8, 9, 10.
ANIMALS (3/01, 3/03, 3/08)
In the next section of the course, we will primarily be looking, not at formal kinds of
symbolism like tropes but rather at kinds of symbolism based on what domains or fields
in life they draw on.
We will look primarily at animals and the human body, with glances at food, color,
architecture, and place
We will be concerned both with how we draw on those domains in order to make
symbols about other things, but also how those things are themselves invested with
Also, as we work through animal and body symbolism, we will also recognize some other
symbolic forms or mechanisms like the three tropes
Animals in Coclé polychrome pottery
Ancient Panama is famous for two kinds of art, small gold pieces and polychrome pottery
The polychrome pottery is most of all associated with the Sitio Conte, an archaeological
dig in western Panama on the estate of Sr. Conte excavated in 1930s.
Many of the designs on the pottery are of highly stylized animals
and many of the excavated pots are associated with mass burials
(See the illustration).
To understand the symbolism of the animals, we cannot turn to ancient manuscripts or
hieroglyphic writing, as is sometimes possible in ancient Mexico and Guatemala, because
there are none in Panama
An archaeologist, Olga Linares, deciphered some of the symbolism based purely on the
distribution of the animals, which are included or excluded, and their place in the burials
(“Animals That Were Bad to eat Were Good to Compete With” in
Ritual and Symbol in
Native Central America
, P. Young & J. Howe, eds., U. of Oregon Anthropological Papers
9, 1976, pp. 1-20; 1977,
Ecology and the Arts in Ancient Panama
We can do the same, with a little thought and work.
Animal Motifs in Coclé Pottery