PreColumbian, Colima Comala (Mexico)
Standing Ballplayer, 200
Ceramic, 32 cm. h.
Gift of Clarence A. Davis ‘48
Collection of Hobart and William Smith Colleges
The pre-Columbian era incorporates all period subdivisions in the history and prehistory of the Americas before the appearance of significant European influences on the American continents, spanning the time of the original settlement in the Upper Paleolithic period to European colonization during the Early Modern period.
Nomadic peoples moving south arrived to the Jalisco area around 15,000 years ago. Some of oldest evidence of human occupation is found around Zacoalco and Chapala lakes, which used to be connected. This evidence includes human and animal bones and tools made of bone and stone. Other signs of human habitation include petroglyphs and cave paintings found at Cabo Corrientes, San Gabriel, Jesús María, La Huerta, Puerto Vallarta, Mixtlán, Villa Purificación, Casimiro Castillo, Zapotlán el Grande and Pihuamo.
Agriculture began in the same region as well around 7,000 years ago, giving rise to the first permanent settlements in western Mexico. Ceramics began to be produced about 3,500 years ago for both utilitarian and ceremonial purposes. The oldest pieces of Jalisco area pottery are called El Opeño, after an area near Zamora, Michoacán and Capacha after an area in Colima. The appearance of these styles indicates a certain specialization of labor, with distinct settled cultures established by 1000 BCE. The earliest settled cultures were centered on the site of Chupícuaro, Guanajuato, which has a large zone of influence from Durango east, crossing through modern Jalisco’s north. Sites related to these cultures have been found in Bolaños, Totoate, the Bolaños River Canyon and Totatiche as well as other locations in the Los Altos Region.
Images of ballplayers were made in ancient Mexico for millennia. The game, played with a large rubger ball, was fast paced and had many layers of meaning—and it was always a significant male activity. Depictions of both game and players appear in the ceramic sculptures of Jalisco, a state on the west coast of Mexico, where such works were produced in the centuries around the turn of the first millennium when their makers flourished. This impressive seated player, in the Ameca-Etzatlan style of Jalisco, holds the large ball reverentially high, in a manner of presentation. His short “pants,” a typical player costume, protect the lower body as the ball was propelled with the hips low to the ground. In remove areas of Mexico a game was played in this manner well into the twentieth century.
The ceramic sculpture of Jalisco was used as funerary offerings in the tombs of members of important families. It is conjectured that depictions of ballplayers were meant to acompany the burial of a man who had been a skilled player.
It looks Colama, Colima, or Nayarit. The iconography looks interesting, though. I wonder if the spiraled cord is like rope, in which case, together with the hand position, is it a leader captured? The prong of the head may be a ruler reference/abstraction of a conch, no?