Introduction I Table of Contents I Previous Example I Next Example

PRE-COLUMBIAN OBJECTS
Wood - Ritual Utensils


 

Snuff Trays

Origin I Characteristics I Urgency of the Situation I Legislation I Bibliography

Click on the photo to see caption and an enlarged version

Click on the photo to see caption and an enlarged version

Click on the photo to see caption and an enlarged version

Click on the photo to see caption and an enlarged version

Snuff tray,
wood, high: 17.3 cm
Implements for taking snuff: tubes and spoons, wood, high: 10-20 cm Snuff tray,
wood, high: 18.8 cm
Snuff tray,
wood, high: 13.4 cm
  © Museo Arqueológico
Padre Le Paige
© Museo Arqueológico
Padre Le Paige
© Museo Arqueológico
Padre Le Paige
© Museo Arqueológico
Padre Le Paige

--Origin  
 

Argentina, Chile and Peru.

--Characteristics  
 

Snuff trays are ritual utensils from northern Chile (the Arica, Calama and San Pedro de Atacama regions) that are also found in southern Peru, the eastern foothills of the Andes (La Rioja province in Argentina) and southern Chile (up to Coquimbo).
Approximately 300 snuff trays have been found up until now.Those found in the Arica region (Chile) range in date from 500 BC to 1000 AD whereas the San Pedro (Chile) ones date from 250 BC to 1050 AD. Snuff trays reached their apogee during the Tiwanaku period (500-900 BC).
Snuff trays were used for the inhalation of hallucinogens.
They are small rectangular tablets with a shallow middle part and one or more extensions. They measure between 10 and 30 cm long and are made of 'algarrobo' or 'chañar' wood native to northern Chile. Snuff trays made of stone, bone or shells have been found In the Arica region. Their shapes and decoration resemble those of the wooden snuff trays.
Methods of execution of wooden snuff trays include low relief, multi-level carving and sculpture in the round. They feature incised geometrical patterns such as zigzags, lines, half circles, triangles or ladders-like motifs. The main ornamental motifs are found in the handle and they usually depict human figures, animals, heads or abstract forms. Human figures are shown as profiles or from the front, kneeling or lying, with or without wings, with or without head-dresses. The most common representation is the Decapitator or Executioner that holds a decapitated head by the hair. Animal motifs include felines, birds (such as the condor), camelids and snakes.
They are also inlaid with gold, shells or semi-precious stones such as malachite, turquoise and azurite. It is important to point out that snuff trays come with implements for taking snuff that include tubes, spatulas, mortar and pestle, small boxes and bone tubes with burnt decoration.

 

--Urgency of the Situation  
 

In Chile, snuff trays have been found in scientific excavations.
They are highly representative of Pre-Columbian ceremonies and are a living testimony of these cultures' traditions and rituals. They are an important part of Andean archaeological heritage.
The situation is critical because they are objects of great interest to collectors, due to their attractive iconography and technique. Since they are so small, they can be easily hidden and transported.
All sites containing heritage items are in danger of being looted or altered. This is an issue of great concern because archaeological artifacts cannot be renovated and are irreplaceable.

 

--Legislation Protecting these Objects  
 

See Argentina, Chile and Peru

--Bibliography  
 
  • Benavente, Massone & Thomas. "El Complejo del Rapé: un diseño de investigación". In : Revista Chilena de Humanidades, No 6, Facultad de Filosofía, Humanidades y Educación, Universidad de Chile, 1984.
  • Tesoros de San Pedro de Atacama. 2da edición. Santiago, Catálogo Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino, 1988.

Top

 

 

Introduction I Legislation I Acknowledgments I General Bibliography I Previous Emxaple I Next Example
Red List Home Page I ICOM Web Site

October 2003