Tripod Jaguar Effigy Vessel

Guanacaste-Nicoya, Costa Rica
1200-1400 CE
Boca Raton Museum of Art

An effigy vessel combines the body of an animal and a vessel into a single object. This jaguar effigy is a definitive example of Nicoya polychrome ware with characteristic bands of ornamentation depicting silhouetted feline motifs, coiling serpent designs and stylized patterns. A realistic modeled and appliquéd jaguar head juts forward with a humanlike pose of paws on legs, with the legs as front support and the tail as rear support. To capture a greater essence of the wild animal, the frontal husky legs form rattles that contain small balls of clay that when moved simulate the sound of a roaring jaguar. Jaguar-themed ceramics are found in the context of funerary sites and associated with the Mexican warrior god Tezcatlipoca, a powerful and agile fighter who was as fast as a jaguar and devoured the sun to bring the night.

Lesson Plans

Tripod Jaguar Effigy Vessel
Lesson Plan (K-5):
Lesson Plan (6-8):


Pre-Columbian Jaguar

Tripod Jaguar Effigy Vessel, Guanacaste-Nicoya, Costa Rica, clay with light slipped polychrome with black and red pattern, Post Classic Period,1200-1400 CE, 13 1/2 x 9 1/2 x 5 in., Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Irwin Weiser, 2002.037