Human head effigy vase

Early Intermediate Period (Nasca Phases 3-4)
AD 250-400

Object Place: Peru, South Coast


19.3 x 13.8 cm (7 5/8 x 5 7/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Earthenware: red, orange, black, and white on cream slip paint

On View

Ancient South America Gallery (Gallery LG33)





Ritual drinking vessel with a tall and slightly outflaring neck and rounded base, modeled and painted to represent a human head, perhaps a stylized representation of a Nasca leader. The face is decorated with black painting around the eyes, and he has a thin mustache and goatee. He wears an elaborate head wrap of decorated cords and feathers and with a chin strap. His hair is indicated by black- painted bangs and three strands that emerge from underneath the hat at both sides of his face, the black paint/hair also extending across the rear of the vessel. A diagonal ridge of clay on the vase’s sides represents ears. A small crack extends from the rim down the center of the cap and terminates at the nose.

This vase depicts a man with mustache, face painting around the eyes, and a headdress of wrapped cords and feathers. It may represent a trophy head or an important Nasca personage.


On bottom: "21" and "C" in black.


Between the early 1940s and late 1950s, probably acquired in Peru by Bernhard Kummel (b. 1919 - d. 1980), Cambridge, MA [see note]; late 1950s, sold by Bernhard Kummel to an anonymous collection; 2001, anonymous gift to the MFA. (Accession Date: March 21, 2001)

NOTE: The Boston Globe reported ("South America's Rainy Jungle Less Dangerous than Harvard Square," November 17, 1957) on the time Dr. Kummel, a Harvard professor of geology, spent in Peru. He and his wife are pictured holding Peruvian vessels from their collection.

Credit Line

Anonymous gift