Collection online

platter / duho

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Duho or platter made of wood featuring an ithyphallic male figure.

  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 1297-1405 (Calibrated radiocarbon dates)
  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 21 centimetres
    • Width: 29.5 centimetres
    • Depth: 72 centimetres
  • Curator's comments

    See Christy correspondence (presumably to A W Franks):
    (1) Letter, Capt. Melfort Campbell, 3 Feby - Some short time ago I presented Mr Webb of Newstead Abbey with an Indian or Carib Idol found at S. Domingo in a Cavern formerly frequented by the old Inhabitants of this place, but as the idol in question is of a somewhat indecent nature, Mr Webb does not for propriety's sake exhibit it in his Museum, and is therefore anxious to get rid of this 'White Elephant', Would the idol be useful for the Museum under your care? It is this sort of thing (from memory at least) [sketch] made of lignum vitae, worm eaten and I have the British Consuls Certificate about its being found....'
    (2) Letter, Capt Melfort Campbell, 3 March 1876 - Indian Idol has been sent to BM, now enclose 'papers authenticating the genuineness of the said idol'
    (3) Certificate: Porto Plata, Santo Domingo. This is to Certify that the Carving now forwarded and presented by General Segunda Imbert was found in a Cave at Isabella about 30 Miles from Porto Plata Santo Domingo. Supposed to have been made about the year 1370. - The wood is Lignum vitae. The Cave was Inhabited by Indians before Columbus discovered the Island. Theodore Farrington, British Consul.
    (4) Letter to Melfort Campbell, President of Turks Island from General Imbert, Grand Turk May 1870 - in Spanish, with English translation:
    I have the pleasure to remit to your Honor the 'Indian Idol' together with its corresponding Certificate, praying that your Honor will accept the same as a curiosity from my unfortunate country (Though deserving a better fate.)McEwan 2009
    The consequences of inhaling hallucinogenic snuff are explicitly represented in this crouching male "cemi" (spirit being). The unusual view of the underside reveals the skeletal ribcage and prominent sexual organ that embodies the potent masculinity of a founding male ancestor. His toes are tightly bunched and he holds his clenched fists clasped to his face in a rigid, contorted posture typical of someone in the grip of a powerful hallucinatory trance. The exaggerated calf muscles shown on this and other male sculptures were produced by tightly bound ligatures designed to enhance their hardness and visibility. The elongated head is also the result of binding to achieve aesthetic ideals. The object was carefully shaped to serve as a low stool or perhaps doubled as a neck-rest.


  • Bibliography

    • McEwan 2009 p. 119 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display

  • Exhibition history

    2008, Apr-Sept, Barcelona, Museo Barbier-Mueller D'Art Precolombi, 'Caribbean Before Columbus'
    2008 Sept -2009 Jan, Santiago de Compostela, Fundacion Caixa Galiciade, 'Caribbean Before Columbus'
    2009, Jan-Apr, Madrid, Museo de America, 'Caribbean Before Columbus'
    2012 10 Apr-29 Jul, Quai Branly, Paris; Masters of Chaos
    2012 31 Aug-02 Dec, Kunst-und Austellunghalle de Bunderrespublik, Bonn; Masters of Chaos
    2013 31 Jan-19 May, Fundació la Caixa, Madrid; Masters of Chaos

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Africa, Oceania & the Americas

  • Registration number


  • Additional IDs

    • Am1876C1.9753 (old CDMS no.)
COMPASS Image Caption: Duho


COMPASS Image Caption: Duho

Image description



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Object reference number: ESA5393

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