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Mayan Peten Polychrome Cylinder, ex-Sotheby's

Pre-Columbian, Mayan Territories, Peten Basin, Late Classic Period, ca. 550 to 900 CE. A ritual ceramic vessel with wonderful decoration. The overall surface is painted in shades of orange and black with geometric motifs and stylized "mat" symbols, encircled with a Primary Standard Sequence (PSS) band of glyphs below the red-painted rim. Size: 5.05" W x 6.8" H (12.8 cm x 17.3 cm)

This beautiful cylinder has all the hallmarks of a "codex style" vessel. The glyphs and iconography were hand drawn by a skilled artisan in a fine-line painting technique using a monochrome red slip that would have been made from clay mixed with plant-based compounds and possibly some iron oxide. Mayan scribes seem to have wanted to mark the ownership of valued things, and that is what registers of glyphs often give the owner's name and/or describe the item. Below the band of glyphs is a repeated, stylized "mat" symbol. Mat houses, called Popol Nah, were places where councils of nobles met. They often had their exteriors were marked with "mat" symbols like this vessel - see, for example, the fa

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