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Manteño seat

Manteño seat
AD 500–1500
Cerro Jaboncillo, Manabí Province, Ecuador
40 x 68 x 75 cm
Collected by George H. Pepper

The museum houses a major collection of stone chairs from Cerro Jaboncillo and Cerro de Hojas, located along the coast of Mantas, Ecuador. These chairs are affiliated with the Manteño culture, which flourished from AD 500 to 1500. Several stone sculptures, stelae, monoliths, and chairs were excavated by Marshall H. Saville between 1906 and 1908, under the sponsorship of the Heye Foundation. There is a lack of archaeological data, however, that would define their context and associations. Scholars who study Manteño objects use ethnological analogy to hypothesize that stone chairs may have been used by spiritual leaders and were linked to astronomical observations, weather predictions, and public ceremonies conducted at certain times during the agricultural year. Spiritual leaders may have worked in pairs and larger groups, arranging the chairs to face east and west or to form a circle founded on the four directions.

The pedestal of this monolithic U-shaped seat is carved as a crouching figure with its legs drawn up under the body, forearms resting on the platform, and clenched fists facing forward. The figure’s eyes and mouth were delicately engraved onto its face, which highlights its prominent nose and earspools. This anthropomorphic stone chair represents one of several Manteño styles; Manteño stonecarvers also created chairs with zoomorphic pedestals and without any sort of figurative representation. Manteño people crafted clay figurines with many of the same features seen on this stone chair. Some of these figurines are seated, and others are in a leaning position, which suggests that they represent spiritual leaders, shamans, or other high-status figures.

—Ramiro Matos (Quechua), National Museum of the American Indian

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