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HOME : Pre-Columbian Art : Mayan Cylindrical Vases : Mayan Molded Cylindrical Vessel
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Mayan Molded Cylindrical Vessel - PF.6278
Origin: El Salvador
Circa: 300 AD to 900 AD
Dimensions: 6.5" (16.5cm) high
Collection: Pre-Columbian
Medium: Terracotta

Location: United States
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The scene that wraps around the side of this cylinder vessel is difficult to interpret. Long ago, while the clay of this vessel was still wet, the work was rolled across a mold, producing the low-relief sculptural decoration. The scene consists of two Mayan men, hunched over, interacting with a giant mythological beast that appears to have the attributes of several animals including the hooves and body of a deer and the face of a serpent. In addition, other smaller snakes are visible. One is reminded of the Hydra of Greek mythology that possessed the body of a dog with seven serpent heads. While this composite creature is fascinating in itself, even more perplexing is attempting to uncover what is the relation between this two men and the beast. They do not appear to be attacking the beast, no arms or armament are visible. Likewise, the creature does not appear aggressive or frightened by their appearance. Instead, they almost appear to be luring the beast. One even seems to be reaching towards it from behind, perhaps even petting it. Might it be possible that these brave men are attempting to capture this creature? Might this vessel depict one of the labors of a team of two ancient Mayan Hercules? Unfortunately, since so little written records of the Maya have survived, so much of their undoubtedly rich mythology and fables have been lost to us. This vessel, more than a sacred container utilized in the ritual consumption of a chocolate based drink, more than a gorgeous work of art, more than a historical artifact from a lost civilization, this vessel is a window into the minds and mythology of the Maya, like a frame from a movie or a comic book. - (PF.6278)


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