Mayan Carved Marble Bowl with Jaguar Handles

SKU PF.6235

500 AD to 900 AD


4.25″ (10.8cm) high





Gallery Location



Felines are among the most potent symbols of Pre-Columbian mythology. Jaguars have long been associated with the ruling elite, as is also true for lions, due to their fierce dominance of the jungle environment. Two jaguar effigies decorate the sides of this carved alabaster vessel, placed near the rim on opposite sides as if they were handles. Fierce and snarling, with clearly defined fangs and squatting postures as if ready to pounce on a passing prey, these beasts are clearly not to be reckoned with. They emit a strength and power revealed both by their curled lips as well as their intense stares. Their rounded eyes gaze outward at us as if to warn us to back away. Decorated by a series of swirling wave-like patterns rendered in low relief, this gorgeous vessel clearly must have played an important role in ceremonial functions relating to the Mayan religion. The skilled execution of the carving, the iconography of the compositions, and the form of the vessel all suggest that it once contained a ceremonial substance integral to the ritual festivities. The interior of the bowl has a reddish hue, suggesting that it may have served as a mortar to grind sacred substances such as cinnabar. Might it have once held a sacred hallucinogenic potion to be drunk by a shaman? Might it have once held the blood of a sacrificial victim to be consumed by the king, in order to gain its life-force? Clearly this vessel was treasured as much by the Mayans in its own time as it is by us now. Today, void of any ceremonial significance, this work is a stunning example of the masterful artistry of the Mayan and their complex religious beliefs.

Login to view price