Maya culture, possibly Yaxchilan, Chiapas, Mexico, Cylindrical Vessel


Maya culture, possibly Yaxchilan, Chiapas, Mexico 

Cylindrical Vessel, c. 7th – 8th century 

hand-built ceramic with painted decoration 

Purchase, 1973 (4213.1) 

Elegantly painted cylindrical ceramic vessels were an important form of artistic expression during the ancient Maya civilization. Used to prepare and drink cacao (chocolate), which was first cultivated by the Maya and the consumption of which was the prerogative of royalty, surviving vessels were mostly placed in tombs as offerings to accompany the spirits of the dead into the afterlife. The imagery on the vessels frequently provides a narrative about a ruler, perhaps the person in whose tomb it was destined to be buried. On this object, the scene shows a ruler sitting on a dais supported on the backs of slaves, as well as a high-status woman, his wife or female relative. Interspersed in the scene in front of the figures are abstract hovering forms which represent wayob', the companion spirits of Maya rulers. These composite beings with supernatural attributes share in the consciousness of the person with whom they are associated, signaling a complex relationship between the supernatural realm and ancestors, powerful beings contacted by a living king to sustain the wellbeing of his people. Such scenes present insights into ancient Maya religious beliefs and royal lifestyle and roles.
Comments