NAYARIT – Mexico

100 B.C. – 250 A.D.

Height : 45.4 cm - Width : 26.6 cm - Depth : 17 cm

Hollow brown terracotta with traces of manganese.


This pregnant woman is a remarkable representation that screams of truth. The orange-red slip, solid and finely polished, shows traces of manganese oxide due to the context of burial of the clay, which makes the representation all the more magnificent.

The craftsman-ceramist has represented this woman in her simplest form, using generous volumes to accentuate her kneeling posture.

The face is elongated and the effect is accentuated by the length and width of the nose. The eyelids are swollen and the coffee bean eyes are crinkled. The mouth is half-open and the lips are relaxed as if after an effort.

Although this woman is naked, it is clear that she is richly adorned. Our attention does not know where to focus. The hair is signified by striations made on the raw and matte surface of the clay before firing. And, the head is girded by a double headband. She is adorned with earrings, a nose ring (nariguera), a three-row necklace and arm bracelets.

The shoulders, wide and angular, are decorated with scarifications. These marks, real but symbolic, are proudly worn to affirm one's belonging to an ethnic group, a clan... According to their size and their situation, it was possible to determine the social category of individuals wearing scarifications. Their ethnic nature, highly symbolic, is very clear in some cases. According to some testimonies, they have other functions. Sometimes, they can ensure the protection of individuals and, at other times, they are administered for therapeutic purposes.

The body is massive but the arms are thin and folded on the abdomen. The chest, with small and round breasts, affects a strong forward projection. More than revealing a stimulation, this phenomenon called "thelotism" is a sign of pregnancy. This state is confirmed by the hands placed on the rebounded belly.

The artisan-ceramist wanted to focus attention on the scene. This pregnant woman immortalizes a crucial moment. He depicted her in the typical Aboriginal birthing position: kneeling, hands on her belly, waiting for the next contraction to announce her future delivery.

This important step in a woman's life was accompanied by shamanic rituals. The belly was smeared with Konopa (vegetable fiber). Offerings of Chicha (a drink made from corn) were made. And, the surrounding environment was decorated with idols to make the spirits favorable.

A pregnant woman was considered to be the equal of a warrior, especially at the time of childbirth, which was seen as a battle between life and death. When the child was born, the "midwife" had to utter a war cry to announce the happy event.

According to some researchers, the Nayarit or Jalisco pregnant women, depicted with distended bellies, kneeling or squatting, could be the representation of a goddess of fertility and procreation.

The Nayarit culture flourished in the eponymous state along the Pacific Coast of Mexico. Known as one of the cultures of the "shaft tombs", it is famous for its burials inside which archaeologists have found a great number of human and animal effigies, made of hollow clay in large dimensions, and small massive figurines.

Commonly used, the term "West Coast" refers to a group of cultures named Jalisco, Nayarit and Colima. Each of them corresponds to one of the current states of the Mexican West. They developed along the Pacific Coast between 100 BC and 250 AD.

For a long time considered isolated and archaic, they have been the object of studies which renew today the vision of the scientists and attest this cultural homogeneity during the pre-Hispanic period.

Numerous styles have been identified in this region, the common denominator of which is a production in hollow clay featuring men and women, recognizable by their stereotyped features and their often non-naturalistic proportions. Particularly expressive, these ceramics are distinguished by the richness of their polished slip and their polychromies.

Until the 1960s, this production appeared naturalistic and was mistakenly considered scenes of everyday life. These represent warriors, pregnant women, couples, who are characterized by large bodies with particularly massive legs, faces with an expressionist character, and rich ornaments such as the rows of rings that adorn the lobes of their ears, large necklaces or nasal ornaments.

Consider the effort that went into digging shafts leading to chambers from 10 to over 20 meters deep. Consider the energy expended to create these underground spaces, with a view to the well-being of the deceased. Let us realize that these material testimonies are sufficient to attest their spiritual and religious motivations.