c.500 AD, Tiwanaku-Huari culture, 23 x 16 cm
This unusually animated and sensitive portrait is the only example known to have bulges in both cheeks which indicates a wad of coca leaf being chewed. There are only a few of surviving examples of wooden Tiawanaku effigy heads that represent human subjects modelled in a naturalistic style. The inlaid shell eyes with teardrop tar and the smiling pursed lips make the piece resonate in its joy of life. The woven headband is of the same period but may not belong to this actual work.