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The Fenton Vase

The Fenton Vase


Diameter: 17.200 cm

Fenton Collection
Purchased with the assistance of the National Art Collections Fund

AOA 1930-1

Enlightenment: Ancient scripts

    The Fenton Vase

    Maya, Late Classic period (AD 600-800)
    From Nebaj, Guatemala

    Polychrome ceramic vessels were a symbol of status and power for the Maya. They were used by the élite and are found as offerings in rich burials. A large number of beautiful polychrome vases, bowls and dishes from the Late Classic period have been recovered from the Maya area, at sites such as Tikal, Holmul and Seibal in the lowlands, and Nebaj in the highlands.

    The vessels provide an important source of information about Maya society in the Classic period, with text and image illustrating historical and mythological events. The scenes depict scribes, merchants, rulers and other members of society.

    This beautiful example was found at Nebaj, a Maya site in the highlands of Guatemala. The most common themes on Nebaj style polychrome vessels are tribute and warfare. The scene here represents the delivery of tribute to a seated lord. Above the basket presented to him are a series of six hieroglyphs which indicate his name and titles, while the other glyph panels correspond to those of the four figures in the scene. Their jewellery, clothing and spangled turbans adorned with flowers suggest that they are members of the élite.

    K. Sloan (ed.), Enlightenment. Discovering the (London, The British Museum Press, 2003)

    M. Coe, Breaking the Maya code (London, Thames & Hudson, 1992)

    L. Schele and M.E. Miller, The blood of kings (London, Thames & Hudson, 1986)

    R. Sharer, Daily life in Maya civilizatio (London, Greenwood Press, 1996)

    D.R. Budet, Painting the Maya universe: ro (Durham, London, Duke University Press in association with Duke University Museum of Art, 1994)

    M. Coe and J. Kerr, The art of the Maya scribe (London, Thames & Hudson, 1997)


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    On display: Enlightenment: Ancient scripts

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    Guatemalan textiles , £5.00

    Guatemalan textiles , £5.00