Carved Marble Vase with Feline Handles
About A.D. 800–1000
Honduras, Ulua Valley
Funds from the Exeter Drilling Company, Mr. and Mrs. Morris A. Long, and anonymous donors, 1979.329
Marble vessels with intricate low relief carving and large sculptural handles were produced in a workshop at Travesía, in Honduras’s Ulua Valley. This region, adjacent to Maya territory, was probably occupied by the Lenca people. Their lands were famous for growing especially flavorful cacao, which was widely exported. Ulua stone vessels, made for the Lenca elite, were used and displayed at ceremonies and feasts were cacao was likely served. These prestigious vessels were also exported: they have been discovered in graves and caches at sites in Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.
This large and extremely ornate vessel has frontal human faces flanked by reptilian profiles; both incorporate scrolls typical of the Ulua carving style. The handles take the form of crouching felines with reptile heads in the center of their bodies. The imagery probably expressed mythical or cosmological information, but specific meanings are unknown.