Gosh I put off writing this post for weeks, nothing against the little lady of Tlatico, but I am just sick and tired of researching Prehistory. Too many what ifs, questions that go unanswered, and dead end research sessions. But alas, TWO MORE PREHISTORIC PIECES. Stick with me people!
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 hair dos. 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.
- The New Advanced Placement* Art History Curriculum in the Indigenous Americas: A Teacher’s Guide to the Required Monuments from Mesoamerica (Ancient Mexico), by Rebecca R. Stone, pgs. 43-46
- Khan Academy: Tlatilco Figurines
- Khan Academy: Tlatilco Figurines (5:07)
- Texas State University: Bearing Memory: Woman and Child Figurines from Tlatilco
- Native American Netroots: Tlatilco, an Ancient Site in the Valley of Mexico
- The Metropolitan Museum, Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History: Female Figure
- Hillwood Art Museum: Female Figurine
- -Unearthing: Tlatilco double-faced figurines: the world’s oldest medical illustrations?
- AP Art History 2015-2016: Tlatilco Female Figurine
- Princeton University Art Museum: Double-faced female figure, 1200–900 B.C.
Images from: https://smarthistory.org/tlatilco-figurines/