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Purepecha (Phurépecha) Ceramic Pipe

Pipe, 1200-1500
Purepecha (Phurépecha) culture; Michoacan, Mexico
Terracotta and red slip; 3 9/16 x 1 7/16 x 14 15/16 in.
Gift of Peter G. Wray

The People

Beside picturesque Lake Pátzcuaro in the state of Michoacán, Mexico lies the ancient Purepecha capital, Tzintzuntzan, and the tiered, rounded pyramids, known as yácatas. The Purepecha (or Phurépecha) people, formerly called the "Tarascan" people by the Spanish conquistadors, once ruled an empire in the Central-West of Mexico and were the main rival of the Aztecs.In their native language Purepecha means “the people."The Purepecha language is unique because it has no connections with any other living languages.The culture is known for their knowledge in metallurgy and its skilled workers of gold, silver, and copper. Many metal objects were created for ceremonies such as small bells, pendants, rings, and earrings while others were directed for utilitarian purposes such as needles and axe monies.

The Pipe

The long, slender, reddish terracotta pipe in the Bowers Museum collection evokes the importance of tobacco in the Purepecha Empire and points to the preeminence of pipes before the arrival of the Spanish. Interestingly, tobacco use was prevalent in the Americas, likely due to the endemic nature of the plant and the addictive quality of nicotine.A striking commonality among pre-Columbian Americans was the high esteem placed on tobacco. Pre-Columbian North Americans held tobacco as a central component in religious and social rituals.In Purepecha culture, tobacco was mixed with other herbs for medicinal and ceremonial purposes and theuse of tobacco and pipe limited to aristocracy and religious officials.

All text and images under copyright. Please contact Collection Department for permission to use. Information subject to change upon further research.
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Comments 1

Guest - Jeriann Guzman on Saturday, 26 June 2021 22:29

The use of the name Tarascan is a slight very derogatory to the people. Our people are Purepecha... nothing else

The use of the name Tarascan is a slight very derogatory to the people. Our people are Purepecha... nothing else
Friday, 19 April 2024

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