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Figure of a Dancer

Large numbers of small, solid clay figures have been found in graves in the Valley of Mexico. Sometimes called “Tlatilco figures” after one of the sites where many were found, most of the figures are female in form, and many include jewelry or other costume elements, leading people to dub them “pretty ladies.” Though once considered primarily grave offerings, scholars now think that the figures likely were used for other purposes, too, such as in fertility and curing rites. This figure was identified as a dancer by Pre-Columbian scholar Michael Coe, who noted that the costume resembles dried seed pods.

Tlatilco, Mexico
Figure of a Dancer
Early Formative period, 1200–900 BC
Clay, pigment
H. 5 1/16 in. (12.9 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, Evan F. Lilly Memorial, 70.57