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The god K’awiil

From the 16th century up until the middle of the 20th century, Western countries conquered large parts of the world. In that time, numerous ‘exotic’ objects were transported to the West: sometimes they were exchanged for something else, bought or gifted, but often they were stolen. Most objects ended up in private collections or museums, without any information about their original contexts. In order to reconstruct exactly how these ancient Egyptians’ and Mayans’ burial goods were used, archaeologists and art historians study their inscriptions and styles. They then compare those to grave goods whose context we are familiar with.
  • Date: ca. 500-700
  • Location: Cobán, Alta Verapaz, Guatamala
  • Found in: site Finca Chich’en, Guatamala
  • Collection: Etnography
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This pot was a funerary offering. It was offered in the grave as a sign of veneration of the ancestors.

Who were the Maya?

The Maya culture was a pre-Columbian society. Mayan territory covered southern Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and western El Salvador and Honduras, and was divided into small, independent city states.  Today there are still eight million Maya living on their ancestral land, where they perpetuate the traditions of the pre-Columbian age.

Where was this pot found?

This pot was excavated from a stone sarcophagus in a grave monument.

What did the pot contain?

The pot was empty at the time of acquisition. The contents were probably reinterred at the site.

What was this pot used for?

This pot was a funerary offering. It was offered in the grave as a sign of veneration of the ancestors.

What is special about this pot?

The lid of the pot represents a version of the deity K’awiil. His characteristics are the mirror on his forehead with an ear of maize on it, large, round eyes and striking neck and ear ornaments. K’awiil is the protector of the ruler’s house and was associated with abundance and fertility. It is not possible to translate the hieroglyphic text on the pot.

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