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Decoding art: the Staff God relief from Chavín de Huántar (part 2)

Video transcript

- [Instructor] The god's face is actually composed of multiple faces. The eyes in the center looking upward are above a down-turned mouth sporting feline fangs, but beneath that, we can see another upside down pair of eyes and a nose that use the same mouth. This is an artistic technique known as contour rivalry where parts of an image can be visually interpreted in multiple ways. A similar thing is taking place on the god's forehead where we see another upside down mouth with four large fangs protruding from it, which when associated with the eyes in the middle, completes a full face. Above this multi-faced head is what appears to be an enormous headdress which is composed of more fangs that also multiply using contour rivalry and have extensions emanating from them that terminate in curls and snake heads.