Effigy Drum Vessel with Hieroglyphic Inscription

Effigy Drum Vessel with Hieroglyphic Inscription

600–800 CE
Petén El Zotz
Slip-painted ceramic
Gift of Dr. M. Larry and Nancy B. Ottis

Unknown Maya artist, Vicinity of El Zotz Petén region, Southern Lowlands, Guatemala. Effigy Drum Vessel with Hieroglyphic Inscription,  600–800 CE. Slip-painted ceramic, 4 ⅞ x 4 ⅝ inches. Denver Art Museum Collection: Gift of Dr. M. Larry and Nancy B. Ottis, 1997.351.

This object is currently on view
height: 4.875 in, 12.3825 cm; diameter: 4.625 in, 11.7475 cm
Mayer Center, Art of the Ancient Americas
Art of the Ancient Americas

Effigy Drum Vessel with Hieroglyphic Inscription
About A.D. 600-800
Guatemala, Petén, El Zotz region
Earthenware with colored slips.
Gift of Dr. M. Larry and Nancy B. Ottis; 1997.351

Topped with a pattern representing jaguar skin, this vessel is painted as an effigy drum. The two holes in its rim are the remains of an ancient repair. When treasured vessels broke, they were sometimes fixed in this manner. One hole was drilled in the broken fragment and a parallel hole drilled into the body of the vessel. The fragment was held in place by some form of adhesive, and cordage was looped through the two holes to bind the two pieces more firmly together.

The extensive hieroglyphic text that encircles the body of the vessel is unusually repetitive. One glyph, the word "U" (a possessive pronoun) for instance, is repeated twice in a row, spelled each time with a different logographic variant. The end of the text is simply the glyph for the number 8, read "Waxak," which may refer to the title of the unnamed owner of the vessel or to some other unspecified subject. The passage reads: "Ay ? yich u u tz’ihbil u jaay waxak." One can roughly translate this into English as “It is (_verbed_) its surface, its painting/writing, of his vessel 8.” The somewhat unusual nature of this written passage, particularly the repeated "U" and its rather abrupt ending, may be the result of a scribe unfamiliar with hieroglyphs. In general, though, highly self-referential texts like this one are common in the ancient Maya world, where standard texts on painted ceramics generally focus on describing the vessel itself, the scribe who painted it, and/or the person who owned it.

For a vessel with a very similar inscription, see 1996.3.

-Lucia R. Henderson (hieroglyphic reading in consultation with David Stuart)

Known Provenance
Gifted 16 December 1997 by Dr. M. Larry and Nancy B. Ottis to the Denver Art Museum. Provenance research is on-going at the Denver Art Museum. Please e-mail provenance@denverartmuseum.org, if you have questions, or if you have additional information to share with us.