronze with the relics, leads us to inquire carefully into
the possibilities of European influence or agency. I observe that recent
writers do not seem to have questioned the genuineness of the objects
described by them, but that at the same time no mention is made of the
plating or washing. This latter circumstance leads to the inference that
pieces now in my possession exhibiting this phenomenon may have been
tampered with by the whites. In this connection attention should be
called to the fact that history is not silent on the matter of plating.
The Indians of New Granada are said to have been not only marvelously
skillful in the manipulation of metals, but, according to Bollaert,
Acosta declares that these peoples had much _gilt_ copper, “and the
copper was gilt by the use of the juice of a plant rubbed over it, then
put into the fire, when it took the gold color.”[18] Just what this
means we cannot readily determine, but we safely conclude that, whatever
the process hinted at in these words, a thin surface deposit of pure
gold, or the close semblance of it, was actually obtained. It is not
impossible that an acid may have been applied which tended to destroy
the copper of the alloy, leaving a deposit of gold upon the surface,
which could afterwards be burnished down.

It has been suggested to me that possibly the film of gold may in cases
be the result of simple decay on the part of the copper of the alloy,
the gold remaining as a shell upon the surface of the still undecayed
portion of the composite metal; but the surface in such a case would not
be burnished, whereas the show surfaces of the specimens recovered are
in all cases neatly polished.

If we should conclude that the ancient Americans were probably able to
secure in some such manner a thin film of gold, it still remains to
inquire whether there may not have been some purely mechanical means of
plating. In some of the Chiriquian specimens a foundation of very base
metal appears to have been plated with heavy sheet gold, which as the
copper decays comes off in flakes. Occasional pieces have a blistered
look as a consequence. Were these people able with their rude appliances
to beat gold into very thin leaves? and Had they discovered processes by
which these could be applied to the surfaces of objects of metal? are
questions that should probably be answered in the affirmative.

The flakes in some cases indicate a very great degree of thinness.
Specimens of sheet gold ornaments found in the tombs are thicker, but
are sufficiently thin to indicate that, if actually made by these
people, almost any degree of thinness could be attained by them. It
would probably not be difficult to apply thin sheet gold to the
comparatively smooth surfaces of these ornaments and to fix it by

Mr. Kunz suggests still another method by means of which plating could
have been accomplished. If a figure in wax were coated with sheet gold
and then incased in a clay matrix, the wax could be melted out, leaving
the shell of gold within. The cavity could then be filled with alloy,
the clay could be removed, and the gold, which would adhere to the
metal, could then be properly burnished down.

It will be seen from this hasty review that, although we may conclude
that casting and plating were certainly practiced by these peoples, we
must remain in ignorance of the precise methods employed.

Referring to the question of the authenticity of the specimens
themselves, I may note that observations bearing upon the actual
discovery of particular specimens in the tombs are unfortunately
lacking. Mr. McNiel acknowledges that with all his experience in the
work of excavation no single piece has been taken from the ground with
his own hands, and he cannot say that he ever witnessed the exhumation
by others, although he has been present when they were brought up from
the pits. Generally the workmen secrete them and afterwards offer them
for sale. He has, however, no shadow of a doubt that all the pieces
procured by him came from the graves as reported by his collectors. The
question of the authenticity of the gilding will not be satisfactorily
or finally settled until some responsible collector shall have taken the
gilded objects with his own hands from their undisturbed places in tombs
known to be of pre-Columbian construction.

There are many proofs, however, of the authenticity of the objects
themselves. It is asserted by a number of early writers that the
American natives were, on the arrival of the Spaniards, highly
accomplished in metallurgy; that they worked with blowpipes and cast in
molds; that the objects produced exhibited a high order of skill; and
that the native talent was directed with unusual force and uniformity
toward the imitation of life forms. It is said that the conquerors were
“struck with wonder” at their skill in this last respect. And a strong
argument in favor of the genuineness of these objects is found in the
fact that it is not at all probable that rich alloys of gold would have
been used by Europeans for the base or foundation when copper or bronze,
or even lead, would have served as well. We also observe that there is
absolutely no trace of peculiarly European material or methods of
manipulation, a condition hardly possible if the extensive reproductions
were made by the whites. Neither are there traces of European ideas
embodied in the shapes or in the decoration of the objects--a
circumstance that argues strongly in favor of native origin. An equally
convincing argument is found in the fact that all the alloys liable to
corrosion exhibit marked evidences of decay, as if for a long period
subject to the destructive agents of the soil. In many cases the copper
alloy base crumbles into black powder, leaving only the flakes of the
plating. Lastly and most important, the strange creatures represented
are in many cases identical with those embodied in clay and in stone,
and for these latter works no one will for a moment claim a foreign

Considering all these arguments, I arrive at the conclusion that the
ornaments are, in the main, genuine antiquities, and that, if any
deception at all has been practiced, it is to be laid at the door of
modern goldsmiths and speculators, who, according to Mr. McNiel, are
known in a few cases to have “doctored” alloyed objects with washes of
gold with the view of selling them as pure gold.

I present the following specimens with a reasonable degree of confidence
that all, or nearly all, are of purely American fabrication, and I
sincerely hope that at no distant day competent archæologists may have
the opportunity of making personal observations of similar relics in

The objects consist to a great extent of representations of life forms,
in many cases more fanciful than real and often extremely grotesque.
They include the human figure and a great variety of birds and beasts
indigenous to the country, in styles resembling work in clay and stone
of the same region. My illustrations show the actual sizes of the

  [Illustration: Fig. 26. Human figure with ridged crown, formed of
  copper-gold alloy.]

_The human figure._--Statuettes of men and women and of a variety of
anthropomorphic figures of all degrees of elaboration abound. Fig. 26
illustrates a plain, rude specimen belonging to the collection of J. B.
Stearns. It was obtained by Mr. McNiel from near the south base of Mount
Chiriqui. The body is solid and the surface is rough and pitted, as if
from decay. In many respects it resembles the stone sculptures of the
isthmus. The metal is nearly pure copper. A piece exhibiting more
elaborate workmanship, illustrated by Bollaert,[19] is shown in Fig. 27.
Another remarkable specimen is illustrated by De Zeltner, but the
photograph published with his brochure is too indistinct to permit of
satisfactory reproduction. He describes it in the following language:

  The most curious piece in my collection is a gold figure of a man,
  7 centimeters in height. The head is ornamented with a diadem
  terminated on each side with the head of a frog. The body is nude,
  except a girdle, also in the form of a plait, supporting a flat
  piece intended to cover the privates, and two round ornaments on
  each side. The arms are extended from the body; the well drawn hands
  hold, one of them a short, round club, the other a musical
  instrument, of which one end is in the mouth and the other forms an
  enlargement like that of a flute, made of human bone. It is not
  probable that this is a pipe. Both thighs have an enlargement, and
  the toes are not marked in this little figurine.[20]

  [Illustration: Fig. 27. Grotesque human figure in gold, from

  [Illustration: Fig. 28. Rudely shaped and finished human figure in

In Fig. 28 we have a rather rudely made and finished piece collected by
Mr. McNiel, and now owned by Mr. Stearns. It exhibits features
corresponding with a number of those referred to by De Zeltner. The
foundation is thin and is of base metal coated with pure gold. I present
two additional examples of the human figure from the collection of Mr.
Stearns. One of them (Fig. 29) is an interesting little statuette in
dark copper that still retains traces of the former gilding of yellow
gold. The crown is flat and is surrounded by a fillet of twisted wire.
The face is grotesque, the nose being bulbous, the mouth large, and the
lips protruding. The hands are represented as grasping cords of wire
which connect the waist with the crown of the figure and seem to be
intended for the bodies of serpents, the heads of which project from the
sides of the headdress. Similar serpents project from the ankles. The
feet are flattened out as if intended to be set in a crevice. The
extremities--excepting the feet--and the ornaments are all formed of
wire. The various parts of the figure have been modeled separately and
set together while the material was in a plastic or semiplastic
condition. This is clearly indicated by the sinking of one part into
another at the points of contact.

  [Illustration: Fig. 29. Grotesque human figure in nearly pure
  copper, partially coated with yellow gold.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 30. Grotesque human figure in nearly pure gold.]

An excellent example of the more elaborate figures is shown in Fig. 30.
It is of reddish gold, slightly alloyed apparently with copper, and has
in finishing received a very thin wash or plating of yellow gold, which
is worn off in exposed parts. The central feature of the rather
complicated structure is a grotesque human figure, much like the
preceding, and having counterparts in both clay and stone. The figure is
backed up and strengthened by two curved and flattened bars of gold, one
above and the other below, as seen in the cut. The figure is decked with
and almost hidden by a profusion of curious details, executed for the
most part in wire and representing serpents and birds. Three
vulture-like heads project from the crown and overhang the face. Two
serpents, the bodies of which are formed of plaited wire, issue from the
mouth of the figure and are held about the neck by the hands. The heads
of the serpents are formed of wire folded in triangular form and are
supplied with double coils of wire at the sides, as if for ears, and
with little balls of gold for eyes. Similar heads project from the sides
of the head and from the feet of the image.

The peculiarities of construction are seen to good advantage in this
specimen. The figure is made up of a great number of separate pieces,
united apparently by pressure or by hammering while the material was
somewhat plastic. Upwards of eighty pieces can be counted. The larger
pieces, forming the body and limbs, are hollow or concave behind. Nearly
all the subordinate parts are constructed of wire.

  [Illustration: Fig. 31. Rudely executed image of a bird in gold.]

_The bird._--Images of birds are numerous and vary greatly in size and
elaboration. They are usually represented with expanded wings and tails,
the under side of the body being finished for show. The back is left
concave and rough, as when cast, and is supplied with a ring for
suspension or attachment, as seen in the profile view (Fig. 31). The
owl, the eagle, the parrot, and various other birds are recognized,
although determinations of varieties are not possible, as in many cases
the forms are rude or greatly obscured by extraneous details. The
example shown in Fig. 31 is of the simplest type and the rudest
workmanship, and is apparently intended for some rapacious species,
possibly a vulture. The body, wings, and tail are hammered quite thin
and are left frayed and uneven on the edges. The material appears to be
nearly pure copper plated with yellow gold. Specimens of this class are
very numerous. One, presented in a publication of the Society of
Northern Antiquaries, and now in the museum at Copenhagen, is thought to
be intended for a fish hawk, as it carries a fish in its mouth. De
Zeltner mentions a statuette in gold of a paroquet, whose head is
ornamented with two winged tufts. Such a specimen may be seen in the
collection of Mr. Stearns.

  [Illustration: Fig. 32. Image of a bird in gold, from Bollaert.]

Fig. 32 is reproduced from Bollaert. It represents a parrot and is very
elaborately worked.

  [Illustration: Fig. 33. Puma shaped figure in gold.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 34. Puma shaped figure in base metal.]

_The puma._--Representations of quadrupeds are common; a good example,
copied from Bollaert, is given in Fig. 33. The animal intended is
apparently a puma, a favorite subject with Chiriquian workers in clay
and stone as well as in gold. The body is hollow and open beneath and
the fore feet are finished with loops for suspension. A similar piece
with head thrown back over the body is shown in Fig. 34. The metal in
this case appears to be nearly pure copper.

_Grotesque figure._--Another piece collected by Mr. McNiel is outlined
in Fig. 35. The metal is quite base and the surface has been coated with
gold, which is now nearly all rubbed off. The shape is that of a
quadruped. The face has a rather grotesque, not to say satanic,
expression. The details are not unlike those of other examples
previously given.

  [Illustration: Fig. 35. Quadruped with grotesque face in base

  [Illustration: Fig. 36. Figure of a fish in gold. From Harper’s
  Weekly, 1859.]

_The fish._--The fish was a favorite subject with the ancient nations of
South America, and is modeled in clay, woven into fabrics, and worked in
metals with remarkable freedom. It was in great favor in Chiriqui and
must have been of importance in the mythology of the country. It occurs
most frequently in pottery, where it is executed in color and modeled in
the round. The very grotesque specimen in gold shown in Fig. 36 is
copied from Harper’s Weekly of August 6, 1859, where it forms one of a
number of illustrations of these curious ornaments. The paper is,
I believe, by Dr. F. M. Otis, who had just returned from Panama. A very
curious piece owned by Mrs. Philip Phillips, of Washington, represents a
creature having some analogies with the fish figure of Otis. Issuing
from the mouth is the same forked tongue, each part terminating in a
serpent’s head. The body is about two inches long and the back has five
triangular perforations. The tail is forked and the four leg-like
members terminate in conventional serpents’ heads. The metal is pure or
nearly pure gold.

  [Illustration: Fig. 37. Large figure of a frog in base metal plated
  with gold.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 38. Small figure of a frog, in base metal plated
  with gold.]

_The frog._--The frog appears in the plastic art of Chiriqui more
frequently perhaps than any other reptile. Its form is reproduced with
much spirit and in greatly varying sizes, degrees of elaboration, and
styles of presentation. It is probable that a number of species are
represented. In Fig. 37 we have a large, rather plain specimen, now in
the National Museum. The body and limbs are concave beneath, the metal
being about one-sixteenth of an inch thick. Teeth are suggested by a
number of perforations encircling the jaws and the eyes are minute hawk
bells containing pellets of metal. The legs are placed in characteristic
positions, and the hind feet are broad plates without indications of
toes, a characteristic of these golden frogs. The framework or
foundation is of copper, apparently nearly pure, and the surface is
plated with thin sheet gold, which tends to flake off as the copper
foundation corrodes.

The minute, delicately finished example given in Fig. 38 contrasts
strongly with the preceding. It is also of base metal plated with pure
gold and belongs to the collection of Mr. Stearns.

  [Illustration: Fig. 39. Figure of an alligator, in gold, published
  in Harper’s Weekly, 1859.]

_The alligator._--The alligator, which appears so frequently in the
pottery of Chiriqui, is only occasionally found in gold. A striking
specimen, illustrated in Harper’s Weekly of August 6, 1859, is given in
Fig. 39. A similar piece, formed of base metal, is in the collection of
Mr. Stearns.

  [Illustration: Fig. 40. Animal figure, in base metal plated with

_The crayfish (?)._--In Fig. 40 we have a fine specimen, intended
apparently to represent a crayfish or some similar crustacean form. The
head is supplied with complicated yet graceful antenna-like appendages,
made of wire neatly coiled and welded together by pressure or hammering.
The eyes are globular and are encircled by the ends of a double loop of
wire which extends along the back and incloses a line of minute balls or
nodes. The peculiar wings and tail will be best understood by referring
to the illustration. The foundation metal is much corroded, being dark
and rotten, and the plating of reddish gold seems to have been coated
with a thin film of yellow gold. The profile view gives a good idea of
the thickness of the metal and of the relief of the parts. Two rings or
loops of doubled wire are attached to the extreme end of the nose and a
heavy ring for suspending is fixed to the under side of the head.

_Miscellaneous._--Gold, pure and in the usual alloys, was also used in
the manufacture of other articles, such as bells, beads, disks, balls,
rings, whistles, thimble shaped objects, and amulets of varied shapes.
Bells are more generally made of bronze, because, perhaps, of its
greater degree of resonance. Thin plates, or rather circular sheets, of
gold leaf are numerous. One mentioned by Bollaert was 7¼ inches in
diameter. They are plain or crimped about the margins, indented in
various ways, and sometimes perforated, apparently for suspension or
attachment. Merritt mentions examples having holes which showed
evidences of wear upon one side only, indicating attachment in a fixed
position to some object or to some part of the costume. But one example
is at hand, a thin sheet, three inches in diameter and crimped or
indented neatly about the margin. Its thickness is about that of
ordinary tinfoil.

    [Footnote 14: Herrera: Hist. America, Vol. VI, p. 369.]

    [Footnote 15: Herrera: Hist. America, Vol. III, p. 287.]

    [Footnote 16: Mr. Hawes’s letter answering questions about
    Chiriqui, read by Mr. Davis before the American Ethnological
    Society, April 17, 1860.]

    [Footnote 17: Nadaillac: Prehistoric America, p. 450.]

    [Footnote 18: Bollaert: Ethnological and Other Researches in New
    Granada, &c.]

    [Footnote 19: Bollaert: Antiquarian Researches in New Granada,
    plate facing p. 31.]

    [Footnote 20: A. De Zeltner: Notes sur les sépultures indiennes du
    département de Chiriqui.]


_Bells._--Bells seem to have been in pretty general use by the more
cultured American races previous to the conquest. The form best known is
the hawk bell, or common sleighbell of the North. The globular body is
suspended by a loop at the top and is slit on the under side, so that
the tinkling of the small free pellets of metal may be audible. Such
bells are found in considerable numbers in the graves of Chiriqui,
although I have no positive assurance that any of the examples in my
possession were actually taken from graves which contained typical
Chiriquian relics of other classes. The specimens now in the National
Museum (Fig. 41) are in most cases, if not in all, of bronze, as
determined by Mr. R. B. Riggs, of the chemical laboratory of the United
States Geological Survey. All have been cast in molds. In most cases
there are traces of a plating of gold. The largest is 1¼ inches in
height and three-fourths of an inch in diameter. It is surmounted by the
rude figure of an animal, through or beneath the body of which is an
opening for the attachment of a cord. Others have simple loops at the
top. The small perforated specimen belongs to Mr. Stearns. The
additional piece given in Fig. 42 is unique in conception. It represents
a human head, which takes an inverted position when the bell is
suspended. The lower part of the bell forms a conical crown to the head
and the ring of suspension is attached to the chin. Double coils of wire
take the place of the ears, and the other features are formed by setting
on bits of the material used in modeling. This specimen belongs to the
collection of Mr. Stearns. Many examples of more elaborate workmanship
have been recovered from the tombs and are now to be found in the
collections of America and Europe.

  [Illustration: Fig. 41. Bronze bells plated or washed with gold.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 42. Bronze bell with human features.]

A specimen found many years ago on the Rio Grande, near Panama, and
figured in Harper’s Weekly, was of gold and showed specific variations
from the Chiriquian pieces. It will be seen by reference to the outline
given in Fig. 43 that three very neatly shaped and gracefully ornamented
bells are mounted upon a circular plate to which a short handle is
attached. It was evidently not intended for suspension, but rather to be
held in the hand as a rattle.

A question as to the authenticity of these bells as aboriginal works
very naturally arises, and it may be difficult to show to the
satisfaction of the skeptical mind that any particular specimen is not
of European origin or inspiration. At the same time we are not without
strong evidences that such bells were in use by the Americans before the
advent of the whites. Historical accounts are not wanting, but I shall
only stop to point out some of the internal evidences of the native art.
The strongest argument is to be found in the presence of analogous
features in other branches of the art and in other arts. The eyes of the
golden figures of reptiles are in many cases minute hawk bells, and in
works of clay, the purely aboriginal character of which has not been
called in question, similar features are discovered. The American origin
of the bell, therefore, is not to be questioned. The form originated, no
doubt, in the rattle, at first a nutshell or a gourd; later it was
modeled in clay, and in time the same idea was worked out in the legs
and the ornaments of vessels and in the heads and other parts of animal
forms, which were made hollow and supplied with tinkling pellets. With
the acknowledged skill of these people in the working of metals, there
is no reason why the bells described should not have been manufactured
independently of European aid and influence, provided the requisite
metal was at hand.

  [Illustration: Fig. 43. Triple bell or rattle found on the Rio

  [Illustration: Fig. 44. Ancient Mexican bell.]

It should be observed that if these early American bells were copied
from or based upon Spanish originals they would not probably vary
greatly in type with the various sections from which they are recovered,
but it is observed that marked and persistent differences do occur. The
well known Mexican bell, an example of which is outlined in Fig. 44,
although of bronze, is generically distinct in form and construction.

In a brief review I may recall the more salient points regarding the use
of metals in ancient Chiriqui. Gold, silver, copper, and apparently tin
are represented.

Gold and copper were very plentifully distributed among the isthmian
races, but we have little information as to the sources of supply. Free
gold is found in the stream beds of many localities, and copper was
probably found in its native state in some convenient locality; yet it
is not impossible that these metals were transported from distant
regions, as the inhabitants of Chiriqui must have had considerable
intercourse with those of Central America on the north and with those of
Granada on the south. Silver and tin are found in alloys with gold and
copper, but not as independent metals. The silver gold alloy is probably
a natural compound. In no case have I found silver to exceed 6 per cent.
of the composite metal. Tin was artificially alloyed with copper,
forming bronze. The latter metal resembles our ordinary bronze in color
and hardness, but I am unable to secure more than a qualitative analysis
on account of the scarcity of specimens available for the purpose. We
have no information in regard to the origin of the tin. It is not found
in a native state, and since it seems hardly probable that the
Chiriquians understood smelting ores we are left in doubt as to whether
it was obtained from more cultured nations to the north or to the south
or from transoceanic countries.

The gold-copper alloys appear to range between pure gold and pure
copper. If the bronze is of European origin, then we must conclude that
all objects made of that metal are of post-Columbian manufacture. This
question will probably be definitely settled in the near future.

The greater number of the objects were formed by casting in molds.
Hammering was but little practiced, excepting, apparently, in the
formation of sheet gold, which was probably an indigenous product.
Repoussé work is not found, save as represented in the crimping and
indenting of gold leaf. Engraving and carving were not practiced. It may
be considered certain that gilding, or at least plating, was understood.

The objects are obtained from ancient graves of which no record or
reliable tradition is preserved. They are all ornaments, no coin,
weapon, tool, or utensil having come to my notice. The absence of
utensils and of hammered objects of any kind strikes me as being rather
extraordinary, since it is popularly supposed that, in the normal
succession of events, hammering should precede casting and that utensils
should be made before elaborate ornaments.

The work exhibits close analogies with that of the mainland of South
America, but these analogies appear to be in material, treatment, and
scope of employment rather than in the subject matter of the
conceptions. The personages and zoömorphic characters represented are
characteristically Chiriquian, and were derived no doubt from the
mythology of the locality. These works affiliate with the various works
in stone and clay, the art products of the province thus constituting a
fairly homogeneous whole and being entirely free from traces of European

Metals do not come into use early in the history of a race, as they are
not found in shapes or conditions suitable for immediate use, nor are
they sufficiently showy when found to be especially desirable for
ornaments. A long period must have elapsed before the use of metals was
discovered, and a longer period must have passed before they were
worked; and, in the light of our knowledge of the ancient tribes of the
United States, it would seem that a considerable degree of culture may
be achieved before the casting of metals is understood; but in the
ordinary course of progress the discovery of methods of alloying rare
metals would be far separated from that of the simple fusing and casting
of a single metal, such as gold. The Chiriquian peoples not only had a
knowledge of the methods of alloying gold with copper, and, apparently,
copper with tin, but, if our data are correct, they were able to plate
the baser metals and alloys with sheet gold, and, what is far more
wonderful, to wash them with gold, producing an effect identical with
that of our galvanic processes.

The character of the conceptions embodied in the art unite with
evidences of technical skill to prove to us that American culture, as
represented by the metal ornaments of Chiriqui, was not the product of a
day, but of long periods of experiment and progress.


_Preliminary._--The importance of the potter’s art to archæology has
often been pointed out. Baked clay is one of the most enduring materials
utilized in art, and its employment by the races of men has fallen but
little short of universal. The creations of that noblest of arts,
architecture, and the antecedent forms of house building are necessarily
left where erected, to be fed upon by the remorseless elements of
nature, but the less pretentious utensil of clay accompanies its owner
to the tomb, where it remains practically unchanged for ages.

Many glimpses of the early history of the American races and of the
progress of art in pre-Columbian times are obtained through these
exhumed relics, and in no case have we a view more clear and
comprehensive than that furnished in the series here presented. The
graves of Chiriqui have yielded to a single explorer upwards of 10,000
pieces of pottery, and this chiefly from an area perhaps not more than
fifty miles square. These vessels constitute at least 90 per cent. of
the known art of the ancient occupants of the province, and, although
not so eloquent of the past as are the inscribed tablets of Assyria or
the pictured vases of Greece, they tell a story of art and of peoples
that without their aid would remain untold to the end of time.

A careful study of the earthenware of this province leads to the
conclusion that for America it represents a very high stage of
development, and its history is therefore full of interest to the
student of art. Its advanced development as compared with other American
fictile products is shown in the perfection of its technique, in the
high specialization of form, and in its conventional use of a wide range
of decorative motives. There is no family of American ware that bears
evidence of higher skill in the manipulation of clay or that indicates a
more subtile appreciation of beauty of form, and no other that presents
so many marked analogies to the classic forms of the Mediterranean.
Strangely enough, too, notwithstanding the well established fact that
only primitive methods of manufacture were known, there is a parallelism
with wheel made ware that cannot but strike the student with amazement.

In speaking thus of the whole body of ceramic products, I would not
convey the impression that there is perfect homogeneity throughout, as
if all were the work of a single people developed from within, and
therefore free from the eccentricities that come from exotic influence.
On the contrary, there is strong evidence of mixed conditions of races
and of arts, the analysis of which, with our present imperfect data,
will be extremely difficult. These evidences of mixed conditions are
found in the marked diversity and individuality of character of the
various groups of ware.

It is impossible, without the aid of careful observations in the field,
to arrive at any conclusion as to the relative age of the different
varieties of ware. Appearances of age are deceptive; the newer looking
varieties may be the older and those executed in the most primitive
style may belong to the later period, for grades in culture are not

With reference to the principal groups of relics, we cannot do better
than accept the statements of collectors that all are buried in like
ways and in similar tombs, different varieties in many cases occurring
in the same tomb. There are, however, in a few minor groups such marked
distinctions in workmanship and style that we are compelled to attribute
them to different periods or to distinct communities. The groups
separated most completely from others are the scarified pottery
presented first in the series of painted wares, the maroon group, which
follows, and other varieties represented by fugitive pieces. The latter
may have reached Chiriqui from neighboring provinces. There are certain
pieces that speak decidedly of Costa Rican influence and others that
find their counterparts in the Colombian states to the south.

In art in clay in most countries the vessel is the leading idea, the
center about which nearly the entire ceramic art is gathered. This is
true in a marked degree in Chiriqui, and vessels are therefore given the
first place in this paper. The less usual forms include drums, whistles,
rattles, stools, spindle whorls, needlecases, and toy-like images, all
of which present features of peculiar interest. These classes of objects
are discussed in separate sections.

There are few indications of an ambition to model natural forms or
mythologic figures independently of utensils and useful objects, and,
strange to say, no pieces are found that portray the human face and
figure with even a fair degree of approach to nature.

_How found._--In describing the graves and tombs in a previous section,
I alluded to the manner in which the pottery was deposited. It appears
to have been buried with the dead or thrown into the grave with the
earth and stones with which the pit was filled. There was little
regularity in the place or position of the vessels and many were broken
when found. The precise use of the vessels, the character of the
contents, or the relation of particular pieces to the remains of the
dead cannot be determined. Although the human remains have almost
entirely disappeared and there are no traces left of utensils of wood,
bone, horn, or shell, the paste, slip, and colors are wonderfully well
preserved and the surface is not even discolored by contact with the
earth. When found, every crevice and cavity is completely filled with
earth, and the paste is often so tender that the vessels have to be
dried with great care before they can be handled with freedom. The
number of pieces found in a grave sometimes reaches twenty, but the
average is perhaps not above three or four.

_Material._--The material used in the manufacture of this ware is
remarkably uniform throughout the whole province, varying slightly with
the locality, with the group, and with the character of the vessel
constructed. Generally the paste consists of a matrix of fine clay
tempered with finely pulverized sand, in which may be detected grains of
quartz, feldspar, hornblende, augite, particles of iron oxide, &c.
Argillaceous matter has been sparingly used, the sand in many cases
comprising at least 75 per cent. of the mass. Many of the unpainted
specimens, from which the polished slip has been removed, give off
showers of fine sand when rubbed by the hand, and it is difficult to
detect the presence of any finely comminuted matrix whatever. The thin
slip employed in surface finish is more highly argillaceous than the
paste. The clay used was probably mostly light in color, as the paste is
now quite uniformly so. The baking was effected apparently without a
very high degree of temperature and by methods that left few marks or
discolorations upon the vessels. In hardness and durability the paste
corresponds pretty closely with that of our red porous earthenware. The
softer pieces can be scratched or even carved with a knife. Water will
penetrate any of these vessels in a few minutes, but decay has probably
tended to make the walls more porous.

_Manufacture._--There is no piece of this ware that does not bear
evidence of a high degree of skill on the part of the potter; and yet,
owing to the thorough manner in which the work is finished, the precise
methods of manipulation are not easily detected. So great is the
symmetry and so graceful are the shapes that one is led to suspect the
employment of mechanical devices of a high order. The casual observer
would at once arrive at the conclusion that the wheel or molds had been
used, but it is impossible to detect the use of any such appliances. We
observe that irregular and complex forms, in the production of which
mechanical appliances could not be used to advantage, are modeled with
as much grace of contour and perfection of surface as are the simpler
shapes that could be turned upon a wheel, and we conclude that with this
remarkable people the hand and the eye were so highly educated that
mechanical aids were not indispensable. I find no evidence that coil
building was systematically practiced, but it is clear that parts of
complex forms were modeled separately and afterwards united. The various
ornaments in relief (the heads and other parts of animals) and the
handles, legs, and bases of vessels were constructed separately and then
luted on, and with such skill that the thinnest walls and the most
complex and delicate forms were not injured in the process. The contact
irregularities were then worked down, and every part of the surface,
including the more important ornaments, were rendered smooth,
preparatory to the application of the thin surface wash or slip. After
the slip was applied and the clay became somewhat indurated, the surface
was polished with smooth pebbles, the marks of which can be seen on the
less accessible parts of the vessel. On the exposed surfaces of certain
groups of ware the polish is in many cases so perfect that casual
observers and inexperienced persons take it for a glaze. Incised figures
and painted decorations were generally executed after the polishing was
complete. Details of processes will be given as the various classes of
ware pass under review.

The methods of baking were apparently of a higher order than those
practiced in many parts of America. One rarely discovers traces of the
dark discolorations that result from primitive methods of baking, yet
there are none of the contact marks that arise from the furnace firing
of Spanish-American potters.

_Color._--The colors of the ware and of the surface applications vary
decidedly with the different groups. The prevailing colors of the paste
may be defined as ranging from very light yellow grays to a variety of
ochery yellows and very pale terra cotta reds. In one or two groups
there is an approach to salmon and orange hues, and in another the color
is black or dark brown. The color within the mass is in some cases
darker than upon the surface, an effect produced in baking, and not
through the use of different clays. The slip is usually lighter than the
surface of the paste.

The colors used in finishing and decorating are confined to reds,
blacks, and purple grays. In one large group of ware the appearance of
the delineations is such as to lead to the conclusion that the principal
pigment or fluid employed in delineation has totally disappeared,
carrying with it all underlying colors not of unusual permanence or not
worked down with the polishing implement. The Aztec and other races of
tropical America used an argillaceous, white pigment in decorating their
wares, which has in many cases partially or wholly disappeared, carrying
away considerable portions of the colors over which it was laid, while
in other cases, and also in this Chiriqui ware, there is no trace of
color remaining and we are left to surmise that the brush used probably
contained merely a “taking out” medium. Red was profusely used and
varies from a light vermilion to a deep maroon. In certain classes of
vessels it was hastily daubed on, covering prominent parts of the
surface or forming irregular spots, streaks, and rude figures. In two
groups of ware it was used as the chief delineating color. In some cases
it was employed as a wash or slip and was worked down with the polishing
stone, and in this condition it was treated as a ground upon which to
execute designs in other colors. It is always a fast color and is
probably of mineral character.

The blacks are of two kinds, which are used in distinct groups of ware:
one, probably a mineral pigment, somewhat pasty when applied and quite
permanent, is always used in delineating the ornamental figures; the
other, possibly a vegetable tint, is always used as a ground upon which
to execute designs in other mediums. It is confined to a single group of
ware. It has in many cases disappeared entirely, and where remaining can
be removed with ease by rubbing.

A light purple tint is tastefully and sparingly employed in one group of
ware. Browns and other hues occur but rarely and in all cases result
from alterations of other colors produced in firing. The color effects
of this pottery, although evidently much modified by age, are
sufficiently rich to be highly pleasing to the eye.

_Use._--The uses to which most classes of earthen products were applied
are easily determined. Whistles, drums, rattles, and spindle whorls have
definite duties to perform, and vessels, as to general scope of
function, answer for themselves: but when we come to inquire into the
particular uses of the various groups of vessels we are often at a loss.
The majority of the pieces show no abrasion by handling or discoloration
by fire or by contents, and I am inclined to believe that a large
portion were taken directly from the furnace and deposited in the tombs.
This implies manufacture for purely mortuary purposes.

Two important groups, the high tripods and the two handled cups or pots,
are generally discolored by use over fire, but we cannot say with
confidence whether that use was a domestic one or whether it was
ceremonial. The small size and the elaborate modeling of a majority of
the pieces make it appear improbable that they were intended for use in
ordinary cooking or even in the preparation of beverages. A few large
plain caldrons are found, and these were probably domestic receptacles.
All things considered, it would seem highly probable that the greater
portion of the vessels exhumed from the graves were intended to be used
for religious and mortuary purposes.

The preceding paragraphs refer, for the most part, to the whole body of
earthenware products, but throughout the rest of this section I shall
treat of vessels only, except in the matter of decoration, which refers
equally to all classes of objects.

  _a, b, c, d, e, f_
  Fig. 45. Fundamental forms of vases--convex outlines.]

  _a, b, c, d, e_
  Fig. 46. Fundamental forms of vases--angular outlines.]

  _a, b_
  Fig. 47. Vases of complex outlines--exceptional forms.]

_Forms of vessels._--Divesting the utensil of extraneous features, such
as rims, handles, and legs, we have the following series of shapes,
which shows a pretty full graduation of outline from extreme to extreme.
Beginning with the simplest fundamental form, the shallow cup (Fig. 45,
_a_), we ascend gradually to more complex outlines, such as are seen in
the hemispherical bowl (_b_), the deep basin with slightly incurved rim
(_c_), the globular form (_d_), and the elongated form (_e_).
Occasionally we see an eccentric variation, such as is shown in _f_.
Flat bottoms are unusual; a conical base is the rule. Outlines do not
always exhibit these even, convex curves, but many are straight or
concave in profile, as shown in Fig. 46. Complex forms are shown in
Fig. 47, _a_ and _b_, and compound forms in Fig. 48, _a_ and _b_.
Examples of these classes are numerous and important. The compound
shapes result from the union of two or more simple forms. Eccentric
forms are numerous and result in a majority of cases from the employment
of some animal as a model. Thus, if an alligator or almost any quadruped
is embodied in the vessel, the form tends to become elongated; if a crab
or a fish is imitated, there is a tendency to flatness &c. The base is
almost universally more or less conical, is rarely flat, and never
concave, excepting as the result of the addition of an annular foot or
stand. The radical shapes do not undergo any considerable change when
rims, necks, handles, legs, and other appendages are added. The rim or
lip is in many cases incurved, but as a rule it is turned outward. The
margin is plain, symmetrical, and often considerably thickened. In a few
instances the outline is rectangular or scalloped, as shown in Fig. 49,
and the attachment of handles often leads to peculiar outlines, as will
be seen further on.

  _a, b_
  Fig. 48. Vases of compound forms.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 49. Square lipped vessel.]

  _a, b, c, d_
  Fig. 50. Variations in the forms of necks and rims--various groups
  of ware.]

The neck in its simplest form is a narrow upright band surrounding the
orifice (Fig. 50, _a_) and is not differentiated from the rim.
Variations in size and shape are shown in the remaining figures of the
series. In _b_ it is a narrow constricted band beneath an overhanging
rim, in _c_ it is upright and considerably elongated, and in _d_ it
expands, giving a funnel shaped mouth. The exterior surface is very
generally decorated with relieved or painted devices. High necked
bottles and pitcher shaped vessels are unknown.

  _a, b, c, d, e, f_
  Fig. 51. Arrangement of handles--various groups of ware.]

Handles constitute a very interesting feature of this pottery and are
much varied in shape and arrangement. In a few cases the handle is a
single arch springing over the orifice, as seen in Fig. 51, _a_. Again,
the handle is attached to one side, as in _b_, but as a rule handles
occur in twos upon the shoulder, one on either side of the aperture.
They are horizontally attached, as in _c_, or vertically placed, as in
_d_, connecting the rim with the shoulder, or they occur low on the
body, as in _e_. In rare cases there are four handles, which are
arranged as seen in _f_ or are set on in pairs. In the elaboration of
handles, the use made of animal forms is perhaps the most notable
feature. Grotesque figures are made to take the place of handles or are
attached to or placed near them. The treatment is so varied that I shall
have to refer the student to the subsequent series of illustrations.

Annular bases or feet were not in very general use in Chiriqui, although
in some cases they are modeled with a great deal of grace. The shape
varies from a simple ring, barely deep enough to give a firm support to
the vessel when placed upon a level surface, to a long, attenuated
column with flaring base. The latter is perhaps one of the nearest
approaches which America has furnished to the slender foot
characteristic of the wheel made ware of Mediterranean countries.

  _a, b, c, d_
  Fig. 52. Types of annular bases or feet--various groups of ware.]

  _a_ Biscuit ware.
  _b_ Biscuit ware.
  _c_ Tripod group.
  _d_ Red line group.
  Fig. 53. Forms of legs--various groups of ware.]

The vessel shown in Fig. 52, _a_, has a somewhat rudimentary foot;
another, _b_, a firm, wide base, which is perforated to give lightness;
an hourglass-like piece is shown in _c_, and a long, bell shaped foot is
seen in _d_. In no part of the world do earthen vessels exhibit such a
remarkable development of legs as in Southern Central America. The
tripod is the favorite support, and in Chiriqui the forms are more
graceful than in the neighboring provinces. In a few cases, where the
body was modeled in close imitation of animal forms, four legs were
used, but three were generally preferred, even for vessels of
rectangular or irregular shapes. In the simplest form they are small
conical knobs, placed rather close together about the base of the vessel
(Fig. 53, _a_), but from these the dimensions increase until the size is
out of all reasonable proportion. The maximum development in point of
expansion is seen in _b_ and the greatest height in _c_. They are
frequently modeled after life forms. In a few cases rings or loops are
employed, as shown in _d_. The larger forms, and especially those
imitating animals, are hollow and contain round pellets of clay that
rattle when the vessel is moved. The manner in which the legs are
attached to the body of the vessel leads me to observe that the vessel
is independently a perfect utensil, and that in all probability the
tripod was a feature acquired late in the progress of Chiriquian
culture, as a result of some change in the surroundings of the people or
in the uses to which the vessel was devoted. Annular bases and tripods
would be of little use until level floors of unyielding material came
into vogue.

_Decoration._--In decoration the pottery of this province exhibits many
remarkable features. The work resembles somewhat closely, in a number of
its features, that of certain districts lying to the north and to the
south, but at the same time it is possessed of very decided
individuality. From an examination of the designs I conclude that they
represent a period of culture considerably inferior to that of some more
northern sections, although the ware itself is nowhere surpassed in
grace of form and delicacy of finish.

The ornamentation is pretty evenly divided between plastic and flat
forms. The former include relieved features and intaglio features, which
are executed in the plastic clay, and the latter comprise figures in
color, penciled or painted upon the surface. Each style of work embodies
its own peculiar class of conceptions. Relief work is generally
realistic or grotesque; incised work is almost exclusively geometric,
and embraces combinations of lines usually recognized as archaic. An
occasional example is easily recognized as imitative. Painted figures
are both geometric and imitative, the two forms blending imperceptibly.

The more important plastic decorations consist of animal forms modeled
in the round. Vegetable forms have not been employed. Fillets of clay
imitating twisted cords are sparingly used in the decoration of necks
and handles, and rows and groups of small nodes are similarly employed.
The human figure is always treated in a conventional and usually in a
grotesque manner. The animals imitated include a very large number of
species. Crocodiles, pumas, armadillos, monkeys, crabs, lizards,
scorpions, frogs, and fish appear very frequently. Many of the animals,
owing to conventional treatment or to carelessness on the part of the
modeler, are difficult of identification. These plastic forms occur in
nearly all the groups of ware, and similar forms are found to a limited
extent in gold, copper, and stone, as will be seen by reference to the
illustrations already given. Their study will, I believe, give some
insight into the mental characteristics of the Chiriquians. That their
art, so far as these figures are concerned, was not serious is indicated
by the sketchy, unsystematic nature of the work, and more especially by
the grotesque and occasionally amusing representation of men and

The figures are usually placed upon the shoulder of the vessel or are
attached to the legs and handles or form part of them. The favorite
subjects are doleful little figures, human or partly so, fixed upon the
vessel in a sitting posture, with legs and arms doubled up, and with
expressions which appear to indicate a variety of exaggerated emotions
(Figs. 54, 55, 56).

  Fig. 54.
  Fig. 55.
  Fig. 56.
  Grotesque figures forming the handles of small vases--terra cotta

  Fig. 57.
  Fig. 58.
  Monstrous figures, with serpent-shaped extremities--handled group.]

  Fig. 59.
  Fig. 60.
  Fig. 61.
  Grotesque figures--terra cotta group.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 62. Figure of monkey--terra cotta group]

  Fig. 63.
  Fig. 64.
  Figures of monkeys--terra cotta group.]

The exuberance of fancy often found vent in the production of
monstrosities, such as are seen in Figs. 57 and 58, in which the arms
and legs of the figures are writhing serpents, the faces expressing
great agony; in other cases the figures are double; and again two bodies
united at the waist have but one pair of legs. An unusually grotesque
creature is seen in Figs. 59 and 60, and another is given in Fig. 61.
Similar figures are worked in gold, one of which is now worn as a charm
by Mr. J. B. Stearns. Figures of monkeys are shown in Figs. 62, 63, and
64. One creature, represented as having a long, trunk-like snout, recurs
frequently. Such a form discovered in the earlier days of archæologic
investigation would probably have given rise to many surmises as to the
contemporaneous existence of man and the elephant in Chiriqui. In
reality the original was probably some unassuming little inhabitant of
the isthmian jungles. This creature is shown in profile in Fig. 65, _a_,
and front views are given in _b_ and _c_. Innumerable examples,
embracing most of the more important animals of Chiriqui, could be
given, but in a majority of cases identification is difficult or
impossible, as there has been little or no effort to reproduce nature
with fidelity. But the chief interest surrounding these figures is not
found in the variety of creatures shown or in the character of the
delineation, but in the manner of their employment in the embellishment
of ceramic forms. The ancient potter must have possessed a keen sense of
grace of form and of the proper adjustment of parts. The most cultured
taste could hardly improve upon the lines of the vases presented in
Figs. 66 and 67, which employ the frog, and in Figs. 68 and 69, in which
other creatures are used. Many equally pleasing examples are illustrated
further on. The question very naturally arises as to whether these
little figures had any meaning or performed any function aside from that
of simple decoration. I feel inclined to take the view that in their
present condition they are survivals of ideographic originals; that if
their past could be unveiled we would find that in the primitive ages
they were not exclusively employed for ornament. The animals made use of
originally were the embodiment of mythologic conceptions, and their
images were revered or served as fetiches or charms, and because of this
they came to have a permanent place in art. They were applied to the
vessel because its office had reference to them or because they were
thought to have a beneficial effect upon its functions. It is evident
that their employment was governed by well established rules and that
they occupied places and occurred in numbers and relations not wholly
dependent upon the judgment of the individual potter. We may suppose
that they occur in twos because the handles with which they were
associated occurred in twos; or, if they serve to take the place of the
extremities of the animal forms in the semblance of which the vases were
originally modeled, their positions may be related to the original
positions of the heads and tails of those forms. It is not improbable
that the conventional incised and relieved ornaments, the meanders,
nodes, and varied marks refer also to the creatures or the markings of
the creatures with which the vessel was associated.

  [Illustration: Fig. 65. Animal forms exhibiting a long
  proboscis--handled group.]

  Fig. 66.
  Fig. 67.
  Vases illustrating ornamental use of animal figures--terra cotta

  Fig. 68.
  Fig. 69.
  Vases illustrating ornamental use of animal figures--terra cotta

It will be seen, from the above remarks, that we cannot fully determine
to what extent these ancient decorators followed the traditional
pathways of early ideographic usage or how much they were governed by
those powers of esthetic discrimination known to us as taste.


For convenience of description I separate the pottery of Chiriqui into
two grand divisions: the _unpainted_ ware and the _painted_ ware. Two
important groups come under the first head. The first of these, the
terra cotta or biscuit ware, comprises a larger number of pieces than
any other group and is readily distinguished by its colors, which
include only the pale grayish yellow and reddish tints of the burned
clay. The second is limited to a small number of pieces and is black or
very dark upon the surface and dark within the mass.

_The terra cotta group._--This biscuit-like pottery is not in any way
inferior to the painted varieties. It bears evidence of great freedom in
handling, and serves, perhaps better than any other class of products,
to illustrate the masterly skill and the refined taste of the ancient
potter. It is said to occur in the same cemeteries and in the same
graves with the more important varieties of painted ware. The function
of these handsome vessels cannot be determined. It can hardly have been
of a domestic nature, as they show no evidences of discoloration or
wear, and we are left to speculate upon the possibility of a purely
ceremonial use. The paste is moderately fine, but contains an extremely
large share of gritty sand; the slip is thin and has received but a
slight degree of polish, so that the surface has a dead, somewhat
granular effect. As a rule the vases are of small size and are very thin
walled. The forms are symmetrical and exceptionally graceful. The
ornamentation includes incised figures (mostly geometric), raised
decoration (of similar character), and animal forms in the round. The
following illustrations are intended to epitomize the multitude of
forms, as anything like a complete representation is out of the

  [Illustration: Fig. 70. Series of bowls and cups of unpainted ware.]

Bowls, which form a leading feature of the pottery of most primitive
peoples, are here rarely seen, excepting as mounted upon tripods or
annular bases. There are in the collection a number of small cups of
hemispherical shape that may have served as spoons, ladles, or drinking
vessels. A few of these are outlined in Fig. 70. Two have minute
projections resembling handles affixed to the rim. In rare cases these
are so prolonged as to be of service in handling the cup; but in no
instance is there an approach to the long cylindrical handles seen in
the earthenware of other districts.

  [Illustration: Fig. 71. Vase of graceful form--½.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 72. Vase of graceful form--½.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 73. Vase of fine form, ornamented with grotesque

In following the form scale upward from these simple shapes we find the
orifice becoming more constricted and the neck more pronounced. The
margins are upright, incurved, or flaring, and give variety and grace to
the outlines. A tendency toward elaboration of ornament accompanies the
development of form. Bands of incised or relieved figures are carried
around the neck, shoulder, and handles and are added in such a way as
greatly to enhance the beauty of the vessel. The forms of these vessels
are so graceful and the finish is so perfect that one is tempted to
present an extended series, but it will be necessary to confine the
illustrations to a limited number of type specimens. Fig. 71 shows a
somewhat shallow form of great simplicity and grace. That in Fig. 72 is
deeper, with a narrow neck and a more decidedly conical shape. Two
minute grotesque figures are perched upon the shoulder. Fig. 73
represents a larger vessel of good form, which has a neat incised
pattern encircling the slightly incurved neck. Grotesque heads are set
upon the shoulder. A form somewhat more refined is shown in Fig. 74. The
neck is furnished with a relieved ornament, consisting of a meandered
and indented fillet, accompanied by two rows of minute indented nodes.
The heads are probably intended to represent the armadillo. They are
hollow and contain movable pellets. The fillet ornaments are always
tastefully treated, and in many cases represent twisted and plaited
cords. Some are marked in herring bone fashion and others have
transverse indentations. Small pellets of clay were much used and to
excellent advantage. They were set on lightly with the fingers and
firmly pressed down with minute pointed or edged tools and hollow straws
or reeds (Figs. 75 and 76). Some of these nodes are finished to
represent the heads of animals. This is done with an ease and a
simplicity that call forth our admiration (Fig. 77).

  [Illustration: Fig. 74. Vase of fine form, ornamented with grotesque

  [Illustration: Fig. 75. Vase with ornaments of applied nodes and

  [Illustration: Fig. 76. Vase with mantle covered with incised

  [Illustration: Fig. 77. Vase with frieze of grotesque heads--½.]

Fig. 78 illustrates a series of vases having flaring rims, the treatment
otherwise being uniform with the preceding. We notice in these vessels a
decided tendency towards complexity of outline. Three examples, shown in
Fig. 79, have a two storied character, the upper part possibly being the
outgrowth of the collar ornament seen in so many cases. The large
specimen in the center is a handsome piece with square offset at the
shoulder and a decidedly conical base. A chaste ornament in relief
encircles the neck and two grotesque figures are seated upon opposite
sides of the shoulder. The vase at the left has two orifices, set wide
apart. The body is oblong and slightly flattened above. There are a
number of vessels of this conformation in the collection, some of which
have the mouths so close together that the margins or lips coalesce in
part. A superb specimen of this class is illustrated in Fig. 80. The
shape is thoroughly satisfactory to the eye, having a refinement of line
rarely attained in native American work. Its symmetry suggests the use
of the wheel, but the closest examination fails to detect a trace of
mechanical appliance, save that left by the polishing stone. The
decoration is simple and effective, consisting of minute nodes with
annular indentations about the necks and of two grotesque figures,
placed with consummate taste in the angles formed by the contact of the
two necks.

  [Illustration: Fig. 78. Vases with flaring rims and varied

  [Illustration: Fig. 79. Vases with complex outlines and varied

  [Illustration: Fig. 80. Large vase with two mouths and neatly
  decorated necks--½.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 81. Large vase with high handles--⅓.]

A very small percentage of these vessels possess true handles, but
these, in some of the examples, are worthy of high admiration. The
specimen presented in Fig. 81 attracts attention at once on account of
its resemblance to well known classic forms. It is evident, from a study
of this piece, that only a step more was necessary to place these
potters alongside of the highest masters of the art. The sharp high
elbow and the broadening of the handles at their junction with the lip
are notable features. The latter is shown more satisfactorily in
Fig. 82, which is a top view of a companion piece. I wish to call
attention here to a peculiar feature of these handles and one repeated
in vessels of other classes. At the elbow of each handle we find a
device in relief marked with herring bone indentations that would seem
to represent a kind of textile attachment, as if, at some previous time
and perhaps in an antecedent form of vessel, the upright and horizontal
parts of the handles had been stitched or tied together at this point.
Yet it is by no means certain that this feature is not the survival of
some feature of an animal form into the semblance of which, as seen in
other examples, this feature has a tendency to graduate.

  [Illustration: Fig. 82. Top view of high handled vase--⅓.]

  Fig. 83.
  Fig. 84.
  Fig. 85.
  Examples of handled vases--½.]

These vessels are not numerous, but acquire importance from their large
size, the larger being upwards of eight inches in height. A few pieces
of nearly identical shape, but of small size, are found among the
painted wares. Additional shapes are given in Figs. 83, 84, and 85, and
serve to illustrate the extent of variation exhibited in this group of
vases. The small shallow piece is exceptionally fine and the handles are
furnished with animal features of a highly conventional type. An
expansion of the handles somewhat similar to this is frequently seen in
vessels of other classes, especially in those of the handled group.

  Fig. 86.
  Fig. 87.
  Small cup with single handle ornamented with grotesque figure--½.]

Single handles of like character occur in a number of cases upon minute
cups, an example of which is given in Fig. 86. It would seem that
possibly in such cases the rim had been expanded and prolonged for the
purpose of giving support to the animal figures with which the shoulders
were embellished. The expansion is probably the outgrowth of the use of
animal figures in connection with simple handles.

  [Illustration: Fig. 88. Vase of eccentric form--½.]

We have a number of vessels of this group the bodies of which imitate
animal forms, but they are in nearly all cases furnished with legs.
Rarely we meet with compound or eccentric forms. An interesting specimen
of the latter class is seen in Fig. 88. Such shapes are common in Peru
and are occasionally met with in Central America. The two strong handles
are decorated with minute images of birds and the bottom is concave, an
exceptional character in Chiriquian work.

The illustration of this group of vessels would not be complete without
a series of tripod vases. In shape of body these vases differ but little
from the legless forms already given, excepting where the use of life
forms has led to eccentric modifications. Very great interest attaches
to the modeling of the tripod supports, upon which the potters have
expended much time and ingenuity.

  Fig. 89.
  Fig. 90.
  Vessels illustrating forms of legs--½.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 91. Vessel with large legs ornamented with
  stellar punctures--½.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 92. Vases of varied form with plain and with
  animal shaped legs--⅓.]

The illustrations given herewith are chosen from a great number of
examples and are intended to convey an idea of the range of forms, both
of the vessels and of their supports. Figs. 89 and 90 show plain forms
of legs, all of which are hollow and contain small pellets of clay. The
openings are generally wide vertical slits, and are placed in front, as
seen in Fig. 89, or in the side, as in Fig. 90; but in exceptional cases
they take other shapes and are scattered over the surface, as seen in
Fig. 91. The legs are often remarkable in form, being swollen to an
enormous size above and terminating in small rounded points below. The
bowls are symmetrically shaped and graceful in outline. In Fig. 92 I
present a group illustrating some of the more eccentric forms of bowls
and a variety of their supports. A very superior piece and one of the
largest of this style is shown in Fig. 93.

  [Illustration: Fig. 93. Large vase of striking shape--½.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 94. Cup with legs imitating animal forms--½.]

It will be seen that in a number of cases the legs are modeled to
represent animal forms. This feature is brought out more clearly in
succeeding figures. The creatures represented are often grotesque, as
seen in Figs. 94 and 95. The human form is rarely shown in a way to make
it clearly distinguishable from the figures of monkeys and other
animals. The armadillo is a favorite subject. An example of small
dimensions is illustrated in Fig. 96, in which this animal is given in
characteristic style, and a more pretentious piece is shown in Fig. 97.
The characteristics of the creature are very simply but graphically
expressed. In the first the hard ribbed and figured case is represented
by applied fillets and nodes, and in the other by incised lines. The
frog is also much used (Fig. 98). A rather remarkable conception is
illustrated in Fig. 99. Upon the front of each leg is a curious little
animal-like figure, to the front of which are bound two minute infantile
creatures. In the piece presented in Fig. 100, the legs are grotesque
heads, inverted, with wide open mouths and glaring eyes. The work upon
this vase is very superior.

  [Illustration: Fig. 95. Cup with legs imitating a grotesque animal

  Fig. 96.
  Fig. 97.
  Cups with legs imitating the armadillo--½.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 98. Cup with frog shaped legs--½.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 99. Cup with legs imitating an animal and its

  [Illustration: Fig. 100. Cup supported by grotesque heads--½.]

The remarkable specimen illustrated in Fig. 101 is furnished with unique
supports. Two rudely modeled, semihuman, grotesque figures are affixed
to the under surface of the bowl, supporting it with their backs.

  [Illustration: Fig. 101. Large cup supported by two grotesque

  [Illustration: Fig. 102. Cup with two animal heads attached to the

  [Illustration: Fig. 103. Cup with two animal heads attached to the

The legs of these figures are spread out horizontally, so that a firm
support is obtained. The periphery of the body of this vessel is
encircled by a number of nodes and noded projections, which represent
the heads, tails, and spines of two crab-like animals. The heads, with
arms attached, appear at the right and left, and the tails occur at the
front and back just over the heads of the supporting figures. The use of
the crab in this way is quite common. Fish, birds, and a variety of
quadrupeds are similarly treated. Some very interesting examples of
double headed animal vases are found. Two of these are outlined in Figs.
102 and 103, the first having a single orifice and the second a pair of
orifices. In many cases the bowl of the vessel is considerably modified,
to give a more decided resemblance to the body of the creature. This is
well shown in Figs. 104-106. The first is probably intended for a bird:
the second resembles an armadillo; and the third portrays a creature
with ears and three horns. The oblong vessel shown in Fig. 107 is
modeled after a curious fish, to which the Chiriquians seem to have
attached considerable importance. It is represented with a wide mouth
displaying teeth, two spines or horns upon the end of the snout, and
fins upon the back and sides. Fig. 108 gives the top view of another
fish vase, which is supported, as are the others, by three legs. The
body is flat and is encircled by well modeled fins. The head is rather
flat and has the eyes and nose on the upper surface. I close this series
of illustrations with an outline of a fine vase (Fig. 109) the rim of
which is decorated with a single head of extremely grotesque and
repulsive character.

  [Illustration: Fig. 104. Vase imitating an animal form--⅓.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 105. Vase imitating an animal form--⅓.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 106. Vase shaped to imitate an animal form--⅓.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 107. Fish shaped vessel--⅓.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 108. Top view of a fish shaped vessel--⅓.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 109. Cup with grotesque head attached to the

_Black incised group._--This pottery, although closely related to the
other varieties in its leading features, presents differences of a
pronounced character. The number of specimens recovered is rather small.
The largest piece has a capacity of perhaps a quart. Some of the forms
are identical with those of other groups, but a few are peculiar to this
ware. The color is black, brown, or dark gray, and in most cases the
entire mass is quite dark. The decoration is executed in two somewhat
distinct styles: in one the lines were scratched or engraved
subsequently to the hardening of the clay; in the other they were deeply
engraved with a sharp point while the clay was still moist. The lines
are usually very deep and are filled with a white substance which
renders the pattern distinctly visible upon the surface. It seems
probable that the lines were engraved deeply with the intention of
producing this effect. Type specimens are shown in Figs. 110 and 111.
They are small globular bottles, with short necks and wide apertures and
with handles placed at opposite sides of the lip, which is prolonged to
meet them. The design covers a large part of the body and is separated
into two parts by the handles and the undecorated panels that descend
from them. The figures appear to be very highly conventionalized animal
forms, probably serpents. The coiled ends of the ribbon-like dotted
bands are evidently meant to suggest the heads of reptiles. The figures
assume a variety of shapes and grade by degrees from the recognizable
life forms into purely geometric patterns. Examples of the latter style
are given in Figs. 112 and 113. The motives employed, although so
conventionally treated, are pretty certainly identical in origin with
the preceding.

  Fig. 110.
  Fig. 111.
  Black cups with incised reptilian figures--½.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 112. Black vase with conventional incised

There are a number of tripods in this group, some of which have the
deeply incised ornaments and others the shallow ones. The shapes vary
greatly, a few examples being decidedly Costa Rican in type. Pieces with
round bodies have conical legs, like much of the Chiriquian ware, but
those with shallow basins and angular, incurved, upright, or flaring
rims have the Costa Rican tripod. Figs. 114 and 115 may serve to
illustrate this variety. The first is a cup, with upright sides and
thick rim, having an incised geometric pattern. The second is much more
striking in appearance. The surface color is brownish gray in hue and
the simple geometric design was scratched through into the lighter color
beneath after the clay hardened. The legs represent the heads of animals
conventionally treated and are hollow, containing movable pellets. This
specimen is from latitude 8° 42´ north, longitude 82° 52´ west. Others
of this class come from different parts of the province.

  [Illustration: Fig. 113. Small cup with conventional incised

  [Illustration: Fig. 114. Small tripod cup with upright walls and
  legs imitating animal heads--½.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 115. Vase with flaring rim and legs, imitating
  animal heads--½.]

To this class belongs also a small dark vase of peculiar shape and
interesting decoration, which is illustrated in Fig. 116. The neck is
large and the lip widely flaring, and the body is modeled in imitation
of the head of some animal, possibly a peccary. The side representing
the face is prolonged, giving an unsymmetric profile, as seen in the
second figure. The eyes are set midway between the ears (which are
placed at the sides) and the nostrils, and are inclosed by curious
engraved figures, probably suggested by the markings of the animal
portrayed. An arched ridge, representing the brows, connects the bridge
of the nose with the ears. The most novel feature of this piece is the
band of incised ornament that crosses the back of the head and serves
probably to carry out the idea of the complete creature. As will be seen
by reference to the figure, it is a guilloche-like interlacing of
fillets, bordered and apparently held in place by longitudinal bands,
beyond which the angles of the ornament project. The pattern is a
modified form of one commonly seen upon the margins of the larger stone
metates, and, although rarely met with in the pottery of Chiriqui, was a
favorite motive with the potters of Costa Rica. This vessel comes from
30 miles north-northwest of David.

  [Illustration: Fig. 116. Vase modeled to resemble the head of an

  [Illustration: Fig. 117. Pattern upon the back of the vase presented
  in Fig. 116.]

The unpainted wares here so briefly described are typically Chiriquian,
and are closely associated in the graves with most of the leading groups
of art products of the province. It must be allowed that they take first
rank in the isthmian states, if not in America, for simplicity and
refinement of form, perfection of method, and purity of style.


The painted vases of Chiriqui embrace at least ten easily distinguished
varieties of ware. The characters upon which the classification is based
are somewhat heterogeneous and include material, color, shape, finish,
ornamentation, method of manufacture, and evidences of use. No single
character and no one group of characters can be relied upon to
distinguish the different groups. We must depend, therefore, upon an
assemblage of characters or upon one character in one place and another
in another place. Observing a number of striking differences in two
groups of ware, we arrive at the conclusion that these groups must have
been the work of distinct communities; yet we find very marked
differences in wares that (through the possession in common of some
particular feature) we know to be the work of the same hands. We can,
therefore, determine little in regard to the peoples concerned.

I do not consider the presence in a single grave of two or more
varieties sufficient proof of their common origin, for a number of
distinct wares may come into the possession of one community through
trade, conquest, or the spoliation of tombs; but a constant recurrence
together of the same forms affords strong evidence that the objects were
the work of the people with whom they were buried. Unfortunately our
observations in the field are not sufficiently accurate to enable us to
utilize associations or methods of occurrence in the graves as a means
of classification.

The following classification is, under the circumstances, the best that
I can devise, and is of use mainly as a means of facilitating
description. The name chosen generally indicates a leading or striking
characteristic of the group.

The _scarified_ group, separated widely from all other varieties.

The _handled_ group and

The _tripod_ group, apparently the work of one community and devoted to
the same or similar uses.

The _maroon_ group;

The _red line_ group;

The _white line_ group;

The _lost color_ group;

The _alligator_ group; and

The _polychrome_ group, no two of which are sufficiently alike to make
it certain, without extraneous evidence, that they were manufactured by
the same community, yet all clearly belonging to one great family.

These groups are presented in the order given.

Before proceeding with the descriptions, however, there are some matters
of a general nature that should be referred to. Technical questions have
already received considerable attention, and I shall need only to refer
here to the painted ornamentation, and at sufficient length to insure a
clear understanding of its treatment and the scope of its subject

Painted vessels are embellished to some extent also by incising and
modeling, and these methods are employed very much as in the unpainted
pottery already described.

Painted decoration is executed with much freedom and in many cases with
considerable skill. It is greatly varied in method of treatment and
embraces a wide range of motives. Geometric patterns occur in great
variety, but are found to be of types peculiar to Isthmian America. The
conventional meanders, frets, and scrolls so extensively employed in
other regions are here almost unknown. Decorative motives derived from
natural forms are abundant and afford an excellent opportunity to study
the processes of conventional modification. These designs are often
applied in a way to indicate that the decorator possessed a keen sense
of the requirements of the vessel, although the treatment perhaps is not
as universally satisfactory as is the treatment of plastic

The potter, in preparing the vessel for the decorator, ordinarily
finished it with a slip or wash of fine clay, which varied in hue from a
gray white to a pale orange. A slip of bright red tint was also
extensively used. The more delicate hues formed an excellent ground upon
which to work. The slip covered surface was generally polished, often to
a high degree, with the usual polishing implements, the marks of which
can be seen upon the less carefully finished surfaces. By observers
unacquainted with aboriginal methods this polish is liable to be taken
for a glaze, and it has been pronounced a vitreous glaze by a few
writers. It is more noticeable upon specimens that have been handled a
great deal, as is the case with whistles, needlecases, and the like.

The colors utilized in decoration, so far as they have been preserved,
are the ground tints, described above, and the delineating colors, the
latter consisting of black, white, red in various hues, and a dull
purple. An additional color (or perhaps a solution without particular
color) extensively employed in the designs has totally disappeared. The
nature of the various colors has not been determined, but it is probable
that some were of mineral and others of vegetal origin.

Red was often employed as a ground color, as stated above, and sometimes
covered the whole surface, but more frequently occupied zones or panels.
In such use it was applied and polished down with the slip. Red was also
extensively used in the delineation of decorative figures in several of
the groups of ware, and is in all cases a permanent color. The hues vary
decidedly with the groups of products, suggesting differences in people
or in environment. White may have been freely used, but it is preserved
in a few cases only, in which it was used in the production of simple
decorative patterns, and appears to have been a somewhat thick or pasty
color. Black was extensively used and was of two distinct kinds: a thick
permanent pigment, employed in the delineation of designs, and a thin
color, not so permanent and employed exclusively as a ground upon which
to execute designs in other mediums. The latter may possibly be of
vegetal derivation. Its use was confined to a single variety of ware,
the lost color group. The former was employed in all the other groups,
with one exception, the red line group.

The light purple tint is but sparingly used and only in the polychrome
group. It is very effective in combination with the reds and blacks upon
the orange ground of this ware. It is probably of a mineral nature.

What I have denominated the lost color was a pigment, or “taking out”
solution, extensively and exclusively employed in the decoration of one
of the principal groups of ware. Its former existence is made known by
its action upon the ground colors and upon the paste or slip within the
areas covered by it. Where superimposed upon black, that color has in
all cases been removed, exposing the underlying tints of the slip in
which the designs are now manifested, the interspaces being still black.
In some cases the lost color has not only removed the black ground, but
has affected the slip beneath, removing it also, and to such a degree
that the polished surface is destroyed and shallow intaglio lines occur,
leaving the interspaces in relief. This circumstance enforces the idea
that possibly the “lost color” was really not a color at all, but an
acid which acted upon the ground colors at once, destroying the black
entirely and leaving the effect now seen. This point must remain for the
present undetermined.

The figures in all cases appear to have been delineated with ordinary
brushes and by purely free hand methods. The degree of skill varies
greatly. The execution in the great body of the work is rather inferior
and indicates a lack of skill and care, but in a limited number of
pieces the manipulation is masterly.

The designs are confined to the show spaces, being exterior in narrow
necked vessels and generally interior in shallow forms.

In arrangement upon the surfaces this decoration presents some novel
features. The slight degree of uniformity in arrangement indicates the
absence of any mechanical aid, such as the wheel, which device would
tend to reduce all decoration to a series of horizontal zones. We
observe indeed the occurrence of horizontal arrangements, but not to a
degree greater than would naturally arise as a result of the
conformation of the vessel. Upright, oblique, and arched arrangements
are frequently met with, and all are safely attributable to the
domination of spaces to be covered or to the influence of antecedent
shapes. Examples and details are given as they come up in the various

_The scarified group._--This group is represented by about forty
specimens and is worthy of especial attention. It comes from the graves
of two localities, one near C. E. Taylor’s hacienda, north of David, on
the slopes of Mount Chiriqui, and the other at Alanje, southwest of
David. As a variety of ware it stands so entirely alone that had it
arrived unlabeled no one would have recognized its affinities with
Chiriquian art. It is rather inferior in material, grace of form, and
surface finish, and the decoration appears to belong to a lower grade of
culture than that of the other groups. It is possibly the work of an
inferior race in comparatively recent times.

Nearly all the vessels are tripods, but a few have rounded or flat
bottoms and a few are supplied with annular stands. The walls are thick
and the shapes are uncouth or clumsy. The paste is coarse, poorly baked,
and friable; near the surface it is a warm reddish or yellowish gray;
within the mass it is a dark gray.

  [Illustration: Fig. 118. Tripod bowl of red scarified ware--⅓.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 119. Tripod bowl of red scarified ware--⅓.]

The makers of this pottery, like their brother artificers, took especial
pleasure in the modeling of life forms. The work exhibited in these
specimens is, however, exceptionally rude. In some cases grotesque heads
are attached to the rims of bowls; in others the head, tail, and feet of
animals appear about the periphery of the vase; and in a number of cases
the legs of the tripods are modeled to represent the forms of living
creatures. Generally the feet are clumsy in shape and three toed,
suggesting the feet of the tapir.

These vessels are embellished by painting, incising, or scarifying and
by modeling in relief. Color was not employed in the production of
designs, but a dark Indian red pigment was daubed over that part of the
surface not occupied by incised ornament. Little or no slip was used and
the rude geometric patterns were executed with pointed tools in a very
haphazard manner.

  [Illustration: Fig. 120. Oblong basin with scarified design--⅓.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 121. Large bowl with handles imitating animal

The bowls are more numerous than in any other group of the Chiriquian
ware, but, as in the other groups, they are supplied with supports,
either tripods, shaped like the feet of quadrupeds, or rude annular
bases. In most cases the rim expands gradually from below, as seen in
Fig. 118, or is recurved, as shown in Fig. 119. In a few cases the basin
is oblong or boat shaped and the ends are pointed, as indicated in
Fig. 120.

An interesting specimen is illustrated in Fig. 121. At the opposite ends
of the bowl portions of the rim are carried upward and inward, forming
handle-like appendages, modeled to represent, rudely, the heads of
animals. Details of form and ornament are well brought out in the cut.

In Fig. 122 we have a high cylindrical shape with a flat bottom, the
surface being scarified in vertical bands. A small pot, having an
annular base and decoration similar to the preceding, is given in
Fig. 123. In Fig. 124, instead of the vertical lines, we have a series
of heavy ribs. Two strong vertically placed loops are fixed upon
opposite sides of the shoulder and the base is supplied with the usual

  [Illustration: Fig. 122. Jar with flat bottom and vertical bands of
  incised ornament--⅓.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 123. Vase with stand and vertical incised

  [Illustration: Fig. 124. Vase with handles, legs, and vertical

The tripods shown in Figs. 125 and 126 are somewhat mutilated, but they
present features of interest in the novel shapes and the unique animal
forms with which the legs are embellished. Each leg is represented as a
complete animal, whose back or breast supports the vessel and whose
cylindrical nether extremity rests upon the ground. The head in the
first example resembles an owl and in the second reminds one of some
crustacean form. An additional specimen of considerable interest is
shown in Fig. 127. It is a heavy tripod, having four independent mouths,
all opening into one chamber. The shape is unsatisfactory, being heavy
and unsymmetrical. The exterior surface has the usual scarified figures
and the interspaces and the entire inner surface of the vessel are
painted red and rather carefully polished.

  [Illustration: Fig. 125. Tripod with owl-like heads at insertion of

  [Illustration: Fig. 126. Tripod with legs rudely suggesting animal

  [Illustration: Fig. 127. Heavy red vase with four mouths--⅓.]

_The handled group._--The series of vessels to which this name is given
comprises a large number of pieces of unusually even characters. They
are obtained from a pretty wide district to the north and west of David
and occur in connection with other groups. They are notable for
uniformity in size, shape, and finish and for the unmistakable evidences
of use over fire which at least three-fourths of them show. With the
exception of a few large caldrons, not yet assigned to a particular
group, they are more like ordinary cooking vessels than any other group
of Chiriquian ware. The size, however, is remarkably small, the average
capacity being about a pint. Larger pieces contain a quart or three

The body is usually much compressed vertically and is flattish above and
more or less conical below, giving a very graceful contour. The surface
is rather rudely polished and the painting is done with notable
carelessness, as if the intended use were not favorable to the
preservation of the ornament. By means of a heavy brush, red figures,
consisting of splotches, stripes, arches, and encircling bands, were
applied to the yellowish gray surface and sometimes, as indicated by a
smeared appearance, were polished down with an implement. It does not
seem that a slip of ordinary white clay was very generally used. In a
few cases a grayish blue tint appears upon some of the wider spaces.

  [Illustration: Fig. 128. Vase with horizontally placed handles and
  rude designs in red--½.]

The handles are perhaps the most notable feature of this ware, and
usually occur two to a vessel; rarely there is but one handle and in a
few cases there are four. This group may be separated into at least four
sections by the styles of handles. Vessels of the two more important
sections have two handles each, which are placed vertically in one
variety and horizontally in the other, reference being had to the
position of the points of attachment. These differences of position have
given rise to a marked difference in the shape of the orifice and of the
lip. The handle is a simple loop, which in the one variety is placed as
seen in Fig. 128 and in the other as in Fig. 132. In the latter case one
end of the loop is fixed to the shoulder and the other end to the lip,
which is uniformly prolonged at the contact and is also widened all
around; the result is the curious winged outline shown in Fig. 133.

A third variety of handle is a single arch, which spans the orifice and
is attached to opposite sides of the expanded lip. In a fourth variety
the looped handles are replaced by the heads of animals, which are set
upon the shoulder of the vase, as are similar features in other groups
of ware.

  [Illustration: Fig. 129. Unpolished vase with heavy handles and
  coated with soot--½.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 130. Round bodied red vase with unique handles
  and incised ornament--½.]

A type specimen with the horizontal loop is shown in Fig. 128. The lip
and a wide belt about the body are painted red and the shoulder is
occupied by rudely executed arched strokes of the same color. A much
less usual shape is given in Fig. 129, which exhibits some characters of
contour that remind us of well known Grecian forms. Another novel
variation from the type is seen in Fig. 130, in which the arch of each
loop is divided by an upright piece. A neat incised ornament occupies
the shoulder of this vessel and the remainder of the body is finished in
pale red.

It will be observed that the handles are rarely wholly plain. Each loop
is supplied with one or more rings or ring-like fillets, or with small
nodes, generally near the most prominent part of the curve or arch. By
the study of a large number of specimens I am able to trace these
puzzling features to their origin. They are the representatives of life
forms which were originally modeled in full detail and which are still
so modeled in many cases. The nodes and like features are atrophied
heads, hands, or feet, and in some cases are marked with indentations
that refer to the eyes or to the fingers or toes, and the round fillets
stand for the arms and legs of animals, or, if notched in peculiar ways,
may be referred to other originals, such as the mouths of fishes or the
spines of crabs. Examples could be given showing all stages of the
progress of simplification.

  [Illustration: Fig. 131. Vase with grotesque figures attached to the

  [Illustration: Fig. 132. Vase with upright handles and winged

In Fig. 131 I present a fine example of the horizontal loop, in which
the opposite ends are supported by grotesque animal figures, applied,
however, in a way not detrimental to the grace and simplicity of the

An example shown in Fig. 132 is of especial interest in this connection.
The ornament upon the handle serves as a link between the realistic life
form and the conventional nodes and fillets. In this case the node is
supplied with eyes and a mouth, and the double roll of clay beneath is
manifestly intended for the arms, the handle itself standing for the
body. The loop is upright and joins the shoulder to the rim. The winged
character produced by the expansion at the contact of handle and lip is
shown to advantage in the top view (Fig. 133.) In some cases this
expansion is so great as completely to hide the body of the vase when
viewed from above.

  [Illustration: Fig. 133. Top view of vase with winged lip--½.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 134. Vase with grotesque animal shaped

Examples are outlined in Figs. 134 and 135 in which the life form is
clearly defined. In the first we have a human-like figure, the face of
which is entirely hidden by the hands. In the second we observe a
curious little animal figure, with a long curved proboscis and a body
covered with annular indentations. In general shape and in ornamentation
these vases do not differ from the preceding. A remarkable piece, with
two pairs of handles, is presented in Fig. 136. Grotesque figures are
attached to the outer surface of the loops, one in each pair being
placed in an inverted position. The two figures seen in the cut are
simple, but those on the opposite pair of handles are compound, being
double above the waist. The faces, hands, and feet of these figures are
touched with red, and the lip and body of the vase are decorated with
carelessly drawn stripes of red. In another case four plain handles are
placed equidistantly about the neck of the vessel.

  [Illustration: Fig. 135. Vase with handles representing strange

  [Illustration: Fig. 136. Vase with two pairs of handles ornamented
  with grotesque figures--½.]

In a third variety the loop is omitted entirely, the animal figure
taking its place upon the shoulder of the vase. This feature appears in
the specimen given in Fig. 137 and represents the front part of a
reptile, the head being hollow and containing a large movable pellet.
This is a handsome piece, well finished, and decorated in the usual
broad way.

  [Illustration: Fig. 137. Vase with handles representing animal
  heads, which are hollow and contain pellets of clay--½.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 138. Vase with arched handles embellished with
  life forms in high relief--½.]

A fourth variety is shown in Figs. 138 and 139, in which the handle
spans the orifice as in an ordinary basket. The lip is flaring and is
prolonged at the sides to meet the handle. In one case the outer surface
of the handle is embellished with figures of frogs and serpents, or what
seem to be intended for serpents, modeled in the round and rather
imperfectly attached, and in the other with a pair of grotesque human
figures set against the base of each end of the handle.

  [Illustration: Fig. 139. Vase with arched handles embellished with
  life forms in high relief--½.]

Typical vessels of this class are in many cases mounted upon tripods,
but, for convenience of description, these are classed with the
succeeding group, which consists mainly, if not entirely, of the same
variety of ware.

To recapitulate, the striking characteristics of this group are the
uniformity of size, shape, and handles, the rude finish and ruder
ornamentation, and the very marked evidence of use over fire.

_The tripod group._--Closely related in most respects to the group of
ware just described is the striking series of vessels here presented. At
first glance the resemblances are not apparent, but a careful study
renders it clear that the vessels proper correspond closely in both
groups. The basins are for the most part made in the same heavy, rudely
finished style, the decoration is almost equally rude, and the size and
the evidence of use over fire are the same. The strong contrast in
appearance is due mainly to the presence of tripod supports in this
group. The legs, which constitute such a striking feature, are merely
appendages to the bodies of vases already perfect, and are evidently an
acquired feature suggested by some change in function or in the habits
of the people. In this way we are able to account for the rather uncouth
look observed in so many cases, the legs being too long and too heavy to
please the cultured taste; yet in many cases the parts are so adjusted
as to give an impression of firmness and strength, united with a goodly
share of grace of line.

The legs are very generally modeled to represent animal forms. In a
majority of cases the fish was chosen because, perhaps, its shape was
suitable or because the fish bore some relation to the use to which the
vessel was to be devoted. Lizards and mammals are also seen and the
human form occasionally appears. In some cases the animal figure is
attached to the upper part of the leg or is perched upon the hip, where
that feature is pronounced. The body, or shaft, is hollow and contains
pellets of clay, sometimes one only and again a dozen or more, and in
order that these may be seen and heard variously shaped slits are cut in
the sides or front of the legs. If the animal represented is a fish or
lizard the entire body is modeled: the head is placed at the top, the
under jaw or neck uniting with the body of the vessel; the tail rests
upon the ground, and the fins or legs appear along the sides of the
shaft. It should be observed that, while in Chiriqui the whole body of
the creature is usually employed in forming the support, in Central
America and Mexico the head alone is very generally used, the nose
resting upon the ground. In less elaborate forms the legs are plain or
have the merest hint of animal form in a node, a notched ridge, or a
slightly modified extremity.

Handles are present in a majority of cases and as in the preceding group
take the form of loops or represent the forms of animals. The loops are
generally attached in a vertical position, connecting the shoulder with
the lip of the vessel, and are plain round ropes of clay or consist of
two or three cords twisted or plaited together. A few eccentric forms
occur and are illustrated early in this section.

The animal shapes are often quite elaborate and appear to bear no
relation to the creatures embodied in the legs of the vessel; neither
does the position of the handles bear any uniform relation to the
positions of the legs--another indication that the latter features are
recent acquisitions, since features developed together are uniformly
well adjusted.

The rim or lip is generally heavy and flaring, and the neck, which is
short and pretty sharply constricted, is decorated with incised patterns
and with various applied ornaments in relief. The body is graceful in
outline and more or less conical below. As a rule the surface is uneven
and but slightly polished and the figures in red are rudely executed,
but in the more pretentious pieces much care has been exercised in
finishing and painting. Most of the vessels have been used over the fire
and still retain the sooty incrustations. This ware comes from a wide
range of territory to the north and west of David.

The following illustrations represent some of the more important pieces
and serve to give a partial idea of the range of form, size, and

I present, first, three vases of rather eccentric shapes, the basins of
which are shallow and in two cases are flat bottomed. The handles are of
unusual shapes, consisting of modifications of the lip, as seen in the
illustrations (Figs. 140-142). Life elements are present in all cases in
connection with the handles and legs where these are preserved, but they
are very meager and so abbreviated as to be identified with difficulty.
Incised markings at the ends of the handles represent hands or feet and
eyes are affixed to the upper part of the legs. The ware is identical
with that of the preceding group.

  Fig. 140.
  Fig. 141.
  Fig. 142.
  Tripod vases with shallow basins and eccentric handles--⅓.]

A representative specimen of the fish legged vessels is presented in
Fig. 143. It is one of the most graceful forms in the series and is
neatly finished and embellished, but is thoroughly blackened with soot.
The handles are formed of twisted fillets or ropes of clay and a narrow,
incised, rope-like band encircles the lower part of the neck. Set upon
the neck and alternating with the handles are two scrolls neatly formed
of small round ropes of clay. The fishes forming the legs are very
simply treated. The mouth at the apex is formed by laying on an oblong
loop of clay and the eyes are represented by two round pellets set into
the soft clay of the head and indented with a slit that gives to them
the exact effect of screwheads. A pair of fins--small incised or
channeled cones--is placed at the sides of the head and another at the
sides of the body. The cavity contains a single ball of clay and the
slit is long and wide.

In other examples the fish form is much more elaborately modeled. The
wide mouth exhibits a row of teeth and the body is well supplied with
fins. The head in Fig. 144 reminds one forcibly of the catfish. The
snout is furnished with two horn-like appendages; tooth-like features
are formed by setting in pellets of clay, and the gills are indicated by
a punctured excrescence at the side of the mouth. In other cases a high,
sharp cone is set upon the middle of the head (Fig. 145). It is
channeled down the sides, as if meant for a fin.

  [Illustration: Fig. 143. Tripod vase of graceful shape and neat

  [Illustration: Fig. 144. Heavy tripod vase with widely spreading

The process of modeling these heads was about as follows: The upper end
of the leg--the head of the fish--was first rounded off, giving the
general shape; then parallel incisions were made to represent the teeth,
and around these a fillet of clay was laid, forming the lips, which were
then channeled with a sharp tool. Nodes or flattened pellets of clay,
representing the gills, snout, and eyes, were then laid on and finished
with incision-like indentations. The handles consist of bird-like heads,
with protruding eyes and long bills that curve downward and connect with
the shoulder of the vase. The body is rudely spotted with red.

  [Illustration: Fig. 145. Neatly modeled vase embellished with life
  forms and devices in red--⅓.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 146. High tripod vase with incised designs and
  rude figures in red--⅓.]

A large, uncouth specimen is shown in Fig. 146. The legs are ponderous
and are not neatly adjusted to the vessel. A meander pattern of incised
lines encircles the neck and the body is rudely decorated with broad red

  [Illustration: Fig. 147. Handsome tripod vase with scroll

There is a general consistency in the use of life forms which is worthy
of notice. The fish and other creatures used, although variously
conceived and treated, are never confused. When the fish is employed no
features suggesting other animals appear and when the heads of other
creatures occupy the upper extremity of the leg all the details refer to
these creatures with uniform consistency. In Fig. 147 we have an
unusually graceful shape, decorated about the neck with scrolls and
indented fillets. The legs represent some reptilian form resembling a
lizard. The head projects from the hip and is conventionally treated.
A round fillet fixed at its middle point to the muzzle of the creature
is turned back at the sides of the head and coiled to form the eyes. The
forelegs are attached at the sides near the top and the recurved
terminal point is encircled by rings that stand for the coiled tail.

  [Illustration: Fig. 148. Vase with lizard shaped legs--⅓.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 149. Vase with scroll ornament--⅓.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 150. Large vase with flaring rim and wide
  spreading legs--⅓.]

There is little room for doubt as to the kind of creature represented in
the legs of the vase given in Fig. 148. The head, legs, and general
shape are characteristic of the lizard. The vessel is small, plain, and
neatly finished. In Fig. 149 the legs of the vessel, otherwise quite
plain, are surmounted by heads that seem to represent a dog or some like
animal. A series of neat vertically placed scrolls formed of round
fillets encircles the neck, and below these is a band in relief
imitating a twisted cord.

A vase of unusually striking appearance is presented in Fig. 150. It is
one of the largest tripods in the collection and is characterized by a
high widely expanded lip and a long conical body and by legs of unusual
size and conformation. Small animal figures are perched upon the
projecting hips. The surface of the vessel is rudely finished and is
much blackened by smoke about the upper part of the legs and the body.

A unique use of the animal form is illustrated in Fig. 151, which shows
a large fragment of one of these tripods. The figure of an alligator,
modeled with a great deal of spirit, is attached to the side of the
vessel, resting partly upon the leg and extending upward obliquely to
the lip. A similar figure upon the opposite side of the same vase is
represented as grasping the form of a man or boy in its formidable
looking jaws.

  [Illustration: Fig. 151. Fragment of a tripod vase embellished with
  the figure of an alligator.]

The alligator, rarely employed in this group of ware, is freely used in
other groups and was probably a creature of importance in the mythology
of Chiriqui.

In one case only, so far as I have seen, is the human form employed in
the supports of these vessels, and in that case, as will be seen in
Fig. 152, the result is extremely grotesque. The shape of the basin is
good and the thick, rounded lip and most of the surface are carefully
polished. A disconnected meander of incised lines encircles the rather
high neck, and parts of the body and its attached features are painted
red. As usual this color was applied along with the slip and in
polishing has become much mixed up with it, giving a mottled effect. The
handles take the form of curious human-appearing figures which sit
against the constricted neck, their heads supporting the rim and their
feet resting upon the shoulder of the vessel. In one case the hands are
held tightly against the lower part of the face and in the other they
are bound together against the chin by a serpent-like cord of clay. The
hollow figures forming the legs of the vase are as grotesque as could
well be imagined. There is no head whatever, and the outlandish features
are placed upon the front of the upper part of the body. The arms and
hands take the conventional position characteristic of the statuary of
the isthmian states and the only traces of costume are bands about the
wrists and a girdle encircling the lower part of the body.

  [Illustration: Fig. 152. Vase supported by grotesque human

I add, in Fig. 153, one more example, a large, full bodied vase, which,
more decidedly perhaps than any of the foregoing, proclaims its
relationship to the preceding group. If the three rather clumsy legs
were knocked off there would remain a large beautifully shaped and
finished vase, with a constricted but flaring rim not in any way
distinguishable from those of the preceding group. The legs in this case
are less perfectly adapted to the vessel than in the other examples, as
if the potter, skillful in modeling the vessel, had only recently
undertaken to add the tripod. The slit in the outer face of the leg is
unusually wide and the inclosed ball is three-fourths of an inch in
diameter. The most remarkable feature of this vessel is the pair of
unique figures affixed to the upper surface of the body near the lip,
and which would seem to be intended to represent semihuman monsters. The
arms and legs are contorted and serpent-like in appearance and terminate
in most cases in heads of serpents instead of in hands and feet. The
attitude is expressive of agony or horror. It seems to me probable that,
contrary to the rule in primitive art, these strange figures do not
embody any well defined or serious conception, but are rather
exhibitions of the fancy of the potter. They occupy small unpainted
panels, which are finished in neat incised patterns. The remaining
surface is a bright red.

  [Illustration: Fig. 153. Round bodied vase embellished with figures
  of monsters--⅓.]

It may be noted, in recapitulation, that these vases, although
elaborately modeled and often well finished, are rudely decorated and
very generally show use over fire; that the legs, though often graceful
and well proportioned, are in many cases clumsily adjusted to the body,
giving a decidedly unsatisfactory result as a whole. This ware was
devoted to domestic uses, or, if otherwise, in all probability to the
burning of incense. Animal forms are freely employed, but in a rather
rude way. The fish form is more generally used than any other, and is in
all cases embodied in the legs of the vessel, the head joining the body
of the vessel and the tail resting upon the ground. These
representations exhibit all grades of elaboration from the fairly well
modeled to the merest suggestion of animal character--any one feature,
as the mouth, the eye, the fins, or the tail, being alone a sufficient
suggestion of the creature to satisfy the potter and keep alive the idea
of the fish. Other animal forms are employed in modeling the legs, and
exhibit equally varying degrees of elaboration, and it is worthy of
especial note that creatures are not confused or confounded, so far as I
can discover, at any stage of the simplifying process--that a fish is
still purely a fish if nothing is left to represent it but a node or an
incision. There is no apparent relationship between the animal forms
forming the legs and those attached to the body or to the rim of the

The pottery of the two groups already presented exhibits characters so
uniform throughout that there need be no hesitation in placing them
together as the work of one community and of one period of practice of
the art; but between these groups and those that follow there is a wide
gap. The differences are so marked that, if they had come from widely
separated localities, very intimate relationships would not have been

  [Illustration: Fig. 154. Cup with incurved rim and life form

  [Illustration: Fig. 155. Cup with widely expanded rim and
  constricted neck--½.]

_The maroon group._--For the want of a better name I have called the
group first to be presented the maroon group, on account of its color.
Our collection comprises not more than a dozen pieces of this ware. The
locality from which they come is called Los Tenajos by Mr. McNiel, but
he has not distinguished them in any way from the other varieties, and I
am therefore unable to say whether or not they occur together with
others or under identical conditions. In symmetry of outline, diversity
of shape, and cleverness of modeling this ware takes a high rank, but
there is no painted ornament. The surfaces are usually well polished,
and all exposed parts have received a coat of purplish maroon colored
paint. The paste contains a great deal of fine sand, and is yellowish
upon the surface and generally quite dark within the mass. Considering
the small number of pieces, the scale of form is remarkably varied.
There are plain bowls with incurved rims and with flaring rims, vases
with round bases, with annular stands, and with tripods, and life forms
wholly unique. Perhaps the most usual form is that shown in Fig. 154,
which represents a small cup with incurved rim and a narrow annular
base. The shoulder is embellished with three groups of small nodes, of
four each, which refer to some animal form. In other similar vases the
form of the creature is given in more realistic guise. A larger vase,
similar to this in most respects, has a rounded contour and incurved
lip. The periphery is supplied with four plain nodes. Another, shown in
Fig. 155, has a wide recurved rim, a character seen to equally good
advantage in some of the following figures. In the small vase
represented in Fig. 156 the treatment of animal forms in connection with
the body of the vessel is shown to good advantage. The head, legs, and
tail of what is probably intended to represent an alligator, modeled in
the round, are attached to the periphery of the basin, and heads of some
mammal are used for legs.

  [Illustration: Fig. 156. Small tripod cup with animal features in
  high relief--½.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 157. Handsome vase supported by three grotesque

A most interesting tripod is shown in Fig. 157. The bowl is beautifully
modeled, is symmetrical, and has a flaring rim, rounded and polished on
the upper surface and drooping slightly at the outer margin. The body is
hemispherical and is supported by three grotesque anthropomorphic
figures that strongly remind us of the “mud head” masks used in one of
the dances of the Zuñi Indians. The head is a rounded ball, upon which
pellets of clay are stuck to represent the features. The arms are set
against the sides of the body, as in other isthmian specimens, the hips
are excessively large, the legs straight, and the feet small and united
to form the foot of the vessel. Nearly the entire surface is finished in
a dark purplish red paint, which appears to have been polished down as a
slip. A companion piece is considerably smaller and the supporting
figures are very grotesque and somewhat crouched, as if bearing a very
heavy weight.

A number of large basins or caldrons, collected in Chiriqui, and
fragments of vessels of extraordinary size resemble this ware in
material, color, and finish. The rims of the larger pieces are upwards
of an inch thick and the walls are in cases three-fourths of an inch
thick. A number of large vessels of similar ware now in the National
Museum were collected in Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

_The red line group._--The group of vessels to which I have given this
name is represented by about a dozen specimens, which indicate a wide
range of form and exhibit a number of unique characters.

The localities from which they are derived extend from 8° 20´ to 8° 40´
north latitude and from 82° 40´ to 82° 50´ west longitude.

The paste is of about the usual composition, but takes a variety of
tints on burning, a light gray orange prevailing. The finish of the
surface is about the same as in other groups. The decoration consists of
life forms and their conventional representatives in relief and of
carelessly executed geometric designs, the pigment used being a bright,
sienna-like red.

As will be seen by reference to the illustrations, the forms are varied
and pleasing, but for the most part repeat outlines common to other
groups. The handles, single or in twos, are upright loops, and the
tripods are in nearly all cases looped or annular, an unusual feature in
other groups.

I present three illustrations, two of which were given in outline in the
introductory pages. The first (Fig. 158) has a well proportioned,
somewhat globular body, supported by three legs formed of looped bands
of clay. On the shoulder are two small animal forms, probably meant for
frogs. The spaces between these are occupied by panel-like arrangements
of red lines. The surface is yellowish gray in color, excepting where
blackened in the baking. The paste has cracked in firing, a feature
observed in a number of pieces belonging to this group.

  [Illustration: Fig. 158. Vase decorated with figures of frogs and
  devices in red--½.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 159. Vase of unique shape and life form

  [Illustration: Fig. 160. Two handled vase with life form and linear

A unique piece is represented in Fig. 159. The single handle is a high
projecting loop and connects with the margin of the orifice, which rises
to meet it, and with the lower part of the shoulder. An animal form,
apparently anthropomorphic, is embodied in this vessel. The upper part
of the vessel, separated by a slight constriction from the body proper,
represents the head of the creature, the nose, mouth, and eyes appearing
on the front and the ears at the sides. A few incised lines seen upon
the inner surface of the handle stand for the hair. Upon the shoulder
are two sharp nodes, standing for the breasts, and between these are
markings that represent a necklace. A rude design in red lines covers
the upper surface of the body.

A graceful shape is illustrated in Fig. 160. The paste is a grayish
orange on the surface and is rather dark within the thicker portions of
the walls. The under surface is much blackened by use over fire. An
interesting feature is seen upon the handles at the highest point of the
loop. Instead of the single indented transverse fillet observed in
similar forms in other groups, we have two such features, set about an
inch apart, and between them are two indented nodes which stand for
eyes, and a number of indentations within the space refer to other
features of the animal suggested. Upon the shoulder and collar of the
vessel are carelessly drawn geometric patterns in red lines.

  [Illustration: Fig. 161. Small tripod vase with animal figures in

_The white line group._--One group of vases, of which we have but four
pieces, is characterized by the use of a whitish pigment in decoration.
Not one of the collections that I have seen is well supplied with this
class of ware, and hence little can be said of its varieties of form and
ornament. All are tripods, but the shapes of the vessels vary
considerably. Two small pieces are from latitude 8° 40´ north and
longitude 82° 32´ west. One of these is shown in Fig. 161. They are
small, rather carelessly finished tripods, with narrow necks and
flattened bodies. The inner surface of the orifice and the under side of
the body are painted a dull red. The remainder of the surface is a warm
reddish gray, the color of the slip and the paste. The legs in the piece
figured represent some small creature with a rabbit-like face and a body
which tapers gradually to the base. Two feet are placed near the middle
of the body, which is striped transversely with white lines. A white
collar crosses the neck and the eyes are white dots. The upper surface
of the vase is embellished with two animal figures, executed in a white
earthy pigment. They may refer to the alligator, but the drawing is too
conventional to admit of full identification. The companion piece is a
little larger, and the upper surface is decorated with three groups of
broad white stripes, bordered by rows of dots, which extend from the
base of the neck to the periphery of the body. The legs are similar to
those of the other piece. The little animal figure fixed to the upper
end or hip is identical with that seen in the following illustration.

  [Illustration: Fig. 162. Shapely vase with designs in white

The large tripod vase presented in Fig. 162 is distinct in many ways
from anything in the collection and is remarkable for symmetry of form
and neatness of finish. The body is a long, symmetrical cone and the
legs are long, straight cylinders, neatly rounded off to a point below.
A thick rim projects at a sharp angle and is rounded up toward the
margin. The legs are hollow, and through two pairs of lateral slits a
number of small pellets can be seen, which rattle when the vase is
moved. Rudely modeled little animals, with erect ears, large feet, and
conical tails, are fixed to the upper end of the legs. The ground color,
the slip, and the paste are of a reddish gray cast. The greater part of
the surface seems to have been painted red, but the vase has been used
over fire to such an extent that little of the original color remains.
The body and the legs have been decorated with geometric patterns in a
whitish pigment that can be scraped off like indurated clay. The little
animal figures were also painted white. A vase very similar to this,
from which the legs have been removed, and the surface smoothed down,
has a longer and more graceful body and a similar rim. Another piece,
exhibiting similar yet even more strongly marked characteristics of
shape, belongs to the collection of Mr. J. B. Stearns.

_The lost color group._--In number of specimens this group is second to
none, excepting perhaps that given under the head of terra cotta ware.
Nine-tenths of the pieces may be classed as bottles, which have rather
short, wide necks and globular bodies, slightly conical below and in
cases flattened above. They range in size from one inch to nearly a foot
in height, but the average capacity is not above a pint. Aside from the
bottles there is a wide range of shapes. There are shallow bowls and
various complex and compound forms. Animal forms are associated with all
classes of vessels. Tripod supports are limited to rather modest
proportions, and handles, although often present and greatly varied in
style, do not constitute an important feature. These vessels are
remarkably well preserved and exhibit few traces of abrasion by use or
of blackening over fire. The paste is fine grained and usually of a
light yellow gray tint throughout.

The surface was finished either in a light colored slip or in a strong
red pigment. In some cases the light tint was used exclusively and again
the red covered the entire surface, but more frequently the two were
used together, occupying distinct areas of the same vessel and forming
the groundwork for decorative patterns in other colors. They were
usually polished down with very great care, giving a glistening surface,
upon which the markings of the tool can still be seen.

I have already described the methods of decoration, but may review them
briefly here. The bright red color, which forms such a prominent and
pleasing feature, is, as stated above, only a ground tint and is not
used in any case in the delineation of design. The actual patterns, so
varied and interesting, were worked out in a pigment or fluid now
totally lost, but which has left traces of its former existence through
its effect upon the ground colors. In beginning the decoration, a thin
black color, probably of vegetal character, was carried over the area to
be treated, and upon this the figures were traced in the lost color.
When this color (if it was indeed a pigment, and not merely an acid or
“taking out” medium) disappeared, it carried with it the black tint
beneath, exposing the light gray and red tints of the ground and leaving
the interstices in black. The interstitial figures thus formed are often
of such a character as to be taken for the true design. In examining the
decoration of this ware it is essential that this fact should be kept in
mind, as otherwise great confusion will result.

The nature of the materials employed cannot be determined. Applied to
the polished surface, they were easily removed. The black ground tint is
now easily rubbed off and in most cases is much injured by handling or
by contact with the soil. The lost color may have been similar to the
white, argillaceous pigment used by the Aztecs, which has in many cases
partially or wholly disappeared, leaving its marks upon the ground
either by deadening the polish or by removing portions of the slip and
the paste upon which it was laid, presenting the ornament in intaglio.

The designs are infinitely varied in appearance and arrangement, yet are
far from having a mixed or heterogeneous character. It is probably our
lack of knowledge of the origin and history of the elements and their
derivations that causes confusion. Both geometric and imitative elements
abound and are blended in perfectly graded series. The treatment of
geometric figures is peculiar to Chiriqui and in many respects is
peculiar to this group of ware. Classic forms, such as the meander, the
scroll, and the fret, rarely occur and are barely recognizable. It
appears from a close study of all the work that motives derived from
nature have greatly leavened the whole body of decoration. This matter
will receive attention as the examples are presented and will be treated
with greater care in a succeeding section.

Plastic decoration, aside from the life forms so commonly associated
with the body of the vase and with the handles and legs, is not of
importance. The high degree of polish required in this ware tended to
simplify all relieved features.

The presence of life forms in relief has produced important
modifications in the appearance and the arrangement of the painted
devices, and in many cases there is a manifest correlation between the
plastic and the painted forms: as, for example, when the body of the
vase was thought of as the body of the animal, the extremities of which
were placed upon its sides, the colored figures carried out the idea of
the creature by imitating in a more or less conventional way the
markings of the body. This will be understood through reference to the
examples presented in the following pages.

I will present, first, a series of bottles, selecting at the beginning
those decorated in the more purely geometric style and gradually
approaching those upon which animal forms are treated in a literal
manner. The few pieces selected for illustration are totally inadequate
to the proper representation of the group and must be regarded only as
average specimens, more or less typical in character.

I give first a number of examples in which the decorative devices are
arranged in horizontal zones. In Fig. 163 broad bands of ornament,
consisting of scalloped and plain lines, encircle the neck and the body
of the vessel. In finishing this piece the whole surface was painted a
rich red and highly polished; then a black coat was applied, covering
the body from the lip to the base of the design; and finally the
delineating fluid was applied, removing the black, as shown in the
narrow lines, the sharply dentate bands, and the broad, plain band
between. The second example (Fig. 164) varies somewhat in shape and
design, but is identical in color and manipulation. The dark figures are
merely the interspaces, although they appear at first glance to have
been intended for the design proper.

  [Illustration: Fig. 163. Small red bottle with horizontal bands of
  ornament consisting of plain and scalloped lines--½.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 164. Small red bottle with encircling geometric

In a numerous series of vessels the decorated bands are divided into
compartments or panels, often four in number, which spaces are occupied
by lines and figures of greatly diversified characters. In the example
shown in Fig. 165 the ground color of the principal zone is in the light
yellow gray tint of the slip, the remainder being red. This lends
brilliancy to the effect.

  [Illustration: Fig. 165. Bottle with zone occupied by geometric

  [Illustration: Fig. 166. Bottle with broad zone containing geometric

In the vase shown in Fig. 166 the treatment is in a general way the
same, but the compartments are triangular and are separated by lines
that form a disconnected meander. An additional example is given in
Fig. 167. Here the principal zone is expanded to cover the whole upper
surface of the vase, which was finished in the light colored slip to
receive it. The principal lines are arranged to give the effect of rays
when viewed from above, but as seen in the cut they give the effect of a
carelessly connected meander. The groups of lines are bordered by series
of dots. A great number of pieces are painted in this style. The effect
is varied by altering the shape of the interspaces or by modifying the
number and relationship of the lines, dots, and figures.

  [Illustration: Fig. 167. Bottle with decoration of meandered

  [Illustration: Fig. 168. Bottle with arched panels and geometric

Somewhat similar also in general effect to the last example is the work
upon another important series of vases. Instead of the simple meandered
or zigzag arrangement of parts, two of the dividing lines of the zone
run tangent to the neck of the vase on opposite sides, forming arched
panels and leaving upright panels between. In the example presented in
Fig. 168 the arched areas are filled in with lattice-like arrangements
of lines. In others we have dots, checkers, and varied geometric
combinations, and in very many cases the figures are derived from life
forms. The same may be said of the devices that occupy the spaces
between the arches. The piece shown in Fig. 169 exhibits a somewhat more
elaborate treatment, but the motives and arrangements are much the same.
These vessels are peculiar in the treatment of the ground. The entire
surface is red, with the exception of narrow bands of light ground
color, which outline the arches and encircle the periphery. In other
cases these bands are red, the remainder of the ground being light.
Series of lines are drawn from the lower border of the zone to the
center of the base of the body.

  [Illustration: Fig. 169. Bottle with arched panels and elaborate

  [Illustration: Fig. 170. Vase with rosette-like panels--½.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 170_a_. Ornament from vase shown in Fig. 170.]

In a small group of vases we have a radiate ornament within the arches
and in a few cases the arched lines are continued down around the base
of the vessel, forming vertical circles in which rosette-like designs
are formed by repeating the radiate figures in an inverted position
below the peripheral line. The elaboration in these circular inclosures
is very remarkable, as will be seen by reference to the three examples
given in Figs. 170, 171, and 172. In the first case the peripheral line
is a red band nearly one-half an inch wide and the rays appear in groups
above and below it. Within the four broader black rays (Fig. 170_a_),
which are the interspaces or remnants of the ground, groups of lines
have been drawn, in most cases curved at the inner ends like an opening
frond and accompanied in all cases by series of dots. An examination of
a number of vessels shows various degrees of convention. It is clear,
however, that these devices, showing curves, hooks, and dots, are not of
technical or mechanical origin, but that they refer to delineative
originals of which they are survivals; but we must remain in the dark as
to what the originals were or what was the precise nature of the idea
associated with them in the mind of the decorator. Another question
refers to the arrangement of the parts of the design in the five
preceding figures. The distribution of the designs is a matter of great
interest, and much may be learned from a close study of these specimens.

  [Illustration: Fig. 171. Vase with rosette-like panels--½.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 172. Vase with rosette-like panels--½.]

Horizontal zones appear in the ceramic decoration of all countries, and
result, no doubt, from technical causes; but the division of zones into
compartments of peculiar shape is due to other influences. I believe the
peculiar arched arrangement here seen results from the employment of
plastic features, such as handles or life forms. The ancient races were
accustomed to conceive of the vessel as the body of an animal, an idea
originating in the association of mythologic conceptions with art. The
head and the tail of the particular creature thought of were attached to
opposite sides of the vase and consequently interfered with the original
zonal arrangement of the design where it existed, or where it did not
exist the sides were filled with devices representing the markings of
the creature’s body. The decoration now consisted of four parts, two in
the round or in relief and two in color, the former occupying small
areas and the latter wide areas, as seen in Fig. 173. The same result
would spring from the use of two handles, such a common feature in this
ware. The lateral spaces reached from the periphery to the base of the
neck and were most readily and naturally separated from the plastic
features by lines extending across the shoulder tangent to the neck and
forming arches (Fig. 174). In time the plastic features, being difficult
to manage, would gradually decrease in boldness of modeling and finally
disappear, leaving a space upon which the life form could be symbolized
in color (Fig. 175). Now it happens that in this collection we have a
series of examples illustrating all stages of this change, the first,
the middle, and the final steps being shown in the above figures.

  Fig. 173.
  Fig. 174.
  Fig. 175.
  Theoretical origin of the arched panels.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 176. Vase decorated with conventional figures of

In multiplying these vessels the original forms and associations of
decorative features are necessarily to some extent lost sight of; the
panels change in shape, number, and relationships; and devices
originally appropriate to particular spaces are employed
indiscriminately, so that the uninitiated see nothing but confusion. All
devices are delineations of or have more or less definite reference to
the creature or spirit associated with the vessel.

  Fig. 177.
  Fig. 178.
  Portions of decorated zones illustrating treatment of life forms.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 179. Vase decorated with highly conventional
  life forms--½.]

I will now pass over the many hundreds of pieces with designs too
conventional to furnish a clew to the original animal forms, yet still
suggesting their existence, to those in which the life forms can be
traced with ease or in which they are delineated with a much nearer
approach to nature. The manner of introducing life forms into the panels
of the encircling zones is illustrated in the following figures. In the
vase shown in Fig. 176 there are four panels, two short and two long,
separated by vertical bands. The short panels are black, but the long
ones are occupied by rudely drawn figures of alligators, some of which
are very curiously abbreviated. At the right hand in the cut we have
simply the head with its strong recurved jaws and notched crest. The
principal figure at the left is a two headed alligator, the body being
straight and supplied with two feet. The ground finish of the decorated
band is in the light gray tint and the alligator figures and vertical
septa now appear in that color. The ground of the remainder of the
surface is red. It will be seen that in this case the panel outlines are
rather elaborate and that the neck and base are striped in a way to
enhance considerably the beauty of the vessel. Additional examples of
animal devices are given in Figs. 177 and 178. The significance of the
curious figure seen in the first is not easily determined, although we
do not hesitate to assign to it an animal origin. There is a suggestion
of two sitting figures placed back to back between the upright serrate
lines. In the second piece, which is from another vessel, the space
between the serrate lines is occupied by a sketchy figure which, in the
phraseology of heraldry, may be likened to a monkey rampant.

  [Illustration: Fig. 179_a_. Design from vase shown in Fig. 179.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 180. Vase decorated with highly conventional
  life forms--½.]

In Figs. 179 and 180 I present very interesting examples in which the
arched panels are used. In the first the compartments are occupied by a
favorite Chiriquian motive, which consists of groups of lines curled up
at one end like unfolding fronds. The whole group represents a very
highly conventionalized animal figure (Fig. 179_a_). The devices
occupying the upright panels take the place of the animal heads shown in
several preceding figures. In the arched panels shown in Fig. 180 we
have the frond-like motive treated in a manner to make it pretty certain
that a reptilian form is intended. These figures are fully and
systematically presented in a succeeding section.

Many of these globular vases are unusually handsome. The polished ground
is red or is varied with stripes or panels of the whitish slip. Over
this ground the whole surface was painted black and then the lost color
was employed to work out the design. The coiled figures were produced by
drawing the lines in the lost color. The interspaces were then roughly
gone over with the same pigment in such a way as to leave the figures
inclosed within rather uneven black borders. The presentation of these
ornaments brings me naturally to the consideration of a number of very
puzzling forms which, if taken alone, must inevitably be referred to
vegetal originals. In Fig. 181 we have a handsomely shaped vessel,
finished in a polished red ground and decorated in the usual manner. In
the main zone--here rather high up on the vase--there is a series of
upright figures resembling stalks or stems with scroll-like branches
springing from the sides. The stalks are probably the septa of the
panels and the leaves are the usual reptilian symbols. About the widest
part of the body of the vase is a band of ornament probably representing
an animal.

  [Illustration: Fig. 181. Vase decorated with highly conventional
  life forms--½.]

A still more remarkable ornament is shown in Fig. 182. The decorated
zone of the vessel from which this is taken is divided into three
panels, each of which contains stem-like figures terminating in flower
shaped heads and uniting in a most remarkable way animal derivatives and
vegetal forms. I am inclined to the view that here, as in the preceding
case, the resemblance to a vegetal growth is purely adventitious.

  [Illustration: Fig. 182. Decorated panel with devices resembling
  vegetal growths, but probably of animal origin--½.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 183. Example of vase of unusual shape--½.]

  Fig. 184.
  Fig. 185.
  Examples of vases of unusual shapes--½.]

In striking contrast with the globular forms just given are the angular
outlines presented in the following illustrations. The first is
flattened above, the body being much expanded horizontally and having a
sharp peripheral angle. Upon the shoulder, occupying the places of and
probably standing for animal heads, are two cruciform nodes, about which
the scroll-like decorations of the upper surface are coiled. We see by
this that in the mind of the potter a correlation existed between the
plastic and the painted devices even in these conventional decorations.
The second illustration represents a neatly finished bottle, with
upright sides and conical base, upon the shoulder of which minute animal
figures are perched. The painted design is nearly obliterated. The third
example is unique. The sides are upright and the bottom is flat. The
ornament occupies the entire surface and is divided into two sections or
zones by a red band about the middle.

  [Illustration: Fig. 186. Double vessel with high arched handle--½.]

Complex and compound forms are comparatively rare. A double vessel is
shown in Fig. 186, and a second, varying somewhat from the first in
shape and ornamentation, is presented in the succeeding figure. Vessels
of this form are always small, but are neatly constructed and finished
with much care. The strong handles are more or less arched and connect
the inner margins of the two lips. The bodies of the twin cups are
closely joined, but the two compartments are not connected.

  [Illustration: Fig. 187. Double vessel with arched handle--½.]

It seems impossible to present a satisfactory series of the plastic
features characteristic of this group of products without extending this
paper inordinately. Handles, legs, and life forms are varied and
interesting; they are not so boldly treated, however, as in some of the
other groups. This is a result perhaps of the unusual degree of polish
given to all parts of the surface preparatory to the application of
designs in color, the processes tending to subdue and simplify the
salient features.

  [Illustration: Fig. 188. Vase embellished with life forms, heads in
  relief and other parts in color--½.]

With reference to life forms it has already been pointed out that the
painted figures generally imitate or typify animal forms, and it is
important to note that these figures are in very many cases used as
auxiliaries to plastic features in the development of particular
conceptions. This is shown to advantage in Fig. 188, which illustrates a
small, well formed bottle, having two large human-like heads attached to
opposite sides of the body. There are no other plastic features, but the
heads are supplied with arms and legs, rudely expressed in black lines,
which are really the interspaces of the lines drawn in the lost color.
These painted parts occupy the zone usually devoted to decoration and,
as will be seen by reference to the cut, resemble closely the radiate or
meandered figures seen in vases of the class shown in Fig. 167. The arms
are joined to the lower part of the head and extend upward to the neck
of the vessel, where they terminate in rudely suggested fingers. Rising
to the right and left of the arms are legs terminating as do the arms.
A double row of dots is carried along each member, and thus we have a
suggestion of the relation of the dots and dotted lines, seen in more
highly conventional forms, to the markings of the creature represented
or symbolized. The grotesque faces are covered with lines which follow
the forms as if imitating markings upon the skin. Another example,
equally suggestive, also employing an animal form, is shown in Fig. 189.
It is a cup, mounted upon three feet, which has attached to one side the
head of a peccary, modeled with more than usual skill. The ears of the
animal appear at the sides of the vessel and the tail is opposite the
head. The lines and dots seen upon the head are carried along the sides
of the vessel as far as the ears and undoubtedly represent the markings
of the animal’s skin. Behind the ears the markings are different in
character and purely geometric. A view of the under side of the vessel
is shown in Fig. 190 and illustrates a treatment characteristic of the
tripod vases of this class. In other cases, instead of fixing the head
of the animal upon one side and other members of the body upon other
sides, two heads, or two complete creatures, are placed opposite each

  [Illustration: Fig. 189. Vase modeled to represent a peccary--½.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 190. Under surface of vase shown in Fig. 189.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 191. Small vessel with human figures in high
  relief and geometric color decoration--½.]

I present next (Fig. 191) a piece in which there is no recognizable
relationship between the painted and the plastic features. It is a small
tripod cup with upright walls, upon which two characteristic Chiriquian
human figures, male and female, are fixed. The painted figures upon the
sides of the vessel are geometric, but refer possibly to some character
or attribute of the modeled figures or are the survivals of figures
belonging to vessels of this shape or style before the life forms were
associated with them. The legs, however, so far as can be determined,
are not related to the human motive, as they are modeled and painted to
imitate the heads of alligators.

I shall now present a few shallow bowls or pans mounted upon tripods.
They vary in dimensions from a few inches in diameter to a foot or more
and are strongly made, symmetrically formed, and neatly finished. The
polished surfaces are mainly red. The designs were executed in the usual
way in the lost color, upon a black ground, and are confined chiefly to
the exterior surface. The alligator is the favorite motive, and in a
number of cases is quite graphically, although still conventionally,
rendered. As in the preceding examples, the animal heads represented in
the legs do not always correspond to the creatures embodied in the
painted decoration.

  [Illustration: Fig. 192. Tripod cup, with figures of the

In Fig. 192 we have a representative example of moderate size and
ordinary finish. The decorated band is divided into panels, three of
which are long and contain figures of the alligator. The other three are
short and are filled with conventional devices, related perhaps to that
animal. The legs are apparently intended to resemble the heads of
alligators. A large piece, nearly twelve inches in diameter, is very
similar in shape and decoration, but the legs resemble puma heads.

The specimen shown in Fig. 193 is extremely well made and differs
decidedly from the preceding. The sides are upright and the lip is
recurved and thick. The legs represent some animal form with thick body,
eyes at the top, and a tail-like appendage below that turns up and
connects with the side of the body. The form of the bowl is symmetrical
and the surface carefully finished and polished. The exterior design is
divided into panels, as in the preceding case; the figures are simple
and geometric. The inside of the upright portion of the wall is
decorated with vertical lines and bands and the bottom is covered with
an octopus-like figure, now partially obliterated.

  [Illustration: Fig. 193. Large shallow tripod vase, with geometric

The remarkable example shown in Fig. 194 illustrates a number of the
points suggested in the preceding pages. It is a large bottle of the
usual contour and color, mounted upon three high legs, which are slit on
the inner surface and contain movable balls of clay. Two handles, placed
at opposite sides of the neck, represent human or anthropomorphic
figures. These figures and the neck and base of the vessel were finished
in the red slip. The broad zone extending from the neck to some distance
below the periphery was finished in the gray slip, with the exception of
the frames of two panels beneath the handles and the foundation lines of
two large figures of alligators, which are in red. The surface, when
thus treated, was well polished and then a coat of black was laid upon
it, and upon this details of the designs were drawn in the lost color.
The figures of the alligators exhibit some striking peculiarities. The
hooked snout, the hanging jaw, the row of dotted notches extending along
the back, and especially the general curve of the body are worthy of
attention. These features are seen to better advantage in the series of
vases presented in the following section.

Belonging to this group are many whistles, needlecases, and rattles, all
of which are described under separate headings upon subsequent pages.

  [Illustration: Fig. 194. Large bottle shaped vase, with high tripod
  and alligator designs--½.]

_The alligator group._--The group of ware to which I give the above name
is perhaps the most interesting in the collection, although numerically
inferior to some of those already presented. Its decoration is of a very
striking character and may serve to throw much light upon the origin and
evolution of certain linear devices, as it illustrates with more than
usual clearness the processes of modification.

I will first present a representative series of the vessels, in order
that they may in a measure tell their own story; yet it is not possible
without the direct aid of a full series of the objects themselves to
convey a clear and comprehensive notion of the metamorphoses through
which the forms and decorations pass.

This group, like that last described, is composed chiefly of bottle
shaped vases with globular bodies and short, wide necks; but there is no
danger of confusion. By placing a series from each group side by side a
number of marked differences may be noted. In the lost color group the
neck is decided in form, the body is usually somewhat flattened above
and is distinctly conical below, and the prevailing color is a rich dark
red. In the alligator group the body is more nearly globular and the
curves of the whole outline are more gentle; the prevailing color is a
light yellowish gray. The reds and the blacks, which are used chiefly in
the figures, are confined to rather limited areas.

Besides the bottle shaped vases, there is a limited series of the usual
forms, and a few pieces exhibit unique features. The management of life
forms is especially instructive. Handles are rare and legs are usually
not of especial interest, as they are plain cones or at most but rude
imitations of the legs of animals. Shallow vessels are invariably
mounted upon tripods and a few of the deeper forms are so equipped.
Usually the sizes are rather small; but we occasionally observe a bottle
having the capacity of a gallon or more. The materials do not differ
greatly from those employed in other groups of ware. The paste is fine
grained and light in color, sometimes reddish near the surface, and
where quite thick is darker within the mass. A slip of light yellowish
hue was in most cases applied to the entire surface. A red ochery
pigment was in some instances used in finishing the lip and the base of
the body, and occasionally the red pigment was applied as a base, a kind
of sketch foundation for the decoration proper. For example, when the
alligator was to appear upon the side of the vessel, the principal forms
were traced in broad lines of the red color, and these were polished
down with the slips. When the polishing process was complete, the
details of the figure, were drawn in black and in cases partially in
red. Black was the chief delineating color, the red having been confined
to broad areas, to outlines, and to the enframing of panels. In
execution, therefore, there is a decided contrast with the preceding
group, and it may be added that there is an equally strong contrast in
both treatment and subject matter of the ornament. The motives are
derived almost wholly from life forms and retain for the most part
features that suggest their origin. The subjects are chiefly reptilian,
the alligator appearing in a majority of cases, and hence the name of
the group.

I present first a few examples of plain bottles which have no extraneous
plastic features. The decorations are arranged in two ways, in zones
about the upper part of the body or in circular areas, generally four in
number, equidistantly placed about the shoulder of the vessel.

  [Illustration: Fig. 195. Large bottle, with narrow zone containing
  figures of the alligator--⅓.]

An example of the first style is given in Fig. 195, which represents the
largest piece in this group of ware. The form is symmetrical and very
pleasing to the eye. The surface is not very highly polished and shows
the marks of the polishing implement distinctly over the entire surface.
Two black lines encircle the flat upper surface of the rim and the outer
margin is red. The neck and a narrow zone at the upper part of the body
are finished in a cream colored slip and the body below this is red. The
narrow band of ornament occupies the lower margin of the light colored
zone and consists of five encircling lines in black, three of which are
above and two below a band one-half an inch wide, in which five much
simplified figures of alligators are drawn. Besides these figures there
are two vertical septum-like bands. Each of these consists of three
lines bordered by dots, which probably have some relationship with the
alligator. The decorated zone of these vessels is divided in various
ways into panels, some of which are triangular, while others are
rectangular or arched. The latter form is seen in Fig. 196. Five arches,
having no border line above, are occupied by abbreviated alligator
devices. The number of compartments ranges in other specimens from two
to a dozen or more. They are filled in with various devices, to be
described in detail further on.

  [Illustration: Fig. 196. Vase with decorated zone containing four
  arched panels--½.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 197. Vase with four round nodes upon which
  animal devices are painted--½.]

A very peculiar form of decoration consists of circular or rosette-like
ornaments, such as are shown in Fig. 197. Four slightly relieved nodes
an inch or more in diameter are placed upon the shoulder of the vessel.
These are encircled by red lines which inclose two black lines each, and
within these are peculiar devices in black. Other vessels furnish
figures of greatly diversified characters, most of which evidently refer
to life forms. A full series of these is given in a subsequent section
of this paper, where the origin of the nodes and the manner in which the
painted figures probably became associated with them will be fully set

  [Illustration: Fig. 198. Vases of varied form and decoration.]

In the series of outlines presented in Fig. 198, we have some of the
varieties of form and decoration of both the ordinary bottles and the
plainer tripod cups. Each example presents certain features of
particular interest. The handsome little bottle (_d_) with the plastic
ornament about the neck and the zone of geometric ornament in black and
red lines is unique. The double necked bottle is an unusual form and its
decoration consists of a strangely conceived representation of the
alligator. The tripod vases are worthy of close attention: the piece
illustrated in _b_ has a zone of ornament separated into three parts by
vertical spaces, each part being enframed in black. The sections are
divided by red lines into three panels, each of which contains a
conventional figure of an alligator in black. The piece shown in _a_ is
unique in its decoration. Four angular fret links in black are inclosed
in as many panels, bordered by red and separated by blank spaces. These
fret links, as I shall show further on, probably refer to or symbolize
the alligator. The legs of the cups are all conical and are marked with
short transverse lines in black, which have a direct reference to the
markings of the animal to which the vase was consecrated. A careful
study of the preceding illustrations leads to the conclusion that in the
mind of the potters there was a close and important relationship between
the vessel and the reptilian forms embodied in both plastic and surface
embellishment. The series of examples which follow have a bearing upon
this point. I shall begin with that in which the creature is most
literally rendered.

  [Illustration: Fig. 199. Alligator vase, with conventional

  [Illustration: Fig. 200. Alligator vase, with conventional figures
  of the alligator painted on the sides--½.]

In Fig. 199 the whole conformation of the vessel is considerably
modified through the attempt to perfect the likeness of the alligator,
whose head, tail, and legs are graphically rendered. The body, head, and
tail are covered with nodes, each of which is encircled by a black ring
and has a black dot upon the apex. Dotted rings and short strokes of
black occupy the interspaces. These devices represent the spines and
scales of the creature’s skin. The legs are marked with horizontal
stripes and oval spaces at the top inclose three dots each. The general
color of the vessel is a dark brown. This piece should be compared with
the alligator whistle shown in Fig. 250.

A somewhat different treatment is shown in Fig. 200. Here the animal
form has undergone considerable modification. There are but three
legs--a concession to the conventional tripod--and the body exhibits,
instead of the nodes and the markings of the creature’s skin, two
conventional drawings of the whole animal. Now, by higher and higher
degrees of convention, we come to a long series of modified results
which must be omitted for want of room. We find that the plastic
features are gradually reduced until mere nodes appear where the head
and the tail should be, and finally in the lower forms there remains but
a blank panel or a painted device, as already shown in a preceding
section. The painted devices are also reduced by degrees until all
resemblance to nature is lost and geometric devices alone remain.
I observe in this association of plastic and painted features a lack of
the perfect consistency I had learned to expect in the work of primitive
peoples. It is easy to see how, from painting the markings of the
creature’s skin upon the body of the vessel, the painter should come
gradually to delineate parts of the creature or even the whole creature,
but we should not expect him to paint a creature distinct in kind from
that modeled, thus confusing or entirely separating the conceptions;
this has been done, apparently, in the vase illustrated in Fig. 202,
where the plastic form represents a puma and the painting upon the sides
seems intended for an alligator. It will be seen from the figures given
that the devices of the panels or sides do not necessarily represent the
markings of the animal’s body, as in Fig. 201, but that they may refer
to the entire creature (Fig. 200) or even to what appears to be a
totally distinct creature (Fig. 202).

  [Illustration: Fig. 201. Vase having the head and tail of a serpent
  projecting from opposite sides of the body and connected by a
  meandered design which stands for the markings of the body--½.]

If realistic or semirealistic delineations are confused in this way it
is to be expected that highly conventional derivative figures, so
numerous and varied, should be much less clearly distinguished; that
indeed there should be no certainty whatever in the reference to
originals. It is difficult to say of any particular conventional device
that it originated in the figure of the animal as a whole rather than in
some part or character of that animal or of some other animal.

  [Illustration: Fig. 202. Vase representing a puma, with figures of
  the alligator painted upon the sides--½.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 203. Shallow vase with reptilian features in the
  round and designs in red and black representing the markings of the
  creature’s body--½.]

A very instructive example bearing upon this subject is shown in
Fig. 203. Attached to one side of the basin is a pendent head resembling
that of a serpent or a turtle. A kind of hood overhangs the head and
extends in a ridge around the sides of the vessel, connecting with the
tail of the creature, which is also pendent and hooded. Four legs
support the vessel and are marked with transverse stripes of red and
black paint. The upper surface of the head is covered with reticulated
lines in black, and bands of conventional ornament in the same color
extend around the sides of the vessel, uniting the head with the tail of
the animal. A single band of ornament passes beneath the body, also
connecting those members. It is plain that these painted bands serve to
complete the representation of the reptile. But, as I have just shown,
they are as likely to stand for the whole creature or to be the
abbreviated representative of the whole creature as to represent merely
the markings of the body. These devices, as arranged in the zone,
resemble in a remarkable degree the conventional running scroll.

  [Illustration: Fig. 204. Vase with funnel shaped mouth and square
  body, supported by two grotesque figures and decorated with figures
  of alligators and monkeys--½.]

I have but one more example of the alligator vases to present, but it is
perhaps the most remarkable piece in the collection (Fig. 204). It
illustrates to good advantage both the skill and the strange fancy of
these archaic potters. A large vase, having a high flaring rim and a
subcubical body, is supported by two grotesque human appearing figures,
whose backs are set against opposite ends of the vessel. The legs are
placed wide apart, thus affording a firm support. The heads of the two
figures project forward from the shoulder of the vase and are flattened
in such a way as to give long oval outlines to the crowns which are
truncated and furnished with long slit-like openings that connect
through the head with the main chamber of the vessel. The openings are
about two and a half inches long and one-eighth of an inch wide and are
surrounded by a shallow channel in the flat, well polished upper
surface. The extraordinary conformation of this part of the vessel
recalls the well known whistling vases of South America; but this piece
is too badly broken to admit of experiment to test its powers. It is
generally likened to a money box. In order to convey a clear conception
of the shape of the upper surface, I present a top view of the vessel
(Fig. 205).

  [Illustration: Fig. 205. Top view of vase in Fig. 204, showing the
  main orifice and the oblong openings.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 206. End view of vase in Fig. 204, showing front
  view of grotesque figure. The red portions of the painted figures
  are outlined with dots.]

A front view of one of the supporting figures is shown in Fig. 206.
Although certainly not intended to represent a human figure with
accuracy, it is furnished with a crown, as are the figures in gold and
stone, and is covered with devices that seem to refer to costume. The
features are extremely grotesque, the nose resembling the beak of a bird
and the mouth being a mere ridge, without indications of the lips. The
face and the chest are painted with curious devices in red. The funnel
and body of the vase are decorated with subjects that seem to have no
connection with the plastic features and no relation to one another in
subject matter. The upper panel, surrounded by a framework of black and
red lines, contains the figure of an alligator much simplified and
taking a peculiar position on account of the shape of the space into
which it is crowded. The figure occupying the body panel is that of a
very strangely conventionalized two tailed monkey and is enframed by a
wide red line. On the shoulder of the vessel is an ornament consisting
of a number of angular hooks attached to a straight line. The effect is
like that of fretwork, but the figure is probably derived from a
modified animal form. The paste of this vase is sandy and is reddish
gray near the surface and quite dark within the mass. The modeling is
thoroughly well done, and the surface, which is of a somber, yellowish
gray tint, is highly polished. The figures are drawn chiefly in black,
red being confined to broad lines and areas. De Zeltner published
photographic illustrations of a similar vase with his pamphlet on the
graves of Chiriqui. That specimen is now, I believe, in the hands of
Prof. O. C. Marsh, of New Haven. It corresponds very closely in nearly
every respect with the example here described.

  [Illustration: Fig. 207. Large vase with decorations in red and

_The polychrome group._--The National Museum collection contains but
three examples of this most artistic of the wares of Chiriqui. Its claim
to superiority rests upon a certain boldness and refinement of
execution, combined with nobleness of outline and a type of design much
in advance of other isthmian decoration. It is probably most nearly
allied to the ware of the alligator group, and it possesses some of the
characteristics of the best Central American work. Unlike the other
wares of Chiriqui, this pottery has a bright salmon red paste and the
slip proper is a delicate shade of the same color. In nearly all cases
undecorated portions of the surface are finished in red, which appears
to have been polished down as a slip. The designs are in three
colors--black, a strong red, and a fine gray purple--which, in
combination with the bright reddish ground, give a very rich effect. The
first example, shown in Fig. 207, is a large, nearly symmetrical bottle
with a short neck and a thick, flaring lip. The inner surface of the
orifice and the lower half of the body are finished in red and the neck
and shoulder in the salmon colored slip. A wide zone of ornament
encircles the upper surface of the body. The designs are executed with
great skill in red and black colors and include two highly conventional
figures, probably of reptilian origin. The manner of their introduction
into the zone is shown in Fig. 208. The oval faces are placed on
opposite sides, taking the positions usually occupied by modeled heads.
Each face is supplemented by a pair of arms which terminate in curiously
conventional hands, and the two caudal appendages are placed midway
between the faces, filling triangular areas. The body of the vase serves
as a body for both creatures. In the illustration, the red of the
design, which is carried over all of one face save the eyes and mouth
and serves to emphasize the features of the other face, is indicated in
vertical tint lines and the black is given in solid color. This vase is
twelve inches in height.

  [Illustration: Fig. 208. Devices of the decorated zone of vase shown
  in Fig. 207.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 209. Handsome vase with four handles and
  decorations in black, red, and purple--⅔.]

A second example, illustrated in Fig. 209, is a fine piece of somewhat
unusual shape. The orifice is trumpet shaped and rather too wide for
good proportion. The body is flattened above and conical below and is
supported by a rather meager annular foot. The paste is of a light brick
red color, and the slip, as seen in the ground of the decorated belt, is
a pale gray orange. Undecorated portions of the surface are painted red.
The ornamented zone is interrupted by two pairs of handle-like
appendages set upon the outer part of the shoulder. These projections
may possibly have served as handles, as they are perforated both
horizontally and vertically, but they are at the same time undoubtedly
conventionalized animal forms, the creature being represented by the
four flattened, transversely marked arms or rays and an eye-like device
painted upon the top of each figure. The painted devices are seen in
plan in Fig. 210, where the relations of the relieved features to the
zone of painted decoration are clearly shown. This zone is divided into
panels of unequal dimensions, and within these a number of extraordinary
devices are drawn in three colors, red, black, and purple. These are
distinguished in the plan by peculiar tint lines. The designs are of
such a character as to leave little doubt that they are ideographic,
although at present it is impossible to guess the nature of the
associated ideas. The annular foot observed in this specimen illustrates
the first step in the development of a feature the final stage of which
is shown in Fig. 211. The latter shape is such as would result from
inverting the preceding form, removing the conical base of the body, and
using the funnel shaped orifice as a stand. This highly developed shape
implies a long practice of the art. The form is a usual one in Mexico
and in Central America. The bowl is shallow and is set gracefully upon
the stand, the whole shape closely resembling simple conditions of the
classic kylix. The color of the paste is a pale brick red and that of
the slip approaches orange. The walls are thick and even and the surface
is very carefully polished.

  [Illustration: Fig. 210. The painted designs of vase in Fig. 209
  viewed from above.]

The painted decoration is of unusual interest. The colors are so rich,
the execution is so superior, and the conception so strange that we
dwell upon it with surprise and wonder. The central portion of the bowl
is occupied by what would seem to represent a fish painted in strong,
firm, marvelously turned lines, and in a style of convention wholly
unique. The outlines are in black and the spaces are filled in with red
and purple or are left in the orange hue of the ground. An idea of the
superior style of execution can be gained from Fig. 212. It will be
impossible to characterize the details of the drawing in words. The
strange position and shape of the head, the oddly placed eyes and mouth,
and the totally incomprehensible treatment of the body can be
appreciated, however, by referring to the illustration. A careful study
leads inevitably to the conclusion that this was no ordinary decoration,
no playing with lines, but a serious working out of a conception every
part of which had its significance or its raison d’être.

  [Illustration: Fig. 211. Vase of unusual shape, with decoration in
  black, red, and purple--⅓.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 212. Ornament occupying the interior surface of
  the basin of vase shown in Fig. 211.]

The figures occupying the border zone of the bowl are worthy of careful
inspection. It will be seen that the potter, even in this highly
specialized condition of the utensil, has not lost sight of the
conception that the vessel is the body of an animal, as we have seen so
often in simpler forms, and that the symbols of the creature should
appear upon it and encircle it. The zone is divided into two equal
sections by small knobs, painted, as are the handle-like appendages in
the preceding specimen, to represent some animal feature. The lateral
sections are occupied by eye-like figures that stand for the markings of
the body of the creature symbolized. They really occupy the spaces left
by a continuous waved body or life line, which they serve to define.
Devices of this class are most frequently met with in connection with
representations of the alligator. They may, however, symbolize the
serpent, as occasionally seen in the alligator group. Decorative
conceptions so remarkable as these could arise only through one channel:
the channel of mythology. The superstitions of men have imposed upon the
art a series of conceptions fixed in character and limited to especial
positions, relations, and forms of expression. It is useless to
speculate upon the nature of the mythologic conceptions with an idea of
arriving at any understanding of the religion of the people; but we do
learn something of the stage of development, something of the condition
of philosophy.

  [Illustration: Fig. 213. Large vase of fine shape and simple
  decorations. From De Zeltner--about ¼.]

I must not close this section without referring to some fine vases that
belong apparently to this group and which were collected by De Zeltner
and illustrated by photographs accompanying his pamphlet. They are now,
I believe, in the possession of Prof. O. C. Marsh. The sketches given
herewith are copied from De Zeltner’s photographs and are probably
somewhat defective in details of drawing. The piece illustrated in
Fig. 213 is not described by the author, but is evidently a handsome
vessel and is decorated in a very simple manner. A band of devices
symbolizing the body of an animal encircles the middle portion of the
vase. The height is about a foot.

  [Illustration: Fig. 214. Vase with extraordinary decorative designs.
  From De Zeltner--about ¼.]

A second piece (Fig. 214), of which two views are given by the same
author, corresponds closely in many respects with the vase illustrated
in Fig. 211 and is described in the following language:

  My collection includes a cup (or chalice) of baked clay 25
  centimeters in diameter, mounted on a hollow stand which gives it a
  height of 18 centimeters, and the designs of which are very rich and
  in perfect taste. The base is hollow and colored red, white, black,
  and purple; it has four narrow openings or slits, and the design
  represents plaits spirally arranged. The under side of the cup is
  divided into four compartments, each of which incloses a dragon
  painted in black and red on a white ground; the borders are
  sometimes red, sometimes purple. The body of the dragon might have
  been painted in China, so neat and intricate is the drawing.

  The design upon the inside of the cup seems to resemble Egyptian
  art. The body of a man is seen, painted in red, the arms and legs
  separated, and the shoulders bearing the head of the dragon with
  teeth and crest. The color is similar to the rest of the
  piece--purple, white, and black. The intermediate spaces are filled
  with very intricate designs.

This extraordinary design is shown in Fig. 215, and it will be seen that
it agrees in many respects with figures presented in the lost color and
alligator groups. It is compound in character, however, the head
referring to the alligator, the body and extremities perhaps to a man or
to a monkey. The suggestion of the oriental dragon in this, as in other
examples, is at once apparent, and the resemblance to certain
conventional forms that come down to us from the earliest known period
of Chinese art is truly remarkable. We cannot, of course, predicate
identity of origin even upon absolute identity of appearances, but such
correspondences are worthy of note, as they may in time accumulate to
such an extent that the belief in a common origin will force itself
upon us.

  [Illustration: Fig. 215. Painted design of vase in Fig. 214, viewed
  from above, thought to represent a dragon by De Zeltner; probably a
  composite of the alligator and the monkey or man.]

_Unclassified._--A small number of vases do not admit of classification
under any of the preceding heads. In most cases, however, they are not
of especial interest and may be passed over. They represent a number of
varieties of ware and are possibly not all Chiriquian, their affinities
being rather with the pottery of Costa Rica and Nicaragua. One
remarkable piece, of which a sketch is given in Fig. 50, _c_, is of
large size and is shaped somewhat like an hour glass, and on account of
its peculiar form and markings may be said to resemble a corset. The
upper end is somewhat the smaller, and the septum, which forms the
bottom of the vessel, is placed about an inch above the base of the
foot. The interior surface is smoothly polished and painted a dark dull
red. The exterior is uncolored and neatly fluted. The series of vertical
ribs of the upper end is separated from those of the base by a belt of
horizontal flutings, and a wide smooth space extends from the top to the
base, the lower section of which is occupied by a row of button-like,
indented knobs. The use of this utensil may not have been peculiar, but
its shape is wholly unique. It resembles most nearly the ware of the
maroon group. Its height is twelve inches.

Perhaps the most interesting of these unclassified vases is a somewhat
fragmentary piece, of which an outline is given in Fig. 216. The ware
closely resembles that of the alligator group in color of the paste and
slip, but the base has been supplied with an annular stand, a feature
not observed in that group, and the colors of the design, with the
exception of the black, are unlike those used in Chiriquian vases.

  [Illustration: Fig. 216. Vase of unique form and decoration--⅓.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 217. Painted design of vase in Fig. 216 in
  black, red, and gray.]

It will be seen by reference to Fig. 217 that the painted figures are
partially pictorial, the conventional scenes including the sun, the
moon, and stars. The more conventional parts of the design are very
curious and without doubt are symbolic. The border of fret work is
Mexican in style. The sun, which is only partially exposed above the
horizon, is outlined in red and is surrounded by red rays. The figures
supposed to represent the moon and the stars are in black. In the
illustration the reds of the original are represented by vertical tint
lines and the brownish grays by horizontal tint lines. The black is in
solid color.


As primitive peoples advance in culture and the various branches of art
are differentiated, each of the materials employed is made to fill a
wider and wider sphere of usefulness. Clay, applied at first to vessel
making and used perhaps as an auxiliary in a number of arts in which it
took no definite or individual shapes, gradually extended its dominion
until almost every art was in a measure dependent upon it or in some way
utilized it. The extent of this expansion of availability is in a
general way a measure of the advancement of the races concerned. The
Chiriquians employed clay in the construction of textile machinery, as
shown by the occurrence of spindle whorls, and a number of small
receptacles, probably needlecases, are constructed of that material. It
was employed in the manufacture of stools, statuettes, drums, rattles,
and whistles. With less cultured races, such as the Pueblo and mound
builders of the north, such articles were rarely manufactured, while
with the more cultured nations of Mexico and Peru a wider field was
covered and the work was considerably superior.


The art of weaving was carried to a high degree of perfection by many of
the American races, but the processes employed were of the simplest
kind. The threads were spun upon wooden spindles weighted with whorls of
baked clay. These whorls are not plentiful in the graves of Chiriqui,
but such as have been collected are quite similar in style to those of
Mexico and Peru. In Figs. 218, 219, and 220 we have three examples
modeled with considerable attention to detail but comparatively rude in
finish. They are in the natural color of the baked clay and are but
rudely polished. The first is encircled by a line of rough, indented
nodes, the second is embellished with homely little animal figures, and
the third with incised patterns and rude incisions.

  [Illustration: Fig. 218. Spindle whorl in gray clay decorated with
  annular nodes--1/1.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 219. Spindle whorl of gray clay with animal

  [Illustration: Fig. 220. Spindle whorl of dark clay with
  perforations and incised ornament--1/1.]


I have given this name to a rather large class of small oblong or oval
receptacles that could have served to contain needles or any other small
articles of domestic use or of the toilet. They consist of two parts,
a vessel or body and a lid. The former takes a variety of cylindrical,
subcylindrical, and doubly conical shapes, and the latter is conical and
is in many cases furnished with a knob at the top for grasping with the
fingers. The lid is attached or held in place by means of strings passed
through small holes made for the purpose in corresponding margins of the
two parts. These objects were in pretty general use in the province, as
they are found to belong to a number of the groups of ware, being
finished and decorated as are the ordinary vessels of these classes.
A few type specimens are given in the following cuts. A fine example
belonging to the unpainted ware is shown in outline in Fig. 221. It is
five inches in height and three in diameter and is pleasing in shape.
The specimen outlined in Fig. 222 is of the lost color group, but has
lost nearly all traces of the decorative design.

  [Illustration: Fig. 221. Needlecase of unpainted clay with conical

  [Illustration: Fig. 222. Needlecase, lost color group of ware--½.]

A fine example, with high polish and elaborate decoration, is presented
in Fig. 223. The lid is raised to show the position of the perforations.
Two interesting examples belonging to the dark incised ware are shown in
Figs. 224 and 225. The deeply incised design of the first is purely
geometric, but is probably of graphic parentage, while that of the
second, rather rudely scratched through the dark surface into the gray
paste, is apparently a less highly conventionalized treatment of the
same motive.

  [Illustration: Fig. 223. Needlecase with painted geometric ornament,
  belonging to the lost color group of ware--½.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 224. Needlecase of gray clay with angular
  incised geometric ornament--½.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 225. Needlecase of gray clay with black polished
  surface and incised ornament--½.]


I have already called attention to the fact that there is no such thing
in Chiriquian ceramic art as a well modeled human figure and apparently
no indication of an attempt to render the human physiognomy with
accuracy. It is highly probable that the personages embodied in the
mythology of the people took the forms of animals or were
anthropomorphic and gave rise to the peculiar conceptions embodied in
their arts. The strange objects herewith presented are rendered in a
measure intelligible by the adoption of this hypothesis. These figurines
are confined to the alligator group of ware and are quite numerous. They
are small, carefully finished, and painted with care in red and black
lines and figures. They are semihuman and appear to be arrayed in
costume. The head of each is triangular in shape, having a sharp,
projecting profile, with the mouth set back beneath the chin, reminding
one of the face of a squirrel or some such rodent. The figures occupy a
sitting posture. The legs are spread out horizontally, giving a firm
support, and terminate in blunt cones, which are in some cases slightly
bent up to represent feet. The hands rest upon the sides or thighs or
clasp a small figure apparently intended for an infant, which, however,
does not seem to have any human features. In one case this figure is
placed upon the back of the figurine and appears to hold its place by
means of four feet armed with claws (Fig. 226); in another it is held in
front (Fig. 227). The neck is usually pierced to facilitate suspension,
and the under side of the body--the sitting surface--is triply
perforated, or punctured if solid, as if for the purpose of fixing the
figure in an upright position to some movable support. The central
perforation is round and the lateral ones, on the under side of the
legs, are oblong. The largest specimen is six inches in height and the
smallest about one and a half inches. They are rather elaborately
painted with black and red devices which, by their peculiar geometric
character, are undoubtedly intended to indicate the costume. The hair is
represented by black stripes, which descend upon the neck, and the face
is striped with red. They are found associated with other relics in the
graves and were possibly only toys, but more probably were tutelary
images or served some unknown religious purpose. The sex is usually
feminine. Two additional examples showing side and back views are
outlined in Figs. 228 and 229.

  [Illustration: Fig. 226. Statuette, alligator group--1/1.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 227. Statuette, alligator group--1/1.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 228. Statuette of small size--1/1.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 229. Statuette of largest size--½.]


I have given this name to a class of stone carvings presented in a
previous section, and, for want of a better name, give it also to a
series of similar objects modeled in clay. These are among the most
elaborate products of Chiriquian art. In all cases they are of the
yellowish unpainted pottery and indicate much freedom and skill in the
handling of clay. They do not show any well defined evidences of use,
and as they are too slight and fragile to be used as ordinary seats we
are left to surmise that they may have served some purpose in the
religious rites of the ancient races. They are uniform in construction
and general conformation and consist of a circular tablet supported by
upright circular walls or by figures which rest upon a strong, ring
shaped base. The tablet or plate is somewhat concave above, is less than
an inch in thickness, and has a diameter of ten and one-fourth inches in
the largest piece, descending to seven and one-half in the smallest. The
margin is rounded and usually embellished with a beaded ornament
consisting of grotesque heads, generally reptilian. The variations
exhibited in details of modeling are well shown by the illustrations. In
the example given in Fig. 230 the upright portion is a hollow cylinder,
having four vertical slits, alternating with which are oblique bands of
ornament in incised lines and punctures. The projecting margin of the
tablet is encircled by a row of grotesque, monkey-like heads, facing

  [Illustration: Fig. 230. Stool of plain terra cotta, decorated with
  grotesque heads and incised figures--⅓.]

Fig. 231 illustrates a specimen in which three grotesque figures, with
forbidding faces, alternate with as many flat columns embellished with
rude figures of alligators. Eighteen grotesque, monkey-like heads occupy
the lower margin of the seat plate in the spaces between the heads of
the supporting figures. This specimen illustrates the favorite
Chiriquian method of construction. The various parts were modeled
separately in a rough way and then set into place in the order of their
importance. When this was done and the insertions were neatly worked
together with the fingers, a number of small instruments were employed
in finishing: a sharp stylus for indicating parts of the costume, and
blunt points and small tubular dies for adding intaglio details of
anatomy, such as the navel, the pupils of the eyes, and the partings of
the fingers and toes.

  [Illustration: Fig. 231. Stool of plain clay, with grotesque

The discoidal plate of another specimen is supported by four absurdly
grotesque monkeys, giving a general effect much like that of the last.

  [Illustration: Fig. 232. Stool of plain terra cotta, with strange

A very remarkable piece is shown in Fig. 232. The tablet is supported by
six grotesque figures, somewhat human in appearance, whose limbs are
intertwined with serpents, suggesting the famous group of the Laocoön.
The work is roughly done and the details are not carried out in a very
consistent manner, as the arms and legs of the figures become confused
with the reptiles and are as likely to terminate in a snake’s head as in
a hand or foot. The rudely shaped bodies are covered with indented
circlets or with short incised lines. The material, color, and finish
are as usual. The height is four and one-half inches and the diameter of
the tablet ten inches.

There are additional specimens in the National Museum. In one case, the
largest specimen of the series, the tablet is supported by five upright
female human figures and the margin is encircled by a cornice of
forty-six neatly modeled reptilian heads. A small example differs
considerably in general shape from those illustrated, the base being
much smaller than the circular tablet. The supporting figures are two
rudely modeled ocelots and two monkey-like figures, all of which are
placed in an inverted position. Similar objects are obtained from the
neighboring states of Central and South America.


Something is already known of the musical instruments of the ancient
Chiriquians through fugitive specimens that have found their way into
collections in all parts of Europe and America. The testimony of the
earthen relics--for no others are preserved to us--goes to show that the
art of music was, in its rude way, very assiduously practiced, and that
it probably constituted with these, as with most primitive communities,
a serious and important feature in the various ceremonial exercises.
Clay is naturally limited to the production of a small percentage of the
musical instruments of any people, the various forms of woody growths
being better adapted to their manufacture. We have examples of both
instruments of percussion and wind instruments, the former class
embracing drums and rattles and the latter whistles and clarionette-like

_Rattles._--Besides the ordinary rattles attached to and forming parts
of vessels, as already described, there are a number of small pieces
that seem to have served exclusively as rattles, while some are rattle
and whistle combined in one piece. In no case, however, would they seem
to the unscientific observer to be more than mere toys, as they are of
small size and the sounds emitted are too weak to be perceptible at any
considerable distance. At the same time it is true that they may have
had ceremonial offices of no little consequence to the primitive
priesthood. The simple rattles are shaped like gourds, the body being
globular and the neck or handle long and straight. Like the wares
already described, they are finished and decorated, the majority
belonging to the lost color group. The length varies from three to six
or seven inches. A number of minute slit-like orifices or perforations
for the emission of the sound occur about the upper part of the body
(Fig. 233). A septum is placed in the lower part of the neck, so that
the handle, which is hollow and open at the upper end, may serve as a
whistle. In some cases the lower part of the neck is perforated for
suspension at the point occupied by the septum, as imperfectly shown in
the section (Fig. 234). The most interesting specimen in the collection
is shown in Fig. 235; it is especially notable on account of its
construction, which points clearly to the gourd as a prototype. The body
is of the usual globular shape, slightly elongated above. The neck is
represented as a separate piece lashed on with cords by means of
perforations made for the purpose, just as are the handles of similar
instruments constructed of gourds and reeds in Central American
countries. The compartments of the handle and of the body are separate
and the sound produced by the small oval pellets is emitted through
slits of the usual form. The top of the handle is surmounted by a pair
of grotesque human figures, male and female, placed back to back and
united at the backs of the heads as seen in the cut. This object is gray
in color and presents the roughened granular surface resulting from long
exposure to the elements.

  [Illustration: Fig. 233. Rattle decorated in the style of the lost
  color group--½.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 234. Section of rattle shown in Fig. 233.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 235. Rattle of plain ware surmounted by two
  grotesque figures--½.]

_Drums._--The drum was a favorite instrument with the native American
musician. Early explorers found its use next to universal, and the
“tambour” is even now a characteristic feature of the musical
paraphernalia of the Spanish-Americans. The primitive instrument was
made by stretching a thin sheet of animal tissue over the orifice of a
large gourd vessel or a vessel of wood or clay. The use of clay was
probably exceptional, as there are but three specimens in our Chiriquian
collection. The shape is somewhat like that of an hour glass, the upper
part, however, being considerably larger than the base or stand. In all
cases the principal rim is finished with especial reference to the
attachment of the vibrating head. The example presented in Fig. 236 has
a deeply scarified belt an inch wide encircling the rim, and below it is
a narrow ridge, intended perhaps to facilitate the lashing or cementing
on of the head. Two raised bands, intended to imitate twisted cords,
encircle the most constricted part of the body, a single band similarly
marked encircling the base. The surface is gray in color and but rudely
polished. The walls are about three-eighths of an inch thick, the height
sixteen and one-half inches, and the greatest diameter seven and
one-half inches.

  [Illustration: Fig. 236. Drum of gray unpainted clay--¼.]

The decorated specimen illustrated in Fig. 237 is imperfect, a few
inches of the base having been lost. The shape is rather more elegant
than that of the other specimen and the surface is neatly finished and
polished. The ground color or slip is a warm yellow gray and the
decoration is in red and black. The rim or upper margin is rather rudely
finished and is painted red and on the exterior is made slightly concave
and furnished with a raised band to facilitate the attachment of the
head. The painted ornament encircles the body in four zones, two upon
the upper portion and two upon the base. The designs occupying the body
zones are unique and viewed in the light of their probable origin are
extremely interesting. In another place further on in this paper I shall
show that they are probably very highly conventionalized derivatives of
the alligator radical, the meandered line representing the body of the
creature and the scalloped hooks the extremities (Fig. 238). The two
bands upon the base consist of geometric figures, the origin of which
cannot be definitely determined, although they also probably refer to
the alligator.

  [Illustration: Fig. 237. Drum with painted ornament in the style of
  the lost color group--1/9.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 238. Conventional design on drum shown in
  Fig. 237, composed of alligator derivatives.]

In the collection there is a minute toy drum of the same general shape,
and the same form reappears in some of the whistles, in one of which
(Fig. 247) the skin head and its fastenings are all carefully reproduced
in miniature. The immediate original of this particular form of drum was
probably made of wood. A drum, recently brought from Costa Rica was made
by hollowing out a cylindrical piece of wood and stretching a piece of
snakeskin across the top. The shape is nearly identical with that of
these earthen specimens.

_Wind instruments._--Earthenware wind instruments are found in
considerable numbers and are associated with other relics in the tombs.
Nearly all are very simple in construction and are limited in musical
power, receiving and perhaps generally deserving no better name than
whistles or toys. A few pieces are more pretentious and yield a number
of notes, and if operated by skilled performers or properly concerted
are capable of producing pleasing melodies. It is not difficult to
determine the powers of individual instruments, but we cannot say to
what extent these powers were understood by the original owners, nor can
we say whether or not they were intended to be played in unison in such
a way as to give a certain desired succession of intervals. There are,
however, in a large number of these instruments a uniformity in
construction and a certain close correspondence in the number and degree
of the sounds that indicate the existence of well established standards.
It does not appear absolutely certain to me that the system of intervals
was made to conform to that of any known scale; but a difficulty arises
in attempting to determine this point, as most of the pieces are more or
less mutilated. We find also that the note producible by any given stop
is not fixed in pitch, but varies, with the force of the breath, two or
even three full intervals. As a result of this a glide is possible to
the skilled performer from note to note and any desired pitch can be

In material, finish, and decoration these objects do not differ from the
ordinary pottery. A majority belong to the alligator group. The size is
generally small, the largest specimen being about eight inches in
length. The shapes are wonderfully varied and indicate a lively
imagination on the part of the potter. Animal forms prevail very
decidedly, that of the bird being a great favorite. In many cases the
animals copied can be identified, but in others they cannot--perhaps
from our lack of knowledge of the fauna of the province, perhaps from
carelessness on the part of the artist or from the tendency to model
grotesque and complicated shapes. The following creatures can be
recognized: men, pumas, ocelots, armadillos, eagles, owls, ducks,
parrots, several varieties of small birds, alligators, crabs, and
scorpions. Vegetal forms, excepting where in use as instruments or
utensils, as reeds and gourds, were not copied. In the National Museum
collection there are two tubular pipes, probably modeled after reeds,
and another resembles a gourd in shape. The construction of the
whistling apparatus is identical in all cases and corresponds to that of
our flageolets (see sections, Figs. 240 and 242). Plain tubes were
doubtless also used as whistles, and all utensils of small size, such as
needlecases and toy vases, can be made to give forth a note more or less
shrill, according to the size of the chamber. The simplest form of
whistle produces two shrill notes identical in pitch. The shape is
double, suggesting a primitive condition of the tibiæ pares of the
Romans. The parts are pear or gourd shaped, are joined above and below,
and have an opening between the necks. The two mouthpieces are so close
together that both are necessarily blown at once. The note produced is
pitched very high and is extremely penetrating, not to say ear
splitting, making an excellent call for the jungles and forests of the
tropics. A small specimen is presented full size in Fig. 239, and the
section in Fig. 240 shows the relative positions of the mouthpieces, air
passages, vent holes, and chambers.

  [Illustration: Fig. 239. Double whistle, lost color ware--1/1.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 240. Section of double whistle.]


Reed shaped instruments are furnished with passages and orifices
corresponding to the other forms. The chamber is tubular and the lower
end is open, and the finger holes, when present, are on the upper side
of the cylinder. One example without finger holes has two notes nearly
an octave apart, which are produced, the higher with the tube open and
the lower with it closed. Perhaps the most satisfactory instrument in
the whole collection, so far as range is concerned, is shown in
Fig. 241, and a section is given in Fig. 242. It is capable of yielding
the notes indicated in the accompanying scale: First, a normal series of
eight sounds, produced as shown in the diagram, and, second, a series
produced by blowing with greater force, one note two octaves above its
radical and the others three octaves above. These notes are difficult to
produce and hold and were probably not utilized by the native performer.

  [Illustration: Fig. 241. Tubular instrument with two finger holes,
  alligator group--1/1.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 242. Section of whistle.]


Two little instruments of remarkable form and unusual powers stand quite
alone among their fellows. One only is entire. It is made of dark clay
and represents a creature not referable to any known form, so completely
is it conventionalized. A fair idea of its appearance can be gained from
Figs. 243 and 244. The first gives the side view and the second the top
view. The mouthpiece is in what appears to be the forehead of the
creature. The vent hole is beneath the neck and there are four minute
finger holes, one in the middle of each of four flattish nodes, which
have the appearance of large protruding eyes. A suspension hole passes
through a node upon the top of the head. The capacity of this instrument
is five notes, clear in tone and high in pitch. It is notable that the
pitch of each stop, when open alone, is identical, the holes being of
exactly the same size. In playing it does not matter in what order the
fingers are moved. The lower note is made with all the holes closed and
the ascending scale is produced by opening successively one, two, three,
and four holes. The fragmentary piece is much smaller and the holes are
extremely small.

  Fig. 243.
  Fig. 244.
  Small animal shaped whistle of blackish ware, with four finger


Of a distinct type of form, although involving no new principle of
construction, are two top-like or turnip shaped instruments, one of
which is shown in Fig. 245. The form is symmetrical, the ornamentation
tasteful, and the surface highly polished. The ware is of the alligator
group and is decorated in red and black figures. A section is given in
Fig. 246, _a_, and top and bottom views in _b_ and _c_. By reference to
these a clear conception of the object can be formed. The companion
piece is identical in size, shape, and conformation, and, strange to
say, in musical notes also. The tones are not fixed, as each can be made
to vary two or three degrees by changing the force of the breath. The
tones produced by a breath of average force are indicated as nearly as
may be in the accompanying scale. They will be found to occur nearer the
lower than the upper limit of their ranges. It should be observed that
the capacity for variation possessed by each of these notes enables the
skilled performer to glide from one to the other without interruption.
This instrument is, therefore, within its limited range, as capable of
adjusting itself to any succession of intervals as is the trombone or
the violin. I do not imagine, however, that the aboriginal performer
made any systematic use of this power or that the instrument was
purposely so constructed. It will be seen by reference to the scale that
stopping the orifice in the end opposite the mouthpiece changes the
notes half a tone, or perhaps, if accurately measured, a little less
than that.

  [Illustration: Fig. 245. Top shaped instrument, with three finger
  holes, alligator ware--1/1.]

  _a, b, c_
  Fig. 246. Section and vertical views of instrument shown in
  Fig. 245.]


Our collection contains several dozen three note whistles or pipes. Most
of these represent animal forms, which are treated in a more or less
realistic way, but with a decided tendency toward the grotesque. Nearly
all are of small size, the largest, an alligator form, having a length
of about eight inches. In the animal figures the air chamber is within
the body, but does not conform closely to the exterior shape. The
mouthpieces and the orifices are variously placed, to suit the fancy of
the modeler, but the construction and the powers are pretty uniform
throughout. There are two finger holes, placed in some cases at equal
and in others at unequal distances from the mouthpiece, but they are
always of equal size and produce identical notes. The capacity is
therefore three notes. The lower is produced when all the orifices are
open, the higher when all are closed, and the middle when one hole--no
matter which--is closed.

Besides the animal forms there are a number of shapes copied from other
musical instruments or from objects of art, such as vases. A very
interesting specimen, illustrated in Fig. 247, modeled in imitation of a
drum, has not only the general shape of that instrument, but the skin
head, with its bands and cords of attachment, is truthfully represented.
A curious conceit is here observed in the association of the bird--a
favorite form for the whistles--with the drum. A small figure of a bird
extends transversely across the body of the drum chamber, the back being
turned from the observer in the cut. The tail serves for a mouthpiece,
while the finger holes are placed in the breast of the bird, the
position usually assigned to them in simple bird whistles; its three
notes are indicated in the accompanying scale:

  [Illustration: Fig. 247. Drum shaped whistle of plain ware, with
  bird figure attached--1/1.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 248. Vase shaped whistle, lost color ware--½.]


One specimen is vase or pitcher shaped, with base prolonged for a
mouthpiece and with a neat handle (Fig. 248). The ground color is a dull
red, upon which are traces of painted figures. Its notes are as follows:


A novel conceit is exhibited in the crab shaped instrument presented in
Fig. 249, which gives a back view of the animal. On the opposite side
are four small conical legs, upon which the object rests as does a vase
upon its tripod. The mouthpiece is in the right arm, beneath which is
the sound hole. The two finger holes are in the back behind the eyes of
the creature and a suspension hole is seen in the left arm. The painted
designs are in red and black lines upon a yellowish gray ground. The
following scale indicates its capacity:

  [Illustration: Fig. 249. Crab shaped whistle, alligator ware--1/1.]


The largest specimen in the collection, shown in Fig. 250, represents an
alligator and is finished in the usual conventional style of the
alligator group. The air chamber is large and the sounds emitted are
full and melodious and are lower in pitch than those of any other
instrument in the collection. The cavity in the mouth and head is
separated from the body chamber, and, with the addition of earthern
pellets, probably served as a rattle. The mouthpiece is in the tail and
the finger holes are in the sides of the body.

  [Illustration: Fig. 250. Alligator shaped whistle, alligator


Mammals are very often reproduced in these instruments. What appears to
be the ocelot or jaguar is the favorite subject. A representative
specimen is shown in Fig. 251. The mouthpiece is in the tail and one of
the sound holes is in the left shoulder and the other beneath the body.
The head is turned to one side and the face is decidedly cat-like in
expression. The decoration is in black and red and may be taken as a
typical example of the conventional treatment of the markings of the
bodies of such animals. The tips of the ears, feet, and tail are red.
Rows of red strokes, alternating with black, extend in a broad stripe
from the point of the nose to the base of the neck. Red panels,
inclosing rows of red dots and enframed by black lines, cross the back.
On the sides we have oblong spaces filled in with the conventional
devices so common in other animal representations. The legs are striped
and dotted after the usual manner.


  [Illustration: Fig. 251. Cat shaped whistle, alligator ware--1/1.]

A unique form, and one that will be looked at with interest by
comparative ethnologists on account of the treatment of the tongues, is
given in Fig. 252. The instrument consists of an oblong body to which
four ocelot heads are fixed, one at each end and the others at the
sides. It rests upon four feet, in one of which the mouthpiece is
placed. The finger holes are in the side of the body near the legs, as
seen in the cut. The decoration, which consists of more or less
conventional representations of the skin markings of the animal, is in
black and red. Its notes are three, as follows:

  [Illustration: Fig. 252. Whistle with four ocelot-like heads,
  alligator ware--1/1.]


The prevalence of bird forms is due no doubt to the resemblance of the
notes of primitive whistles to the notes of birds. The shape of the bird
is also exceptionally convenient, as the body accommodates the air
chamber, the tail serves as a mouthpiece, and the head is convenient for
the attachment of a cord of suspension. A great variety of forms were
modeled and range from the minute proportions of the smallest humming
bird to those of a robin. The larger pieces represent birds of prey,
such as hawks, eagles, and vultures, and the smaller are intended for
parrots and song birds. The treatment is always highly conventional, yet
in many cases the characteristic features of the species are forcibly
presented. The painted devices have reference in most cases to the
markings of the plumage, yet they partake of the geometric character of
the designs used in ordinary vase painting. The ground is the usual
yellowish gray of the slip, and nearly all the pieces belong to the lost
color and alligator groups.

A characteristic example is illustrated in Fig. 253. The head is large
and flat and the painted devices are in the red and black of the lost
color group. The three notes are as follows:


  [Illustration: Fig. 253. Bird shaped whistle, with decoration in
  black, lost color ware--1/1.]

The piece given in Fig. 254 has the shape and markings of a hawk or
eagle. It belongs to the alligator ware and is elaborately finished in
semigeometric devices in red and black. All of these devices refer more
or less definitely to the markings of the plumage.

  [Illustration: Fig. 254. Bird shaped whistle, with conventional
  decoration in red and black, alligator ware--1/1.]


The example shown in Fig. 255 represents a bird with two heads, the
shape and markings of which suggest one of the smaller song birds.

  [Illustration: Fig. 255. Two headed, bird shaped whistle, with
  conventional decoration in black, lost color ware--1/1.]


I cannot say that the whistles were modeled and pitched with the idea of
imitating the notes of particular birds, but it is possible for the
practiced performer to reproduce the simpler songs and cries of birds
with a good deal of accuracy.

  [Illustration: Fig. 256. Whistle in grotesque life form, with
  decorations in black and red, alligator ware--⅔.]

The human figure was occasionally utilized. The treatment, however, is
extremely rude and conventional, the features having the peculiar
squirrel-like character shown in the figurines already given. The unique
piece given in Fig. 256 represents a short, clumsy female figure with a
squirrel face, carrying a vessel upon her back by means of a head strap,
which is held in place by the hands. The mouthpiece of the whistle is in
the right elbow and one sound hole is in the middle of the breast and
the other in the left side. The costume and some of the details of
anatomy are indicated by red and black lines in the original. Its notes
are the same as those presented with Fig. 249.


This section is to be devoted to a short study of the decorative system
of the ancient Chiriquians, and more especially to a consideration of
the treatment of life forms in vase painting. Many of the finest
examples of these designs, so far as execution and effect in
embellishment are concerned, have already been given; but it is
desirable now to select and arrange a series to illustrate origins and
processes of growth or modification.

Elements of ornament flow into the ceramic art from a number of sources,
but chiefly in two great currents: the one from art, and consisting
chiefly of technical or mechanically produced phenomena, and hence
geometric, and the other from nature, and carrying elements primarily
delineative, and hence non-geometric. When once within the realm of
decoration the various motives or elements are subject to modification
by two classes of influences or conditioning forces: the technical
restraints of the art and the esthetic forces of the human mind.
Mechanical and geometric elements, although born within the art or its
associated arts, are modified in the processes of adaptation to the
changing requirements and conditions of the art and through the tendency
towards elaboration under the guidance of the esthetic forces; left by
themselves they remain, throughout all changes of use and modification
of form, purely geometric. Imitative elements tend, under the same
influences, to move in the direction of the unreal or geometric. In this
way the realistic forms undergo marked changes, gradually assuming a
geometric character and finally losing all semblance of nature.

Now it must be noted that the decorations of any group of art products
may embody both classes of elements or they may be restricted rather
closely to either. This fact enables us to account for many of the
strongly marked distinctions observed in the decorative systems of
different communities, races, and times. In a recent study of ancient
Pueblo art I traced the decoration to a mechanical origin, mainly in the
art of basketry, and thus accounted for its highly geometric character.
Chiriquian art presents a strong contrast to this, as the great body of
elements are manifestly derived from nature by delineative imitation. It
was further observed in Pueblo art that as time went on life forms were
little by little introduced into its decoration and that in recent times
they shared the honors equally with the primitive geometric forms. In
Chiriquian art we find but meager traces of a primitive geometric
system, and conclude that either the earliest art of the people did not
give rise to such a system or that the graphic motives, entering
gradually and steadily multiplying, supplanted the archaic forms,
finally usurping nearly the entire field. As noticed in the preceding
sections, there is always a certain amount of geometricity in the
arrangement and the enframing of the designs, as well as a certain
degree of convention in the treatment of even the most graphic motives;
but these characters may be due to the restraining conditions of the
art, rather than to the survival of original or ancestral features or

In beginning the study of Chiriquian decorative art I found it
impossible to approach the subject advantageously from the geometric
side, as was done in the Pueblo study, since life elements so thoroughly
permeate every part of it. I have, therefore, turned about, and in the
following study present first the more realistic delineations of nature,
arranging long series of derivative shapes which descend through
increasing degrees of convention to purely geometric forms. These
remarks relate wholly to the plan or linear arrangement of the motives.

As to method of realization, ceramic ornament may be arranged in two
classes: the plastic or relieved and the non-plastic or flat. Life forms
are freely rendered by both plastic and non-plastic methods, and in
either style may range from the highly realistic to the purely
geometric. As shown in a preceding section, plastic life forms in
Chiriquian art appear to have been subject to two divergent lines of
thought, the one trivial and the other serious. Through the one we have
grotesque and perhaps even humorous representations of men and of
animals. The figures are attached to the vessels for the
purpose--perhaps for the exclusive purpose--of embellishment, and often
with excellent success, as judged by our own standards of taste. The
other deals with plastic representations apparently of a serious nature,
although utilized also for embellishment. The animal forms employed are
treated in a way to suggest that in the mind of the artist the creature
bore a definite relation to the vessel or its use, a relationship
originating in superstition and preserved throughout all changes of
form. Their office was symbolic, and this office was probably not always
lost sight of by the potter, even though, through the forces of
convention, the animal shapes were reduced to mere knobs, ridges, or
even to painted devices.

In color delineations, although the same subjects are to a great extent
employed, there is necessarily greater constraint--there is less freedom
as well as less vigor in the presentation of natural forms. There is
apparently no attempt at the grotesque or amusing. The variants are
practically infinite. The work is more purely decorative and is perhaps
less subject to the restraints of associated ideas and of use with
particular vessels or in definite relations to other features of the
vessel. At the same time it is manifest that these painted figures are
not all merely meaningless decorations, but that many, throughout all
degrees of modification, refer with greater or less clearness to natural
originals, to ideas associated with these originals, or to the
relationship of these originals to the vessel and its uses.

It is clear, however, that a considerable body of nature-derived
elements, plastic and painted, are employed as simple embellishments,
having no other function. This suggests the separation of all
decorations into two grand divisions, based upon the kind of thoughts
associated with them. These divisions may be designated as significant
and non-significant, the term significant referring not to the mere
identification of a device with an original form or to its office as an
ornament, but to its symbolism, to its mystic relation with the vessel
and its uses. But I have to do here with the forms taken by motives,
with their morphology rather than with their signification, as the
latter must, with reference to archæologic material, remain greatly

In the application of life forms in vase painting several classes of
modifying and constraining agencies of a technical nature are present,
and the following examples are grouped with the idea of defining these
classes of forces and keeping them in a measure distinct.

  [Illustration: Fig. 257. Graphic delineation of the alligator, from
  a vase of the lost color group.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 258. Graphic delineation of the alligator, from
  a vase of the lost color group.]

Of all the animal forms utilized by the Chiriquians the alligator is the
best suited to the purpose of this study, as it is presented most
frequently and in the most varied forms. In Figs. 257 and 258 I
reproduce drawings from the outer surface of a tripod bowl of the lost
color group. Simple and formal as these figures are, the characteristic
features of the creature--the sinuous body, the strong jaws, the
upturned snout, the feet, and the scales--are forcibly expressed. It is
not to be assumed that these examples represent the best delineative
skill of the Chiriquian artist. The native painter must have executed
very much superior work upon the more usual delineating surfaces, such
as bark and skins. The examples here shown have already experienced
decided changes through the constraints of the ceramic art, but are the
most graphic delineations preserved to us. They are free hand products,
executed by mere decorators, perhaps by women, who were servile copyists
of the forms employed by those skilled in sacred art.

  [Illustration: Fig. 259. Conventional alligator, from the lost color

A third illustration from the same group of ware, given in Fig. 259,
shows, in some respects, a higher degree of convention. The scales are
here represented by triangular dentals, which occupy the entire length
of the back. These dentals are filled with the round dots that stand
singly in the preceding cases.

  [Illustration: Fig. 260. Style of convention in the alligator group
  of ware.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 261. Style of convention in the alligator group
  of ware.]

In another class of ware--the alligator group--the treatment is quite
different, being decidedly more clumsy and realized by distinct
processes; but prominence is given to a number of corresponding
features. The strong curve of the back, the dentals and dots, and the
muzzle and mouth refer apparently to the same creature. The curiously
marked panel in the body of the last example is a unique feature, which
appears, however, in a few other cases.

These drawings occur upon the sides of vases, alternating with the
plastic features, and are perhaps generally associated with such
features in the expression of some mythical idea.

The modeled creature is often represented with two heads instead of with
a head and a tail, and the painted forms, in many cases, exhibit the
same peculiarity as shown in Fig. 262. I surmise that the employment of
two heads arises from the need of securing perfect balance of parts
rather than as an original product of the imagination.

  [Illustration: Fig. 262. Two headed form of the alligator.]

It will be interesting, as additional examples are presented, to note
the effect of modification upon particular features of the animal, to
observe how some come into prominence, representing the creature and the
idea, while others fall into disuse and disappear. In nature the line of
the body is perhaps the most strongly characteristic feature, and it is
in art the most persistent. It survives in the stems of many
conventional devices from which all other suggestions of the animal have

  [Illustration: Fig. 263. Figure of the alligator much simplified.]

The following examples depart still further from nature, approaching the
border line between the distinctly imitative and the purely conventional
or geometric phases. In the first (Fig. 263) all the leading features
are recognizable, but are very much simplified. The jaws are without
teeth, the head is without eyes, and the body without indication of
scales. The other example (Fig. 264) is of a somewhat different type and
may possibly refer to some other reptilian form, but many links
connecting the two are found. The shape is more angular and is a step
further removed from nature. From shapes as conventional as this we drop
readily into purely geometric forms, as will be seen further on. These
and the preceding drawings are all executed on broad surfaces, where
fancy could have free play. The modifying or conventionalizing forces
are, therefore, quite vague. Variation from natural forms is due partly
to a lack of skill on the part of the painter, partly to the peculiar
demands of ceramic embellishment, and partly to the traditional style of
treatment acquired in still more primitive stages of culture and in
other and unidentified branches of art.

  [Illustration: Fig. 264. The alligator much modified by ceramic

  Fig. 265.
  Fig. 266.
  Fig. 267.
  Illustrations of the influence of the shape of spaces upon the
  delineation of animal forms.]

I shall now call attention to some important individualized or well
defined agencies of convention. First, and most potent, may be mentioned
the enforced limits of the spaces to be decorated, which spaces take
shape independently of the subject to be inserted. When the figures must
occupy a narrow zone they are elongated, when they must occupy a square
they are restricted longitudinally, and when they must occupy a circle
they are of necessity coiled up. Fig. 265 illustrates the effect
produced by crowding the oblong figure into a short rectangular space.
The head is turned back over the body and the tail is thrown down along
the side of the space. In Fig. 266 the figure occupies a circle, and is
in consequence closely coiled up, giving the effect of a serpent rather
than an alligator. In Fig. 267 the space is semicircular, and we observe
peculiar conventional conditions, some of which may be due to other
causes. For example, such spaces may originally have been filled with
purely geometric figures, which tended to impart their own characters to
the life forms that supplanted them.

  [Illustration: Fig. 268. Delineation retaining but slight traces of
  the life form.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 269. Delineation retaining but slight traces of
  the life form.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 270. Delineation retaining but slight traces of
  the life form.]

Now, it often happens that, as in the last example given, the animal
form, literally rendered, does not fill the panels satisfactorily. The
head and the tail do not correspond and there is a lack of balance. In
such cases two heads have been preferred. The body is given a uniform
double curve and the heads are turned down, as shown in Figs. 268 and
269, or one may turn up and the other down, as seen in Fig. 270. The two
headed form may also arise from imitation of plastic forms, as I have
already shown. The example given in Fig. 268 is extremely interesting on
account of its complexity and the novel treatment of the various
features. The two feet are placed close together near the middle of the
curved body, and on either side of these are the under jaws turned back
and armed with dental projections for teeth. The characteristic scale
symbols occur at intervals along the back; and very curiously at one
place, where there is scant room, simple dots are employed, showing the
identity of these two characters. Some curious auxiliary devices, the
origin of which is obscure, are used to fill in marginal spaces. The
shape given in Fig. 269 is so highly modified that it is not
recognizable as an animal form, excepting through a series of links
connecting it with more realistic delineations. It is perfectly
symmetrical and consists of a compound curve for the body, with hooks at
the extremities and two appended hooks for legs. The spots symbolizing
the scales are here placed within the body, showing another step toward
complete annihilation of the natural forms and relations. Three
additional examples, showing still higher degrees of convention, are
presented in Figs. 271, 272, and 273. The series could be filled up and
continued indefinitely, connecting the whole family of devices in which
dentals, hooks, spots, and circles occur with the alligator radical or
with other reptilian forms confused with the alligator through the
carelessness or ignorance of the decorator.

  [Illustration: Fig. 271. Highly conventionalized alligator

  [Illustration: Fig. 272. Highly conventionalized alligator

  [Illustration: Fig. 273. Highly conventionalized alligator

In looking over a large series of the vases it will be seen that the
tendency of decoration is toward the zonal arrangement, the spaces being
narrow and long, even when divided into the usual number of panels. As a
consequence the motives tend to take linear forms. Parts are repeated or
greatly drawn out to fill the spaces. This phase of conventional
evolution may be illustrated by a multitude of examples.

  _a, b, c, d, e, f_
  Fig. 274. Series of forms showing modification through use in narrow

Beginning with an ordinary form in Fig. 274, _a_, we advance under the
restraint of parallel border lines through the series, ending in a
simple meander, _f_, the spaces about which are, however, filled out
with the conventional scale symbols, the triangles inclosing dots. Thus
we witness the transformation of the life form into a linear device, in
which the flexures of the body are emphasized and multiplied without
reference to nature, and there is little doubt that the series continues
further, ending with simple curved lines and even with straight lines
unaccompanied by auxiliary devices.

  [Illustration: Fig. 275. Running ornaments composed of life

Next to the body line the most important of the alligator derivatives is
the notched or dotted hook, which in the lost color group stands
sometimes for the whole creature, but more frequently for one or more of
the members of its body, the snout, the tail, or the feet. It is
employed singly or in various arrangements suited to the shape of the
spaces to be filled or occurs in connection with the body line or stem,
where, by systematic repetition, it serves to fill the triangular
interspaces. Take, for example, an ornament (Fig. 275) which encircles
the shoulder of a handsome vase of the lost color group. The space is
neatly filled with groupings in which the simple life coil elements are
joined one to another in such a way as to give somewhat the effect of an
ordinary running ornament. The same motive takes a different form in
Fig. 276, which is part of the decorated zone of an earthen drum (see
Fig. 235). Here the body of the creature is represented by a wide
meandered line, and to this the notched or scalloped hooks are attached
with perfect regularity, one to each angle of the meandered body. In
other examples the angular geometric character extends to every part of
the detail and the curved hooks lose their last suggestion of nature and
are entirely dropped or used separately.

  [Illustration: Fig. 276. Running ornaments composed of life

The rings, strokes, spots, and dentate figures that serve to represent
the markings and scales of the reptile are among the most important of
the derivative devices and occur in varied relations to other classes of
derivatives. They also occur independently, either singly or in
groupings. Thus we see that the alligator, in Chiriquian vase painting,
is represented by an endless list of devices, and it is interesting to
note that among these are several figures familiar to the civilized
world in both symbolism and ornament.

I present five series of figures designed to illustrate the stages
through which life forms pass in descending from the realistic to highly
specialized conventional shapes. In the first series (Fig. 277), we
begin with a meager but graphic sketch of the alligator; the second
figure is hardly less characteristic, but is much simplified; in the
third we have still three leading features of the creature: the body
line, the spots, and the stroke at the back of the head; and in the
fourth nothing remains but a compound, yoke-like curve, standing for the
body of the creature, and a single dot.

  _a, b, c, d_
  Fig. 277. Series of derivatives of the alligator showing stages of

The figures of the second series (Fig. 278) are nearly all painted upon
low round nodes placed about the body of the alligator vases and hence
are inclosed in circles (see Fig. 197). The animal figure in the first
example is coiled up like a serpent, but still preserves some of the
well known characters of the alligator. In the second example we have a
double hook near the center of the space which takes the place of the
body, but the dotted triangles are placed separately against the
encircling line. In he next figure the body symbol is omitted and the
three triangles remain to represent the animal. In the fourth there are
four triangles, and the body device, being restored in red, takes the
form of a cross. In the fifth two of the inclosing triangles are omitted
and the idea is preserved by the simple dots. In the sixth the dots are
placed within the bars of the cross, the triangles becoming mere
interspaces; and in the seventh the dots form a line between the two
encircling lines. This series could be filled up by other examples,
thus showing by what infinitesimal steps the transformations take place.
The round nodes upon which these medallion-like figures are drawn are
survivals of the heads or other parts of animals originally modeled in
the round, but in the processes of manufacture partially or wholly
atrophied. It was sought to preserve the idea of the creature by the
use of painted details, but these, as we have seen, were also in time
reduced to formal marks, symbols doubtless in many cases of the
conception to which the original plastic form referred.

  [Illustration: Fig. 278. Series showing stages in the simplification
  of animal characters.]

  _a, b, c, d_
  Fig. 279. The scroll and fret derived from the body line of the

  _a, b, c, d_
  Fig. 280. Devices derived from drawings of parts of the life form.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 281. Devices incised in a needlecase.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 282. Devices representing the markings of a
  reptile’s body.]

The derivation of the fret and scroll--most admired of the decorative
motives of numerous races--has been a fruitful source of discussion. The
vase painting of Chiriqui serves to throw new light upon the subject. We
learn by the series of steps illustrated in the annexed cuts that the
alligator radical, under peculiar restraints and influences, assumes
conventional forms that merge imperceptibly into these classic devices.
In the third series given (Fig. 279) the first figure is far removed
from the realistic stage of representation, but it is one of the
ordinary conventional guises of the alligator. Other still more
conventional forms are seen in the three succeeding figures, the last of
which is a typical rectangular fret link known and used by most nations
of moderate culture. The derivatives in nearly all the preceding figures
can be traced back to the body of the creature as a root, but there are
many examples which seem to have come from the delineation of a part of
the creature, as the head, foot, eye, or scales--abbreviated
representatives of the whole creature. Such parts, assuming the role of
radicals, pass also through a series of modifications, ending in purely
geometric devices in the manner indicated in the following or fourth
series of examples (Fig. 280). In the first cut we have what appears to
be the leg and foot of the favorite reptile, and following this are
other forms that seem to refer to the same feature. Additional examples
are shown in Figs. 281 and 282, which, while they doubtless arose more
or less directly from the life form, are not so readily traceable
through less conventional antecedents. The first forms part of the
incised ornament of a small vase or needlecase and the second is a
section of the zonal ornament of the tripod cup illustrated in Fig. 203,
by reference to which it will be seen that the zone of devices serves to
connect the head and the tail of the reptile, which are modeled as a
part of the vase; the devices therefore represent the markings of the
creature’s body, although they may originally have been derived from the
figure of the whole or a part of the animal rather than from the
markings of the skin. In other examples still more highly conventional
figures are found to hold the same relation to the plastic
representation of the extremities of the creature. They include the
meander, the scroll, the fret, and the guilloche. We find that in the
stone metates of many parts of Central America, nearly all of which are
carved to imitate the puma, the head and tail of the creature are
connected by bands of similar devices that encircle the margin of the
mealing plate (see Fig. 9). The alligator form is therefore not
necessarily the originator of all such devices. It is probable that any
animal form extensively used by such lovers of decoration as the ancient
inhabitants of Central America would be found thus interwoven with
decoration. These considerations will serve to widen our views upon the
origin and development of especial devices. As it now stands we are
absolutely certain that no race, no art, no motive or element in nature
or in art can claim the exclusive origination of any one of the well
known or standard conventional devices, and that any race, art, or
individual motive is capable of giving rise to any and to all such
devices. Nothing can be more absurd than to suppose that the
signification or symbolism attaching to a given form is uniform the
world over, as the ideas associated with each must vary with the
channels through which they were developed.

  _a, b, c, d, e, f, g_
  Fig. 283. Conventional figures derived from the markings of the
  bodies of animals.]

Other classes of geometric figures, derived chiefly from scale or skin
markings, are given in the fifth series. In more realistic phases of
representation the dentate and dotted devices are ranged along the body
of the creature, as in nature, but as convention progresses they are
used independently to fill up spaces, to form the septa of panels, &c.
Many illustrations appear in the preceding pages and additional examples
are given in Fig. 283. It is possible that these devices come from
delineations of a number of distinct animal forms; but in the higher
stages of convention confusion cannot be avoided, and must have existed
to some extent in the mind of the decorator; they serve, however, to
illustrate the stages of simplification through which all forms
extensively used for a long period must pass. The laws of derivation,
modification, and application in art are the same in all.

It has now been shown that life forms and their varied derivatives
constitute the great body of Chiriquian decorative motives; that when
first introduced the delineations are more or less realistic, according
to the skill of the artist or the demands of the art; but that in time,
by a long series of abbreviations and alterations, they descend to
simple geometric forms in which all visible connection with the
originals is lost. The agencies through which this result is
accomplished are chiefly the mechanical restraints of the art acting
independently of voluntary modification and without direct exercise of
esthetic desire.

There may be forces at work of which we find no clear indications. Some
of the conventional forms into which life forms are found to grade may
be survivals of forms originating in other regions and belonging to
other cultures which have through accidents of contact imposed
themselves upon Chiriquian art; such are the scroll, the fret, and the
guilloche; but the thorough manner in which such forms are interwoven
with purely Chiriquian conceptions makes it impossible to substantiate
such a theory. The conclusion most easily and most naturally reached is
that all are probably indigenous to Chiriqui, and hence the striking
deduction that _the processes of modification inherent in the art are of
such a nature that any animal form extensively used in decoration may
give rise to any or all of the highly conventional forms of ornament_.

During the progress of this study a question has frequently been raised
as to the extent to which the memory of the creature original or of its
symbolism in first use was kept alive in the mind of the decorator. It
is a well established fact that primitive peoples habitually invest
inanimate objects with the attributes of living creatures. Thus the
vessel, from the time it assumes individual shape and is fitted to
perform a function, is thought of as a living being, and by the addition
of plastic or painted details it becomes a particular creature, an
alligator, a fish, or a puma, each of which is in most cases the symbol
of some mythologic concept. When, through the changes of convention in
infinite repetition, all resemblance to individual creatures was lost
and mere knobs or simple geometric figures occupied the surface of the
vessel, there is little doubt that many of these features still recalled
to the mind of the potter the ultimate originals and the conceptions of
which they were the representatives, and that others represented ideas,
the outgrowth of or a development from primary ideas, while still others
had acquired entirely new ideas from without. It cannot be denied,
however, that there does come a time in the history of vase painting at
which such associated ideas become vague and are lost and elements
formerly significant are added and combinations of them are made for
embellishment alone, without reference to meaning or appropriateness;
but I am inclined to place this period a very long way from the
initiatory stages of the art. It may not be possible to find evidence of
the arrival of this period, as it is not necessarily marked by any loss
of unity or consistency--striking characteristics of ancient American
art; for such is the conservatism of indigenous methods that, unless
there be forcible intrusion of exotic art, original forms and groupings
may be perpetuated indefinitely and remain much the same in appearance
after the associated ideas are modified or lost.

  [Illustration: Fig. 284. Vase with decorated zone containing
  remarkable devices--⅓.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 285. Series of twelve conventional devices from
  the decorated zone of a vase.]

In our study of the forms and meanings of these devices it should not be
forgotten that collateral branches of art are also simultaneously
employing the same motives and reducing them through other similar
classes of conventionalizing forces to corresponding forms. Recording
arts--pictography, hieroglyphic and phonetic writing--carry life forms
through all degrees of abbreviation and change, and all ceremonial and
all domestic arts with which such forms are associated do the same; and
it is not impossible that many conventional forms found upon pottery are
borrowed outright from the other arts. It will be impossible to detect
these borrowed elements unless very literally transferred from some art
the style of which is well known. It would be comparatively easy to
identify literal borrowings from phonetic art or even from hieroglyphic
art, as the form and arrangement of the devices are quite unlike those
observed in pure decoration. We do not know that Chiriquian culture had
achieved a hieroglyphic or a phonetic system of writing, but it is worth
while to call attention to the form and the manner of employment of some
of the devices found upon the pottery. In Fig. 284 I present an outline
drawing of a vase, the shoulder of which is encircled by a broad zone of
decoration. This zone is divided into panels by oblique lines. A row of
rectangular compartments extends along the middle of the band and rows
of triangular spaces occur at the sides. Each space is occupied by a
device having one or more features suggesting a pictorial original and
doubtless derived from one. In the main row there are twelve figures, no
two of which are identical. Although we are unable to show that any of
these characters had other than a purely decorative use, we see how
richly the ancient peoples were supplied, through the conventionalizing
agencies of the art, with devices that could have been employed as
ideograms and letters where such were needed, and devices, too, that,
from their derivation and use in the art, must in most cases have had
ideas associated with them.


A brief summary of the more salient points of interest dwelt upon in
this paper may very appropriately be given in this place. We find that a
limited area--a small and obscure province of the isthmian
region--possesses a wonderful wealth of art products the character of
which indicates a long period of occupation by peoples of considerable
culture. The art remains are perhaps as a whole inferior to those of the
districts to the north and south, but they possess many features in
common with the art of neighboring provinces. There is, however, at the
same time, a well marked individuality. In conception and execution
these works are purely aboriginal, and, so far as can be determined by
the data at hand, are pre-Columbian, and possibly to a great extent
remotely pre-Columbian. The discovery of articles of bronze, which metal
we cannot prove to be of indigenous production, is the only internal
evidence pointing toward the continuance of the ancient epoch of culture
into post-Columbian times. The relics are obtained from tombs from which
nearly all traces of human remains have disappeared.

Art in stone covers the ground usually occupied by works in this
material in other Central American countries, save in the matter of
architecture, of which art there are but meager traces. There are rock
inscriptions, statuettes and statues of rather rude character, shapely
mealing stones, elaborately carved seats or stools, many celts of
extremely neat workmanship, spear and arrow points of unique shape, and
a very few beads and pendent ornaments. There are apparently no traces
of implements of war.

In metal there are numerous and somewhat remarkable works. They are of
gold, gold-copper alloy, copper, and bronze. The objects are of small
size, rarely reaching a pound in weight, and they are almost exclusively
pendent ornaments. They were, for the most part, cast in molds, and in
nine cases out of ten represent animal forms. A few bells are found, all
of which are of bronze. Pieces formed of alloyed metal are usually
washed or plated with pure gold.

The great body of relics are in clay, and the workmanship displayed is
often admirable. Vases are found in great numbers, and as a rule are
small and shapely, and are so carefully and elaborately decorated as to
lead to the inference that their office was in a great measure
ceremonial. They take a high place among American fictile products for
grace of form and beauty of decoration. There is neither glaze nor
evidence of the use of a wheel. Besides vases we have several other
classes of objects, which include grotesque, toy-like statuettes, small,
covered receptacles resembling needlecases, seat-like objects
elaborately modeled, spindle whorls, and musical instruments. The
occurrence of numerous specimens of the two latter classes indicates
that the arts of weaving and music were assiduously practiced.

An examination of the esthetic features of the ceramic art has proved
exceptionally instructive. We find much that is worthy of attention in
the forms of vases as well as in the plastic or relieved features of
embellishment, and a still richer field is opened by the study of the
incised and painted--the flat--decorations.

I have shown that the elements of decoration flow into the ceramic art
chiefly through two channels, the one from art and the other from
nature. Elements from art are mainly of mechanical origin, and are,
therefore, non-imitative and geometric. Elements from nature imitate
natural forms, and hence are primarily non-geometric. Elements from art,
being mechanical, are meaningless or non-ideographic; those from nature
are in early stages of art usually associated with mythologic
conceptions, and hence are ideographic. All decorations may therefore
have four dual classifications, as follows: First, with reference to
method of realization, as plastic and flat; second, with reference to
derivation, as mechanical and imitative; third, with reference to plan
of manifestation, as geometric and non-geometric; and, fourth, with
reference to the association of ideas, as significant and

I have found that the ceramic art, having acquired the various elements
of ornament, carries them by methods of its own through many strange
mutations of form. The effect upon life forms is of paramount
importance, as is indicated by the following broad and striking
generalization: The agencies of modification inherent in the art in its
practice are such that any particular animal form extensively employed
in decoration is capable of changing into or giving rise to any or to
all of the highly conventional decorative devices upon which our leading
ornaments, such as the meander, the scroll, the fret, the chevron, and
the guilloche, are based. It is further seen, however, that ideographic
elements are not necessarily restricted to decorative or symbolic
functions, for the processes of simplification reduce them to forms well
suited to employment in hieroglyphic and even in phonetic systems of
expression. Such systems are probably made up to a great extent of
characters the conformation of which is due to the unthinking--the
mechanical--agencies of the various arts.


  Alligator, utilization of, in Chiriquian art 130-140, 166, 173-176,
      178, 80, 183
  Arrowpoints and spearheads of Chiriqui 34

  Balboa, ornaments captured by 35
  Black incised group of Chiriquian pottery 80
  Bollaert, W., cited 41, 45

  Castillo del Oro, name given by Columbus to Chiriqui 35
  Celts, collection of, from Chiriqui 29-34
  Costa Rica, origin of name of 35

  Darien, capture of, by Balboa 35
  De Zeltner, A. See Zeltner, A. de.
  Diller, J. S., acknowledgment to, 21, _note_
  Drums of ancient Chiriqui 157, 160

  El Dorado, origin of 35

  Figurines of Chiriquian art 151-153

  Hallock, W., on Chiriquian methods of casting 38
  Handled group of Chiriquian pottery 90-97
  Herrera, cited 35
  Huacals, exploration of, in Chiriqui 16, 17

  Kunz, G. F.
    on use of insects as models in casting metals 38
    on Chiriquian methods of plating 39

  “Lost color” of Chiriquian art, nature of 86
  Lost color group of Chiriquian pottery 113-130

  McNiel, J. A., archeologic work of, in Chiriqui 14, 15, 20
  McNiel, J. A., cited 17, 22, 23, 27, 31, 40, 41, 43, 46, 107
  Maroon group of Chiriquian pottery 107-109
  Mealing stones of Chiriqui 25-27
  Merritt, J. K., cited 14, 16, 49
    exploration of Bugaba cemetery by 17, 18, 20
  Metates of Chiriqui, nature and use of 25-27

  Nadaillac, Marquis, cited 14, 38
    on Chiriquian methods of casting 38
  Needlecases (?) of Chiriqui 150
  New Granada, burial customs in 19, 20

  Otis, F. M., paper on Panama ornaments by, mentioned 46

  Piedra pintal, description of, by Seemann 21, 22
  Pinart, A. L., cited 14, 15, 20, 22
  Polychrome group of Chiriquian pottery 140-147
  Pottery of Chiriqui 53-186

  Rattles of ancient Chiriqui 156, 157
  Red line group of Chiriquian pottery 109-111
  Riggs, R. B., analyses by 49

  Scarified group of Chiriquian pottery 87-90
  Seemann, description of piedra pintal by 21, 22
  Spindle whorls of Chiriqui 149, 150
  Stearns, J. B., specimens in archeological collections of 24, 41,
      43, 45, 48, 49
  Stools of ancient Chiriqui 154-156

  Terra cotta group of Chiriquian pottery 67
  Tripod group of Chiriquian pottery 97-107

  Whistles of ancient Chiriqui 164-171
  White, B. B., description of cemetery in New Granada by 19
  White line group of Chiriquian pottery 111-113
  Wind instruments of ancient Chiriqui 160-171

  Zeltner, A. de
    observations on graves in Chiriqui by 14, 18, 19, 41, 42
    cited 20, 22, 27, 43, 45, 140
    description of Chiriquian vases by 145-147

       *       *       *       *       *
           *       *       *       *
       *       *       *       *       *

Errors and Inconsistencies (noted by transcriber)

Certain spellings such as “bowlder” are standard for the Bureau of
Ethnology. They have not been individually noted.

Table of Contents:

  Peoples  [_body text has “People”_]
  Celts &c.  [_final . missing; body text has “Celts” alone_]
  Clay: Pottery  [_body text has “Pottery” alone_]
  Clay: Miscellaneous objects
    [_body text has “Miscellaneous Objects of Clay”_]
  Résumé  [_indented as if secondary to previous entry_]

  _In the body text, the items “Spearheads” and “Needlecases” are
  written with parenthetical question mark (?)._

  _Under “Clay”, all sections listed in the Table of Contents as
  “Terra cotta group”, “Scarified group”... are shown in the body text
  as “The terra cotta group”, “The scarified group”..._

Main Text:

  less elaborate in its sculptured ornament.  [_final . missing_]
  tufa, the surface of which displays
    [_line-break hyphen in “surface” missing_]
  [Fig. 19 caption] ... partially polished celt
    [_line-break hyphen in “polished” missing_]
  surfaces of the specimens recovered
    [_text has “speci-/imens” at line break_]
  [Fig. 94 caption] ... animal forms--½.  [forms.--½]
  Fig. 153.  [Fig 153.]
  [Fig. 154 caption] ... ornamentation--½.  [_final . missing_]
  called Los Tenajos by Mr. McNiel  [McNeil]
  [Fig. 156 caption] ... high relief--½.  [relief.--½.]
  [Fig. 183 caption] ... unusual shape--½.  [_final . missing_]
  these were polished down with the slips.  [_final . missing_]
  [Fig. 237 caption] ... lost color group--1/9.
    [_fraction conjectural_]
  [Fig. 255 caption] ... lost color ware--1/1.  [_final . missing_]
  Fig. 259.  [_final . missing_]
  devices in which dentals, hooks, spots
    [_spelling unchanged: expected form is “dentils”_]
  In the next figure the body symbol  [In he next]

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Ancient art of the province of Chiriqui, Colombia - Sixth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology to the - Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1884-1885, - Government Printing Office, Washington, 1888, pages 3-188" ***

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software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.