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Fenton vase
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Coloured ceramic vessels such as this 'vase' were a symbol of status and power for the Maya of Mesoamerica. They were used by the elite and are found as offerings in rich burials. The vessels are often decorated with text and images illustrating historical and mythological events, making them an important source of information about Maya society in the Classic period (200 BC-AD 900). The scenes depict scribes, merchants, rulers and other members of society.

This beautiful example was found at a Maya site in the highlands of Guatemala. The painted scene represents the delivery of tribute to a seated lord. Above the basket being 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 other figures in the scene. Their jewellery, clothing and spangled turbans adorned with flowers suggest that they are members of the elite.

Fenton vase

Maya, from Nebaj, Guatemala, Late Classic period (AD 600-800) D. 17.2 cm Fenton Collection
Purchased with the assistance of the Art Fund

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