Female Deer-Shaman Effigy



Female Deer-Shaman Effigy


Sculpture, Vessel, Ceramic, Effigy


500 BC - 300 AD


Period IV
Central America, Greater Nicoya, Costa Rica/Nicaragua
Rosales Zoned Engraved, Rosales Variety


12 5/8 x 10 1/4 x 7 1/16 in. (32 x 26 x 18 cm)

Object Number



The centerpiece of the Ancient American Collection, this large hollow female effigy figure is the finest known example of the Rosales Zoned Engraved style from ancient Costa Rica. She is also among the earlier works of art in the collection as a whole, dating to between 500 BC and AD 300. Rosales is one of the most beautifully crafted of the northwestern Costa Rican styles, with its remarkably thin walls, glossy burnished surfaces, and carefully delineated black areas with incised outlines.

This piece constitutes a masterpiece of design as well as a technical feat. From the front view, bold facial features and dramatic shoulder lines strike the viewer, while from the back, flowing geometric patterns accentuating her anatomy captivate the eye. Side views reveal her as a waterfall of curves and her swelling pregnant belly becomes obvious. However, the most artful design choice appears in the treatment of the crossed legs. Rather than model the overlapping of upper and lower legs in three dimensions, the artist chose to render the lower legs two-dimensionally, painting them in black up the inside of the thighs. Her feet cross at the center of her femininity, simultaneously drawing attention to and concealing her fecundity.

Fertile though she is, she sits in the shaman's hands on knees meditation pose. Female shaman images are found in many ancient Costa Rica styles, indicating many women were spiritual leaders. A pregnant shaman would incorporate all types of powers to bring life and traverse the cosmos as well.

Credit Line

Ex coll. William C. and Carol W. Thibadeau


Seeing with New Eyes: Pre-Columbian Art from the Thibadeau Collection, Emory University Museum of Art and Archaeology, March 4 - October 13, 1992|
MCCM Permanent Collection Reinstallation, September 2002 - June 2012|
'For I am the Black Jaguar': Shamanic Visionary Experience in Ancient American Art, Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University, September 5, 2012 - January 5, 2013|
MCCM Permanent Collection Reinstallation, February 9, 2013 - Present
Michael C. Carlos Museum Handbook (Atlanta: Michael C. Carlos Museum, 1996), 76.|
Rebecca Stone-Miller, Seeing With New Eyes: Highlights of the Michael C. Carlos Museum Collection of Art of the Ancient Americas (Atlanta: Michael C. Carlos Museum, 2002), 70-74, figure 131.|
Rebecca Stone-Miller, "Human-Animal Imagery, Shamanic Visions, and Ancient American Aesthetics," RES 45 (2004): 51, figure 4.|
Margaret Young Sanchez, Costa Rican Masterpieces (Denver: Denver Art Museum, 2010).|
Michael C. Carlos Museum: Highlights of the Collections (Atlanta: Michael C. Carlos Museum, 2011), 68.|
Rebecca Stone, The Jaguar Within: Shamanic Trance in Ancient Central and South American Art (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2011), 95 - 97, figures 5.1 - 5.5.
Laura Wingfield, "Barely There but Still Transcendent: Ancient Nicaraguan and Costa Rican Dress, Regalia, and Adornment, ca. 800 BCE - 300 CE in Greater Nicoya," In Wearing Culture: Dress and Regalia in Early Mesoamerica and Central America, edited by Heather Orr and Matthew G. Looper, 29-59 (Niwot: University Press of Colorado, 2014), 35, figure 2.10.|
Laura M. Wingfield, "Greenstone Axe to Gold Eagle Pendant: The Sex Change of Costa Rica's Symbol of National Pride," in Dressing the Part: Power, Dress, Gender, and Representation in the Pre-Columbian Americas, ed. Sarahh E.M. Scher and Billie J.A. Follensbee (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2017), 338, figure 9.7b.


© Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University. Photo by Bruce M. White, 2008.
This image is provided by the Michael C. Carlos Museum of Emory University, who retains all rights in it. This image is made available for limited non-commercial, educational, and personal use only, or for fair use as defined by United States law. For all other uses, please contact the Michael C. Carlos Museum Office of Collections Services at +1(404) 727-4282 or mccm.collections.services@emory.edu. Users must cite the author and source of the image as they would material from any printed work, but not in any way that implies endorsement of the user or the user's use of the image. Users may not remove any copyright, trademark, or other proprietary notices, including without limitation attribution information, credits, and copyright notices that have been placed on or near the image by the Museum. The Museum assumes no responsibility for royalties or fees claimed by the artist or third parties. The User agrees to indemnify and hold harmless Emory University, its Michael C. Carlos Museum, its agents, employees, faculty members, students and trustees from and against any and all claims, losses, actions, damages, expenses, and all other liabilities, including but not limited to attorney’s fees, directly or indirectly arising out of or resulting from its use of photographic images for which permission is granted hereunder.

On View



“Female Deer-Shaman Effigy,” Michael C. Carlos Museum Collections Online, accessed January 28, 2020, http://carlos.digitalscholarship.emory.edu/items/show/7918.

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