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World Views: Maya Ceramics from the Palmer Collection and Images for Eternity: West Mexican Tomb Figures

September 13, 2003–January 4, 2004

The ceramics show views of a variety of worlds important to the Maya. On some vessels are the gods, monsters and heroes of Xibalba, the Underworld. On others are palace scenes with rulers and their attendants.

Some show aspects of the cosmos so integral to the cyclical Maya universe. Plants and animals from the world of nature appear on a final class of ceramics.

Maya artists produced renderings of types of animals, which were significant to the members of society as food, pets or pests. It is difficult to determine if animals depicted on ceramic vessels are parts of purely naturalistic scenes, are related to stories whose texts have not survived from the Classic period or are supernatural creatures. Some of these animals probably represent counterparts of humans, or wayob. Among the present-day Tzotzil Maya of Chiapas it is believed that every individual has an animal counterpart that must be protected from harm in order to stay alive.

Images for Eternity: West Mexican Tomb Figures

Ancient ceramic shaft-tomb figures from the West Mexican states of Nayarit, Jalisco, Colima, and Michoacán are around you. Their use as decor, props, investments, or art objects belies their antiquity and importance for understanding the lifeways of peoples long gone. These highly visible artifacts have lost their original context. Context is the environment determining an object’s meaning for the people who made and used it. Recently, archaeologists and art historians have been making progress in understanding the cultures of ancient West Mexico, putting tomb figures back into con


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