The stirrup-spout jar—so named because the shape of the spout resembles a stirrup—is a typical ceramic form from the Formative Period (1800–100 BC) in northern Peru. The Cupisnique Valley, located on the north coast, is associated with a particular style of these ceramics; while some scholars view these ceramics and other objects as manifestations of a “Cupisnique culture, ” others instead consider the style to be a part of the Chavín culture. As this example shows, Cupisnique-style stirrup-spout jars have a very thick spout that forms a small, rounded arch, and the neck is short, with a flaring lip. Cupisnique vessels, like many Formative northern ceramics, frequently emphasize texture. Here, small bits of clay have been applied all over the surface except for the neck and the area under the stirrup’s arch; afterwards, a comb or some other toothed instrument was dragged over the embellished surface. Though most elaborated vessels such as this one have been found in burial contexts, scholars believe that these ceramics were not made exclusively for burial: they likely played roles in ritual practices and may have been used in other activities as well.
Cupisnique culture, Peru
Stirrup-Spout Jar, 900–800 BC
H. 8 ¾ in. (22.2 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, 72.101