Classic Mayan Cylinder Vase
ULUA Valley, Honduras, Classic Mayan cylinder vase
Pre-Columbian, Ulua Valley, Honduras, Classic Mayan, ca. 550 to 850 CE. A large and impressive Mayan polychrome cylinder supported by three slab feet and highly adorned with elaborate hand painted decorations in black, red, and orange on pale orange ground, the form and painting technique characteristic of the Alua Valley in Honduras. The iconography consists of a procession honoring a royal personage depicted sitting upon his canopied throne, dressed in ostentatious regalia and headdress, proudly presenting his ornately embellished sceptor. Behind and bowing toward the lord is a figure dressed in ceremonial regalia with a jaguar head and feathered or scaled details adorning the bodice. Alternatively, it is possible that this scene represents an alter ego of the royal personage who resides in the supernatural realm. The ancient Maya referred to these fusions of deities, humans, and anthropomorphic beasts who represented companion spirits and lived in the dream world as way (pronounced why). Further embellishing the piece is a band of mat glyphs (possibly weaving or rope glyphs) beneath the rim. A magnificent, museum quality example, most likely a gift for an elite individual as such painted cylinders were treasured for their meaning and artistic expertise. Size: 8-7/8" x 5-3/4" in diameter.
Note the presence of the jaguar in the iconography of this piece. The jaguar was regarded as an important symbol of Mayan culture thousands of years ago, long before Chichen Itza was a major city. This magnificent feline captivated rulers, warriors, and priests. After all, it was the largest predator in the Americas and possessed distinctive features associated with the celestial realm. Most notably, as a nocturnal animal, its spotted coat was oftentimes compared to the starry night sky. The Maya believed that the jaguar played a critical role in the creation myth, and that all royals descended from the jaguar. The jaguar was also a symbol of life and fertility. Moreover, the jaguar was a significant entity not only for the Mayans, but for all ancient Mesoamerican peoples; even the early Olmec featured the feline in legends and traditions.
Such vases were used as gifts presented to royals and to serve food or drink, most likely cocoa, at ceremonial feasts. They were adorned by highly skilled painters who had an advanced understanding of Classic Maya religious mythology, history, and ideology. In addition, hieroglyphs were used to explore the meaning of the figures and scenes depicted, imbuing each form with a poetic visual language. The artists themselves were highly revered and usually belonged to elite families.