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Large Maya Polychrome Platter - Bee Design

Pre-Columbian, Mayan Territories, ca. 600 to 900 CE. A large, shallow platter with a beautifully painted interior and an unpainted exterior. A thick stripe of glossy, dark orange pigment rings the rim; below that, delineated by two thick black lines, is a glossy bright orange center with a large zoomorphic design on the tondo. A long stinger and round, insectoid face, coupled with a black-striped thorax, all suggest that this is a honey bee. Size: 11.8" W x 2.5" H (30 cm x 6.4 cm)

The Maya kept bees in order to produce honey, which was used not only as a sweetener, but also to produce fermented drinks like the mildly alcoholic balche and the stronger, anise-flavored Xtabentun. The latter was used as an enema to produce a trance-like shamanic or religious state. Perhaps for this reason, bees in glyphs seem to be associated with Xbalanque, one of the Hero Twins, and possibly also with Death God A. On a platter like this one, its inclusion may suggest a ritual use - a vessel for holding offerings - or may just have belonged to someone involved in beekeeping.

Condition: Small repair, probably a filled probe hole, most visible from underside; possible in-painting over that area on interior. Surface wear as shown.

Provenance: Ex-Harvey Collection, acquired prior to 1972

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