Pre-Columbian, Mexico and Guatemala, Mayan Territories, Late Classic, ca. 550 to 900 CE. An important Codex Style cylinder vase in pristine, original condition, that gives us a rare glimpse into the scribal mind of the Maya Late Classic period. Elegantly rendered in a calligraphic style, the scene on this finely painted Codex Style vessel takes place in the underworld palace chamber of the main protagonist - an old, toothless, male deity in ceremonial garb. He is seated cross-legged in front of a large, ritual vessel painted with an "Ak'bal", or "darkness," glyph on its side. He wears a spangled, ritual vomit bib and a waterlily and folded napkin type headdress (which is worn identically by two other figures on this vase). He holds a dish like vessel (possibly the lid of the large pot?) to his grimacing mouth as if sipping a liquid. Size: 4.25" W x 4.3" H (10.8 cm x 10.9 cm)
Such wide-mouthed, lidded containers are always seen in ritual vomiting and enema ceremonies painted on Maya vases and it is to be understood the old figure is entering or in a state of hallucination caused by the substance in the large vessel. Further, there are distinctively pointed and rippled, bundled leaves (nicotiana rustica tobacco?) placed just in front of his bib, and also another bundle is held by the zoomorphic figure (the old deity's "whay," or sacred "alter ego"?) sitting behind him. This variety of native tobacco was quite strong and capable of creating mild hallucinations even in small doses.
Across from the Old Deity sits an avian-headed human figure (another "whay" type character with the head of a King or Turkey Vulture, birds directly associated with rulership in ancient Maya cultures) seemingly engaged in conversation with him and gesturing in a manner associated with "presentation," appropriate for his position next to the large vessel. He wears the identical headdress to that seen on the old deity, that is, a folded napkin type headdress with waterlily bloom and distinctly textured central element, no doubt integral accouterments to the ritual. A swagged curtain can be seen above this supernatural pairing of Underworld characters seated around the ritual pot; there is a series of hieroglyphs painted in the field between them.
Reading the glyphic inscription from left to right, the glyphs all seem to be versions of the 'Nen' or 'mirror' sign. Only slight variations exist between each glyph, all with different prefixes, suffixes and numerical counts (5, 3 and 9), possibly alluding to some passage of time rather than specific calendrical date(s). The head version of 'Nen' (the 2nd glyph) is a rarely seen female profile image of this "mirror" or "transformation" glyph. Please refer to this article for much more detail about the use of the 'Nen' glyph: https://tinyurl.com/yavfyr9a
One final note: the youthful, fully human male figure (the alter ego image of the avian headed figure in front of him?) sitting behind the bird-headed whay character holds his left hand up in an "acceptance" gesture often seen on complexly painted late Classic vases and other vessels showing human figures presenting or offering gifts.
Provenance: private Florida, USA collection
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Intact! With small surface chips and losses to pigment commensurate with age, but excellent preservation of motifs. Root marks and light areas of encrustation on the interior.