More than 1,200 years ago residents of civilizations in the central Caribbean coast made jars that had three legs. These were ritual objects that frequently were broken up as an offering at a graveside, said the Museos del Banco Central.
This is a practice known as ceremonial killing.
The museum facility, located beneath the Plaza de la Cultura, has more than 70 of these funeral jars on display.
Some of these three-legged clay creations are elaborate.
They are called a trípode in Spanish.
The jars came from two traditions, according to archaeologists. They call one the Ticbán, made between 300 B.C. and 300 A.D. and the Áfrican which were made from 300 to 800 A.D.
The museums seek to show visitors how the jars were made, but there also is a museum video on YouTube and depicts the making of a passable tripode from scratch. It is HERE!
The job looks easy because the unnamed artist is highly skillful.
Similar jars were made all over pre-Columbian America, including in the Chorotega region of northwestern Costa Rica.
Because of the close connection to burials, the museums cannot overlook descriptions of two types. In one case the corpse was buried intact surrounded by grave goods, including busted jars. In the second the corpse was cut up and placed in a grave mixed with the grave goods, said the museum.
As part of the exhibit the museums opened up a contest for potters and asked them to design a jar that could have been from ancient times. A jury is selecting the best submissions for inclusion in the exhibition.
Of course, ancient Costa Ricans were not the only cultures to use jars and pots in burials. Some cultures actually buried their dead in pottery while others practiced cremation and placed the ashes of the deceased in a jar.
The jars from the Caribbean and those from western Costa Rica are very elaborate. Museums, of course, show the best. Ancient artists decorated the pots with faces, figures, lizards, crocodiles and graphic designs. What they did depended on the culture and anticipated use. They also used bright colors.
Patricia Fernández, archeological curator at the museums, said that one of the reasons for the exhibit is to demonstrate the surprising talent of the pre-Columbian artisans, according to a release by the museums.
The ancient designs have generated a lot of modern copies. Local shops carry replicas for tourists. Costa Rican law prohibits taking the genuine artifacts of the country.