Bowl with human head, 11001500
Mississippi Valley, late Woodlands
5 x 7 7/8 x 10 inches
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, The Tess E. Armstrong Fund,
Ceremonial bowls decorated with small human heads
set on the rim are found in many Mississippian culture sites.
The head represents an important ancestor or a spiritual character
and makes the bowl into a metaphor for the body, one which provides
the sustenance of food or the healing power of medicine. The tab
at the opposite side of the rim is usually found on effigy bowls,
where it could have been used for holding or pouring. A design
of large spiral swirls was engraved into the outside of the bowl.
The spiral is one of the most common Mississippian iconographic
motifs and carries multiple references to water and shapes in
the night sky.