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Funerary Mask

Arts of the Americas

On View: Arts of the Americas Galleries, 5th Floor
On the South Coast of Peru a mythological figure began appearing on ceramics and textiles about 200 to 100 B.C.E. This mysterious figure, identified by scholars as the Oculate Being, may be an early agricultural fertility-cult deity. It is depicted with large eyes, an oversized head, an elongated nose, a smiling sausage-shaped mouth, and a protruding tongue. Numerous streamers flow from its head and body.

On the jar displayed here, the deity holds a trophy head, ritually taken in battle. The mask, which probably adorned a wrapped corpse, or mummy bundle, depicts the Oculate Being in threedimensional form. Twelve projecting tabs around the face include four double-headed snakes, iconography seen on other Paracas masks.


En la Costa Sur del Perú, una figura mitológica comenzó a aparecer en cerámicas y textiles alrededor del 200 al 100 A.E.C. Esta figura misteriosa, identificada por algunos académicos como el Ser Oculado, puede tratarse de una deidad temprana de culto a la fertilidad y agricultura. Se representa con enormes ojos, nariz larga, una boca sonriente con labios en forma de salchicha, y una lengua sobresaliente. Numerosas serpentinas flotan desde su cabeza y cuerpo.

En esta vasija en exhibición, la deidad sostiene una cabeza-trofeo, obtenida ritualmente en combate. La máscara, que probablemente adornaba una momia envuelta, o fardo funerario, representa al Ser Oculado en forma tridimensional. Doce proyecciones alrededor de la cara incluyen cuatro serpientes de doble cabeza, iconografía encontrada en otras máscaras Paracas.
MEDIUM Ceramic, resin, and pigments
  • Possible Place Collected: South Coast, Peru
  • DATES 300 B.C.E.-1
    DIMENSIONS 11 3/16 x 10 3/16 x 7 11/16 in. (28.4 x 25.9 x 19.5 cm)  (show scale)
    COLLECTIONS Arts of the Americas
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is on view in Arts of the Americas Galleries, 5th Floor
    ACCESSION NUMBER 64.94
    CREDIT LINE Frank L. Babbott Fund and Dick S. Ramsay Fund
    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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    CAPTION Paracas Cavernas. Funerary Mask, 300 B.C.E.-1. Ceramic, resin, and pigments, 11 3/16 x 10 3/16 x 7 11/16 in. (28.4 x 25.9 x 19.5 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Frank L. Babbott Fund and Dick S. Ramsay Fund, 64.94. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 64.94_view2_SL2.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 64.94_view2_SL2.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2014
    "CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Ceramic funerary mask decorated with colored resin enamels. Mask is composed of a Paracas bowl to which the details have been applied by incision or application. Eyes consist of 2 interior cones decorated with concentric circles. 11 tabs project from rim of the face, 8 of which represent serpent heads. A 12th projection at the top of the mask forms the head of a human who is impersonating the Oculate Being by wearing this deity's mask. It's body is represented two dimensionally by incisions embellished with red, yellow and green resin enamel. Its nose is a smaller version of the huge probocis of the mask.
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