Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2015


Imagine something as simple as your favorite coffee cup, that unassuming object can tell a story about who you. An old, small bowl can also tell a story but about the artists and people of Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. The ancient Maya often placed offerings in the tombs of the dead as a way of providing for the deceased in the afterlife. One of the most common offerings was a ceramic vessel that contained special food or drinks. To better understand Classic period non-royal Maya ceramic vessels, this paper addresses a small clay-bowl (Vessel 19) in the off exhibit collection of the San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA) Pre-Columbian Collection acquired in 1972 as part of a 19-piece assemblage (Accession #72.42.109[19]) (Fig. 1). The accession sheet provided by the museum states that the piece is a hand-built, black ceramic bowl that stands five inches tall with a diameter of 6 inches, and dates to between A.D. 600 to 700 (2015 File). Although, the piece was acquired without official provenience, SAMA suggests that the piece could be from anywhere in the Maya Region of Alta Verapaz to the Guatemalan Valley, which I do not dispute. Vessel 19 is an example of a Classic Maya vessel from the Guatemalan highlands, but it does not correspond to most examples of Maya ritual vessels from this region. As a monochrome slipped vessel, it can offer more insight into an area of Maya ceramics overlooked in favor of more elite objects.


Winner of a $100 prize

Course: ANTH 3335-1 Pre-Columbian Art -- Mesoamerica