Howling Dog Effigy, Jalisco, 300 BC-AD 200.
Why were dogs so significant to the Mexica?
Dogs were associated with the god of death, Xolotl, among the Mexicas of the highlands of Mexico. Both a dog and Xolotl were thought to lead the soul to the underworld. The skinny body and white hue of the shown dog represented above may have underworld connotations, connecting it to this belief. Xolotl was also associated by the Mexica with the planet Venus as the evening star, and was portrayed with a canine head.
The dog’s special relationship with humans is highlighted by a number of Colima dog effigies wearing humanoid masks. This curious effigy type has been interpreted as a shamanic transformation image or as a reference to the modern Huichol myth of the origin of the first wife, who was transformed from a dog into a human. However, recent scholarship suggests a new explanation of these sculptures as the depiction of the animal’s tonalli, its inner essence, which is made manifest by being given human form via the mask.The use of the human face to make reference to an object’s or animal’s inner spirit is found in the artworks of many ancient cultures of the Americas, from the Inuit of Alaska and northern Canada to peoples in Argentina and Chile. (Walters)
On the subject of the significance of dogs, and dog effigies wearing humanoid masks, check out this post from a while back of ‘examples of dogs represented in ancient Mexican art.’ The final artefact here is from Colima, and shows a dog wearing a human mask.
Courtesy of & currently located at the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, USA, via their online collections, 2009.20.148.
The interior of the hypogeum of the Volumnus family. This Etruscan tomb is located in Ponte San Giovanni in central Italy, and thought to date to approximately the 3rd century BCE.
Photo taken by CyArk.
Golden amphora, 4th century BCE. Part of the Panagyurishte Treasure, this extraordinary Thracian artefact was uncovered accidentally in 1949 by three brothers who were digging for clay to make bricks. Note the centaur-shaped handles.
Courtesy of & currently located at the National Historical Museum, Sofia, Bulgaria. Photo taken by vintagedept.
The Stela of Pakhaas, 2nd-1st century B.C.E., made of limestone.
The central vignette here features a unique combination of two types of stela illustration. Normally the deceased is shown offering to Osiris, lord of the underworld, or to another deity. Alternatively, the deceased and his or her spouse receive offerings from their family. At first glance, the stela seems to fit the second category. The dead person, Pakhaas, accompanied by his wife, Nesihor, who stands behind him holding a sistrum, or rattle, enjoys the oblations of his son, Pakhy (a nickname, in effect, Pakhaas, Jr.).
This scene, however, is hardly conventional. Pakhy’s censer and Nesihor’s sistrum rarely appear in scenes of offerings to humans, and Pakhaas is not depicted as a mortal. The small image of the god Osiris that sits on his knees indicates that Pakhaas has become that god. Pakhy thus becomes Horus, who offers to his dead father, Osiris, and Nesihor is Isis. (BM)
Courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum, USA, via their online collections, 71.37.2.
Minoan bronze dagger, the hilt has been decorated in gold sheet with a feline mask (the eyes are now missing). This dagger dates to the early 2nd millennium BCE, provenience unknown.
Courtesy of & currently located at the Archaeological Museum of Chania, Crete. Photo taken by Dan Diffendale.
A drinking vessel in the shape of a shoe. This item of pottery is from Urartu (860 BCE–590 BCE).
Photo taken by EvgenyGenkin via the Wiki Commons. Courtesy of & currently located at the National History Museum of Armenia.