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HOME : Pre-Columbian Art : Mayan Bowls, Plates and Vessels : Mayan Terracotta Bowl
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Mayan Terracotta Bowl - PF.2522
Origin: Guatemala
Circa: 500 AD to 1000 AD
Dimensions: 3.5" (8.9cm) high
Collection: Pre-Columbian
Medium: Terracotta

Location: United States
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On this graceful and fascinating bowl we see an extraordinary creature (a zoomorph) running along the inner panel. In Maya cosmology, zoomorphs were regarded as 'actors' who were able to affect the natural world, while existing in a non-physical realm. What actor means is an entity with an individual personality who has enough power to influence material objects, for good or evil, and must be treated with care and caution; somewhat like Shakespeare’s Puck in "A Midsummer's Night's Dream." The zoomorphs are usually composites of different animals, which move and behave like human beings. They participate in human activities including acting as scribes or playing musical instruments. This charming fellow in dark reddish- brown is both bird and alligator, combined in a way that is very much like a dinosaur. It alternates, as if in a sort of game, with large solid circles in deep red. We may be seeing here an abstract depiction of the real (middle) world represented by the sun, and the participation of an unearthly creature who can effect people's lives, but must do so fleetingly, before returning to its own realm. In this sense a simple bowl, (whether it was intended for ritual or domestic use), takes on a new dimension, seen at a glance, and instantly understood by a people who believed the physical and non-physical worlds existed close together, separated by only a thin barrier. - (PF.2522)


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