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Rare Mayan Poison Bottle with God K and God L

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Directory: Antiques: Regional Art: Americas: Pre Columbian: Pottery: Pre AD 1000: Item # 1107318

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Rare Mayan Poison Bottle with God K and God L
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This rare Mayan ceramic is a small bottle known as a "poison bottle". This piece dates circa 600-900 A.D., and is approximately 3.9 inches high by 1.75 inches wide. This exceptional piece is larger than most examples, and is intact, with no repair and/or restoration. This piece was used by the Maya as a container that was used to contain precious contents such as red cinnabar, which was the most common product that this type of vessel contained. Red cinnabar was widely traded in the ancient Mayan world, and was used in religious Mayan ceremonies, tombs, ceramics, and jewelry. Red cinnabar is a known preservative of organic matter, which made red cinnabar sacred to the Maya due to it's preservation properties, and this was important relative to the Mayan concept of eternal life. Red cinnaber is extremely toxic in concentrated quantities, as it is mercury based (HgS), and this is why this type of vessel is known as a "poison bottle". This piece also has no noticable traces of red cinnabar on the inside surfaces. This superb vessel has a mold pressed scene of the Mayan gods K and L facing one another, and each rounded side of this vessel has a mold pressed double-banded Mayan glyph band. The double-banded Mayan glyph bands, seen on each rounded side of this vessel, are identical, as they were mold pressed from the same molds. The mold pressed scene of both Mayan gods, seen on both flat Sides A and B, is identical as well. Side A is slightly more clearer than Side B, as the same mold was used to press each side; and this mold filled with some loose material from pressing Side A, which subsequently produced an image on Side B that was not as sharp. This is the case with most of these Mayan molded bottles, and this slight loss of detail is also an excellent mark of authenticity. God K, seen standing to the left facing God L, has a snake foot seen behind, and a smoking scroll that is seen emerging from his forehead. God K is a major Mayan deity, who personified royal power and was a protector of royal lineages. God L, seen standing on the right facing God K, has a wide-brimmed hat with a Moan bird, and a jaguar-hide cloak with indented spots. God L is also one of the principle Mayan gods that presided over the underworld. This scene with both "standing gods" is rare, compared to the numerous examples of "poison bottles" of this type that show both gods seated. In addition, the piece offered here has a "world tree" design between both figures, in contrast to the "seated gods" type, which has a "glyph band" between both figures. (See attached photo showing an example of the "seated gods" type. The "seated gods" example seen here is a drawing of a "poison bottle" that is seen in "The Smoking Gods", by Francis Robicsek, University of Oklahoma Press, 1972, p.187, Figure 210.) The "standing gods" type offered here, also shows God K without an extended nose and smoke scrolls, but rather shows his face as a mortal as is portrayed in Mayan art. This may indicate that the standing individual portrayed on this vessel, may in fact portray a royal personage as God K, and this may also explain the "world tree" that is seen between both individuals. It is thought that the royal kings of Palenque, in additional to other Mayan cities, tied themselves to the gods as much as possible, and in the case of Palenque this is especially true regarding God K. According to Robicsek (See the reference noted above pp. 74-75): "As has been mentioned, the possibility that these personages represent God K in human guise cannot be completely excluded because the Mayan gods were polymorphous-able not only to assume the aspects of the animals or plants they represented but also to metamorphosize into human forms. When, however, we consider the very important written historical data on these monuments, it is more probable that they represented rulers who accorded themselves these divine features and claimed to be either the deity himself or his descendants." This intact piece also has several minute dark black deposits, some faint red cinnabar deposits down in the low relief sections, and there is some attractive dark brown kiln burnishing seen on the upper opening, Side B, and on the bottom surfaces. This burnishing was primarily a result from not enough heat/oxygen in the kiln when the piece was fired, and kiln burnishing is very common relative to Mayan light brown/tan ceramics of this type. This piece is a rare type, as it is a very large example, and is a "standing gods" type that is seldom seen on the market. In addition, this piece has a double-banded "glyph band" on each side, and usually, one sees the single "glyph band" on each side, or no "glyph band" at all. Ex: Lands Beyond Gallery, New York. (Circa 1980's, inventory no. D


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