Mesoamerican Ceramic Vessels
Researched by Caitlin Baker, Charles Andrew Corbett, and Logan Williams
As with Mesoamerican figurines, ceramic vessels were in production among Mesoamerican cultures by 2500 B.C.E. The making of ceramic vessels has continued to flourish through contemporary times, both as a craft for making utilitarian wares and as an artform for making elaborate, artistic vessels and sculptures. Traditional Mesoamerican ceramics were made using coil, slab, and pinch techniques and were fired in outdoor fire pits. Later, when the potter’s wheel, kilns, and glazes were introduced, these were embraced for the making of European-style ceramics such as Talavera pottery. People of Mesoamerican heritage continue to make traditional ceramics using traditional methods, however, and all together, ceramics continue to develop as a vibrant artform throughout Mexico and Central America.
Maya thin orangeware vessels are made of a very smooth clay that could be formed with thin walls, a polished surface, and fine decoration. The properties of this medium also made the vessels very delicate and fragile, however; many did not survive the firing process, and those that did were treasured and used selectively. The vessel in this exhibit has thin, flaring walls with an incised decoration of double diagonal lines and undulating lines that encircle the base. This bowl is also a tripod, with three rounded feet holding up the vessel. The addition of the tripod feet illustrates the influence of Teotihuacan on the Maya, as this great Classic period city of the Valley of Mexico was where the tripod vessel originated, and the Maya adopted this form of vessel during the Classic and Post-Classic period. Researched by Charles Andrew Corbett and Caitlin Baker
This Huastec figural vessel is formed as a bottle with two rounded handles on the back, meant to be threaded with a carrying and hanging strap, and the vessel likely held liquid offerings in a burial. The neck of the vessel is modeled with protruding eyes and a beak with nostrils showing on the top; the ears on the sides have holes for adding separate earrings. The vessel was originally painted with a cream-colored slip and painted with black line designs; on the belly of the vessel is a star-like design that represents a horizontally cut section of a conch shell. This design is a symbol of Ehécatl Quetzalcoatl, a Mesoamerican god of wind; the Huastec adopted the worship of this deity from the Aztec. Researched by Caitlin Baker
Talavera pottery developed in and around the town of Puebla in the 16th century using the fine clays of that region along with imported Spanish pigments and glazes. This is a type of majolica pottery that combines Spanish and indigenous techniques to make bright polychrome designs, often with Mexican imagery but in a Spanish style. The vase and the ashtray in this exhibit both have floral designs, and the ashtray additionally incorporates a large bird in the center. Researched by Caitlin Baker