Two Women in Hair-Pulling Ritual, Comala Style, Colima, West Mexico, Proto-Classic Period, 300 BCE–300 CE
Ceramic, 4 1/2 x 2 1/8 x 3 1/8 inches (11.4 x 5.4 x 7.9 cm)
Jay I. Kislak Collection of the Early Americas, Exploration and Navigation, Miami Dade College, MDC PC 2022.1.35
The two figures in this work appear to be engaged in pulling each other’s hair. Hair-pulling may have been a kind of game but is also associated with mourning rituals throughout ancient Mexico, especially among the Aztecs, where it was documented in early Spanish codices. The women here, dressed in simple garments with beads around their necks, pull hair from their elongated skulls, artificially deformed as a mark of status. At one time, the work would have been highly burnished with details that described the figures’ clothing and anatomy. Although now eroded, the surface technique associated with Colima remains evident.
These figures come from elite burials in shaft tombs and were produced in the workshops of the Comala region, near what is now Colima, the capital of Colima state, in west-central Mexico. The region lies along the Colima River in the Sierra Madre foothills. Between 300 BCE and 300 CE, groups of workshops within particular areas developed a series of well-defined regional styles and Comala produced numerous works for the elite. West Mexico is known for its vast array of tomb offerings, including figurative works that depict warriors, shamans, family groups, feasts, lively participants in a variety of activities, and humans of all descriptions, as well as house models, dogs, and mythological creatures. Often full of motion, action, and humor, the figures give a remarkable picture of this very active culture area, preserved in tomb offerings meant to serve the dead as reminders of their earthly roles and accompany them to the afterlife.
Photos by Lynton Gardiner. © Kislak Center at MDC.