Artifacts - Mexico and Central America


Ceramic Sculpture

Reclining Opossum

origin; Western Mexico

Colima or Jalisco

Classic Period

circa 500-1000AD

From a California private collection


 Pottery animal sculpture from Western Mexico,  Grayish / Red clay with a burnished surface and smooth patina.  Beautifully sculpted with pronounced features, exaggerated lips and teeth, protruding tongue, and lozenge shaped eyes.  Child-like hands. Distinctive fetal position with curled tail and arms raised to side of head, possibly " playing possum ". Faint traces of white pigment on teeth.  Over-exaggerated belly may indicate the animal is a gravid female carrying young.  Flat underside.  Signs of burnishing overall, weathered in places to a matte gray finish.

Good condition.  Missing  tips of ears and tip of tongue. Stress crack on tail, visible from bottom but not from top. No known repairs. Burnished surface. Lovely patina. Displays well. 

dimensions: approx 8" long x 5" wide x 3" tall 

While most marsupial species present in the new world are now extinct, there are over 60 species of opossums in North and South America.  My first impression of this piece was that it represented a coati, until a knowledgeable source pointed out a few details like the pronounced canines, prehensile tail, and opposing digit on the animal's back foot, and adaptation for tree climbing not present in the coati.  Pre-Columbian ceramic artists in Western Mexico created a wide range of animal forms including the Colima dog, coatis, fish, snakes, lizards, and many others. This is the only representation of an opossum I have seen.

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