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HOME : Pre-Columbian Art : Pre-Columbian Masterpieces : Basalt Sculpture of a Prisoner
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Basalt Sculpture of a Prisoner - PF.3114
Origin: Costa Rica
Circa: 500 AD to 1000 AD
Dimensions: 27" (68.6cm) high
Catalogue: V15
Collection: Pre-Columbian
Medium: Basalt

Location: Great Britain
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This extraordinary basalt sculpture depicts a standing bound prisoner. Facing the front like a brave warrior captured during a battle, his bold face looks straight ahead as if he is trying to uphold his dignity. His arms are raised and bound at his wrists, and he wears an incised waistband, which indicates that he indeed is a man of status and honor. The figure is sculpted in a simple geometric manner with large incision lines, which define facial features and physical structures. This simplicity attributes the stone figure qualities such as a sense of physical presence and weight that are appropriate for the captured but honorable man. This depiction of a prisoner gives us a clue about the Ancient Costa Rican cultural practice. During this period in Costa Rica, people took trophy heads in battles for human sacrifice to please the gods and to maintain agricultural fertility. Because of the strong belief in human sacrifice pleasing the gods, conquests and wars became the fight to obtain victims for human sacrifice. The sacrificial subjects were to be impeccable--a person of status, power, and importance. As a warrior himself, he perhaps fought many battles but now he is the victim of a sacrificial ritual. This unique sculpture gives us clues of both sides of an ancient cultural practice. Sculpted in a bold manner, the sculpture does not cease to fascinate us. - (PF.3114)


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