Jama-Coaque refers to a culture in the northern
territory of the Manabi province in the region of the central
coastal area of Ecuador from approximately 500 BCE through 500
AD. This period is referred to as the Regional Development period.
Because of the damp tropical climate of this region, in contrast
to the extremely arid regions of coastal Peru, very little art
and architecture was preserved from this area and region. Nature's
ravages have left little record. The dearth of artifacts has not
yet revealed to scholars details of day-to-day life or of the
political or religious systems.
The small mold-made whistle figurine here is characteristic
of the culture as the human form was commonly portrayed in both
figurines and on vessels. Seen here is a seated figure, with incised
detail around a headdress which surrounds the head completely.
There is additional incised detail above the hands, indicating
cuffs of a robe. The face features heavy-lidded eyes and a worn
face suggesting an elderly person. The headdress, robe and the
advanced age of the figure are indications the representation
of a priest or shaman. Furthermore, although the front of the
figure is a human form, the back features a long tail, curling
at the end, most likely representing a monkey. Monkeys were considered
deities, and they were often anthropomorphized with the figure
of a priest or shaman and used for ritual or ceremonial purposes.
Frequently portrayed in Jama-Coaque figurines
were lavishly dressed characters such as priests, warriors, musicians,
artisans and women. Also characteristic of the Jama-Coaque is
the large nose portrayed here. Red clay slip was applied to the
face. The Jama-Coaque used a wide palette of colors including
red, yellow, green, white and black and it is possible that the
body of this figure would have originally been polychromatic.
Whistles, like this object, were one of
a variety of musical instruments including wind and percussion
used by the Jama-Coaque. The whistles usually featured a hole
in the top of the head, as seen here.