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Stirrups with hoods

Mapuche stirrups with tapaderos (hoods)
ca. 1910
Wood, iron
23 x 24 x 25 cm
Collected during the Thea Heye Chile Expedition led by Samuel K. Lothrop

Between 1560 and 1580, toward the beginning of the war against the Spanish conquerors, the Mapuche appropriated the horse, becoming skillful riders and breeders who adapted the horse to new grasslands and mountains.

For important rituals and celebrations, each chief ornamented his horse with the finest possible equipment and decorations. These stirrups are wooden replicas of silver stirrup designs made at the end of the 19th century. This particular design may well have belonged to a wealthy chief or Mapuche cacique. The geometrical lines and figures, which are also found in Mapuche silver jewelry and weaving, contain the Mapuche worldview and ideas about sociocultural organization. These include the almighty guide Ngünechen, the earth, nature, and human beings within the circles that replicate the form of the earth.

This cacique may have been in charge of a large community divided into nine areas called Ayllarewe where, in times of war, the ancestors lived in accordance with Native ways. This social structure is represented here by nine sculpted caskets in the downward part of the central figure. The sun over a geometrically designed human figure means that life is possible with the integration of the star clusters, that nature and human beings are governed by the divinities. The four bulges or mounds in each corner of the stirrups, together with straight upward lines, represent sacred spaces and communication with the deities.

—María Catrileo (Mapuche), linguist, Universidad Austral de Chile

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