Shipibo-Conibo jar. Painted and fired clay, coated with resin. Collected in 1871. Ucayali River Valley, Peru. Ethnology, Beal-Steere Collection. UMMAA 7355.

Joseph Beal Steere collected this elaborately decorated jar in the early 1870s along the Ucayali River in the Amazon basin of Peru. Women of the closely related Shipibo and Conibo tribes continue to create elaborate geometric designs on their pottery and textiles, as well as on their bodies. The thin, finely made, hand-coiled ceramics are slipped and then painted before being fired in an open hearth. The artists apply a resin coating after firing to give the pieces their distinctive sheen. Women learn from their mothers and female relatives the meaning and cosmological significance of individual motifs and the complex rules of symmetry and structure required to appropriately combine them. Each decoration is unique but highly recognizable as part of a single decorative tradition.  

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In honor of the University of Michigan’s 2017 bicentennial, we are celebrating the remarkable archaeological and ethnographic collections and rich legacy of research and teaching at the Museum of Anthropological Archaeology by posting one entry a day for 200 days. The entries will highlight objects from the collections, museum personalities, and UMMAA expeditions. The Kelsey Museum of Archaeology is also posting each day for 200 days on Twitter and Facebook (follow along at #KMA200). After the last post, an exhibition on two centuries of archaeology at U-M opens at the Kelsey. Visit the exhibit—a joint project of the UMMAA and the Kelsey—from October 18, 2017 to May 27, 2018.