Nayarit, Mexico
Model Depicting a Ritual Center

Ceramic and pigment
33 x 47 cm (13 x 18 1/2 in.)
Gift of Ethel and Julian R. Goldsmith, 1989.639

Some of the oldest tomb sculptures in West Mexico come from the state of Nayarit, where village societies thrived for about six centuries. Today ancient traditions persist among the Huichol and Cora people, who live in the region’s mountainous, canyon-filled region.

Scenes of festivals and daily life are the most common subjects of Nayarit ceramics. This ceramic piece comprises about 50 simple figurines. Dancers and musicians, such as flute- and conch-shell players and drummers, and groups of women and children are shown participating in a ritual celebration. Even parrots observe the festivities from the rooftops.

Model Depicting Ritual Center and other ceramic models from Nayarit culture suggest the ancient West Mexican understanding of geography and astronomy and reflect the way in which their society was organized in relation to the structure of the cosmos. The vertical thrust formed by the pyramid and the masked figure in the center of the scene, as well as the arrangement of the four houses at the cardinal points (north, south, east, and west), indicate that this ritual place reflected a cosmic order. The people of ancient Nayarit and throughout Mexico scheduled festivals of birth, coming-of-age, marriage, and death according to the seasonal cycles of life and death and their own understanding of the universe.