Audio Tours



These ceramic dogs portray a specific breed of hairless canine that was domesticated in Western Mexico in pre-historic times. Even then, such dogs not only were man's best friend and faithful companion, but they were also fattened up and eaten at banquets.

Matthew Robb is the curator of the Art of the Americas at San Francisco's de Young Museum.

We have lots of representations of dogs in very everyday playful poses that make us think that they looked upon their dogs as much as we do, even though they also looked upon them as a potential food source. That doesn't mean that they felt any differently about dogs as pets.

These ceramic dogs would have joined their masters on their journey to the afterlife.

We think that Colima dogs had similar meanings to what we see in the Maya culture and in the Aztec culture, where we know that canine deities served as guides to and through the underworld.

They are often found in shaft tombs, or vertical tunnels, that lead to one or more burial chambers as far as 50 feet underground. These tombs are unique to western Mexico and are associated with the Colima culture that flourished there from 200 BC to the second century AD. That culture left few records, but their burials indicate something about how they lived and what was important to them. The tombs usually contain miniature figures representing humans, houses, foodstuffs and ceramic dogs like these.

The next two galleries contain Central American and Maya tomb artifacts, including a replica of the Maya Lord Pacal's sarcophagus, which shows a different style of burial from those in western Mexico.

Step4-Ceramic Dogs, Colima Culture, West Mexico

Hits 8523
« Soul Boats, Cuna Culture, Panama Highlights of The Bowers Collection (English) Songs Pot with Noble, Maya Culture, Guatemala (Temporarily not on exhibit) »