Thursday, 16 July 2009

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The decoration of figurines like this from the Santarém region suggests that women held important positions in ancient Amazonian societies. The figure shows a woman with body paint and ornaments presenting a bowl on a ceremonial occasion celebrated by the Santarém culture. She has pierced ear lobes, geometric patterns painted on her back and a headband with stone charms or amulets known as muiraquita.

The figure dates from some time between AD 900 and 1600. We can only deduce what it shows from the customs of the people who lived in the area more recently. People would only wear such elaborate dress on special occasions, and women had their bodies painted and adorned for events such as marriage or birth, to signify their new role in society. The bowl this woman holds was probably used during these ceremonies, to serve maize or manioc beer. As her pierced ears do not have the large ear discs of an adult woman, this may mean she is preparing to become a wife, mother and provider.

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