The Calima Culture was a succession of overlapping societies that settled along the Calima River in Western Colombia around 1500 BC. Over time, agricultural chiefdoms gave rise to more centralized governance and the role of shamanism and ritual grew with the expansion of a ruling class.
The height of Calima culture (200 BC – 700 AD) saw the production of much of the amazing gold and terra-cotta objects that survive today. Often taking the form of ‘spouted’ or ‘stirrup’ vessels, their anthropomorphic and zoomorphic subjects likely emerged from the use of hallucinogenic substances during ceremony.
Among Pre-Columbian ceramics, Calima terra-cotta works are quite distinct. They take whimsical form as living creatures morph into bottles, bowls and urns. Their rich burnished surfaces are often incised with lively geometric designs and the use of red and white finishes creates contrast and focal points. As a whole they are iconic, even as each piece finds a unique character.