MAm 04981

Please find more information about the object below the image.

Producer unknown to us


Americas, Costa Rica Highlands, Desamparados

Prior to 1911


F. W. Matthias (engineer, merchant)

Purchased by the museum from Matthias in 1911

MAm 04981

This is a bowl made of red fired clay, with three feet in the shape of human skulls. The collector, the Hamburg engineer and trader F.W. Matthias, sold some archaeological finds to the museum in 1911. He gave Desamparados near the capital of Costa Rica, San Jose, as the place of discovery.

A survey of the Leipzig collection of pre-Hispanic "Central American" objects shows conspicuously few pieces attributable to the Aztecs, even among those objects destroyed during World War 2. This is particularly striking since visitor interest until today focused on Aztec and Mayan cultures, and museums have therefore always strived to "show Aztecs." Because of this, it is conceivable that Leipzig curators around 1900 tried to make a virtue out of necessity (lack of access to archaeological pieces) and specifically acquired objects from the peripheral areas of the pre-Hispanic cultural centers in order to give the collection a unique selling point in German comparison.

Frank Usbeck