Ah Maxam (active mid-/late eighth century)
Late Classic Maya
Vicinity of Naranjo, Petén region, Guatemala
Water-Lily Vase
750/800

Ceramic and pigment
24 x 15 cm (9.5 x 6 in.)
Ethel T. Scarborough Fund, 1986.1080

The Maya left behind a rich pictorial legacy in their painted ceramics. Vessels recovered from the Maya classic period often have funerary associations that offer insights into the Mayan concept of death as well as the culture’s belief in heroes and gods of the underworld. In this simply designed vase, a pattern of stylized water lilies runs at a diagonal and two bands of hieroglyphs are inscribed horizontally along the rim and base. In Mayan cosmology, lakes and ponds were viewed as entrances to Xibalbá, the underworld land of honored ancestors. Water lilies growing in cenotes, raised fields, and canals were associated with the spirits of the dead.

The inscription at the base of this vase identifies the artist as nobleman Lord Flint Face, the son of the rulers of Naranjo, an important site located in the jungles near the Belize/Guatemala border.