MAYA CEREMONIAL VASE_ULUA VALLEY, HONDURAS
Ceremonial mortar in marble, finely embellished with engravings similar to spirals and with figures representing two jaguars. It was used by a restricted ecclesiastical elite, the most important priests, during the prestigious maya ceremonies of religious rites which took place at the top of the impressive temples. The proposed vase is a wonderful specimen of approximately 200 known (of which about 180 are now exhibited at the most important museums of the world)_dating back to 800-1000 a.d._ 18 x26cm,Ø20cm_provenance:reinhard kristermann collection,newyork_references: Pennsylvania museum (Philadelphia), Museum of fine arts (Houston), Cleveland museum (Ohio), Museo nacional de antropologia (Mexico city).
The main engraving, contained inside two opposite rings representing the snake, is formed by geometrical patterns and surrounds the two images of the Kukulkan25 God. Marks inside the vase show evidence of use presumably by priests during the ceremonies. The jaguar is used symbolically on the handles, so that the priest could be directly in contact with the totem and protector animal. The two Kukulkan’s images (in which is clearly visible his forked tongue, evident reference to the nature of the Snake God with feathers) are set in such a way that one is looking towards the rising sun and the other is looking at the priest celebrating the rite. This particular setting symptomatically reveals the main qualities of the civilizing Divinity, associated with the cycles of time, light, renewal and resurrection. Among the products that appear to have been in high demand were elab-orate and intricately carved vessels made of white marble and crafted by skilled artisans in the Ulúa Valley during the first millennium A.D. These containers, representing both cylinders and drums, were decorated with sculpted scrolls or volutes that wrap around the exterior and frame zoomorphic or anthropomorphic figures emerging from opposite sides of the vase to form lugs or handles. The entire scene is often framed by a border of repeating geometric designs, including scales, voussures (repeat-inghalf-moon shapes), interlocking keys, and circles. The number of vases of which we know the existence (about 200) and the lapse of time of 200 years when they were created, would suggest a micro skilled tradition, rooted in the lower Ulua Valley during a period of three, four generations. It has been estimated that a master sculptor with 3 or 4 assistants could have produced not more than 50/60 vases during his whole lifetime. Though the Ulua Valley peoples had a considerable intellectual and governmental independence, they had deep contacts with their neighbours Maya.
LITERATURE: Christina Luke, Ulúa-Style Marble Vase Project: Dissemination of Results, FAMSI, 2003; Carolyn D. Dillian,Car-olyn L. White, Trade and Exchange: Archaeological Studies from History and Prehistory; Freidel, David A.; Linda Schele; Joy Parker. Maya Cosmos: Three Thousand Years on the Shaman’s Path, New York: William Morrow & Co, 1993; Read, Kay Almere; Jason González, Handbook of Mesoamerican Mythology, Oxford: ABC-CLIO, 2000; Geneviève Le Fort, Elizabeth P.Benson,HughesDubois,MastersoftheAmericas:inpraiseofthepre-Columbianartists:theDoraandPaulJanssencol- lection, Mercatorfonds, 2005.