01. Global Prehistory, Art & Humanities

#10. Tlatilco female figurine. Central Mexico, site of Tlatilco. 1200–900 BCE. Ceramic.

#10. Tlatilco female figurine. Central Mexico, site of Tlatilco. 1200–900 BCE. Ceramic.

Art Historical Background

So without even doing any research this piece should stick out for a few reasons…like her two heads and three eyes. Already this screams ritual! supernatural! just plain weird!

Interestingly this figure is not a one-of-a-kind; they have found a good number of these female figurines in Tlatilco. This in no way diminishes her uniqueness, but rather, demonstrates a style of art that was prevalent in their society. These figures pretty much exclusively depict women, but the two-headed variety is rare in comparison to the others. One thing they all share in common is intricate hairdos. It is possible that these hairstyles were indicative of social standing or priestly status?

Although all the female figurines follow a similar plan: curvaceous hips, thin waist, sharp facial features, and fancy hairdos, they are not made out of a mold. This means that each one was individually created by hand! We may or may not have full-time artists yet (impossible to say) but the little variation between these figures and the skill required to make one definitely indicates that there is some apprenticeship in which a master artist teaches his/her skill to others continuing the tradition through the generations.

Scholars also believe that the two-headedness is not only supernatural (duh), but may specifically indicate elements of duality in their religion/spiritual view of the world. Although I am no Ph.D., I tend to agree. It is quite frustrating to not know more because I find this piece is so intriguing.



Next time: #11 Terra cotta fragment. Lapita. Solomon Islands, Reef Islands. 1000 BCE. Terra cotta (incised).


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