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Pottery plate with deer glyph


Diameter: 20.000 cm

Gift of F. Ducane Godman

AOA 1892.11-9.3

Room 27: Mexico

    Pottery plate with deer glyph

    Late Postclassic period (AD 1200-1521)
    From Cholula, Mexico

    Located in the Puebla-Tlaxcala Valley, in the central Mexican highlands, Cholula is best known for its beautiful polychrome ceramics, and the Great Pyramid, twice the size of the Great Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops) in Egypt and the largest structure ever built in the Americas. Cholula became an important city in Mesoamerica during the Late Postclassic period (AD 1200-1521).

    This polychrome dish was painted with a calendrical sign, a characteristic motif of Cholula ceramics. In this case the glyph is 'Deer', or Mazatl in Nahuatl, a language spoken in Central Mexico and adjacent areas. Mixtec and Aztec pictorial manuscripts (codices) show the twenty day signs that formed the basis of the 260-day calendar (Tonalpohualli) shared by other Mesoamerican cultures. Animals represented in this almanac and painted on pottery include the jaguar, eagle, vulture, serpent, crocodile, lizard, rabbit, monkey and dog. Calendrical dates were also used as personal names.

    Polychrome pottery from Cholula present a wide range of themes, colours and decorative techniques. Other common motifs are geometric designs, such as grecas or stepped-fret motifs (xicalcoliuhqui); elements related to the cult of Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent; representations of human figures and deities, and many other symbols.

    I. Marquina (ed.), Proyecto Cholula, Serie Investigaciones no. 19 (Mexico City, Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, 1970)

    H.B. Nicholson and E. Quiñones Keber (eds.), Mixteca-Puebla: discoveries an (Culver City, California, Labyrinthos Press, 1994)

    C. McEwan, Ancient Mexico in the British (London, The British Museum Press, 1994)


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    On display: Room 27: Mexico

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