Maya culture, Mexico or Guatemala, Covered Vessel

Maya culture, Mexico or Guatemala 

Covered Vessel, c. 4th – 5th century 

hand-built ceramic with incised decoration and burnished slip 

Purchase, 1973 (4183.1) 

A favored vessel type in the Maya lowlands of Mexico and Guatemala was the cylindrical, straight-sided, lidded, three-footed vessel. The potter’s wheel was not known in ancient Latin America, so ceramics were entirely hand-built. Sometimes, as in this example, the forms were decorated with carved/incised designs that may or may not have had ritual significance. Lids are often surmounted by animal and bird effigies, here it is topped by a seated monkey scratching its head and about to eat a piece of fruit, adding great charm and appeal to the form. While such a vessel may have been used and enjoyed by elite Mayans in daily life, it was also likely to have been interred in a burial for the person’s use and pleasure in the afterlife.