For several years this collection was several blocks away in Antigua Guatemala. Then it was moved to the Hotel Casa Sto Domingo, which is in some ways easier to access. The collection is of Edgar Castillo Sinibaldi, known to his friends as Cush. Since one of the businesses that he has successfully decoted himself to in the last decade is the bottle glass company of Guatemala, his museum features a unique combination of glass and pre-Columbian ceramics. Each pre-Columbian artifact is paired with a glass work of art that evokes a comparable theme.

Picturesque entrance to the VIGUA archaeology museum within the Hotel Casa Sto Domingo.

In most of the Peten area in northern Guatemala you find primarily art of successive stages of Maya civilization. An occasional Olmec artifact may be found, but these are usually a trade item rather than remains of any Olmec traders or settlers. You get a scattering of Teotihuacan-related themes during the Early Classic, but not many Teotihuacan barrios, or if so, they are clearly an enclave of outsiders within a Maya environment.

Along the entire southern 25% of Guatemala, from Mexico to the west and El Salvador to the east, you find one foreign culture after another. Here you find more than just random Olmec trade items: you get Olmec-related monumental sculpture (Takalik Abaj, for example). So in a collection that features artifacts from the Costa Sur, it is not surprising to find Olmec related art. Indeed in the 1970's there were major finds of pure Olmec style jade when a highway was put through La Blanca.

The same is true of the art of Teotihuacan. The city of Teotihuacan was one of the largest single cities ever built in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. The trade routes of Teotihuacan went throughout Mexico then through Guatemala into both Honduras (Copan) and El Salvador. In later centuries the Pipil, Toltecs, Aztecs, and finally the conquering Spanish passed through the coastal and piedmont zone of Guatemala. Here there are now high mountains to impede passage of traders en route to exploit the sources of bluish jadeite in Costa Rica, or spiney oyster seashells (used as a show of wealth and jeweltry by the Classic Maya).

Tiquisate Escuintla Teotihuacan-style incensarios

Since the Ceiba tree (Ceiba pentandra) is still the national tree of Guatemala, and was a sacred tree of the ancient Maya, whenever ceiba spines are pictured in Classic Maya art it is assumed this is a traditional Classic Maya trait. But it is worth pointing out that the major occurrence of ceiba tree spine effifies are from Early Classic Teotihuacan situations: Lake Amatitlan incensarios and incensario lids from throughout the greater Escuintla area. The only want to document the Mayanization of this motif as “Maya” would be to find spiked incensarios in Preclassic art. Fortunately (for the last decade of studies of this motif) spiked incensarios are clearly pictured in a lower register of stelae of Izapa and elsewhere for these Preclassic centuries. So on those proto-Maya sculptures, the presence of spiked incensarios is clearly in no way related to Teotihuacan influence. Here in the above photograph is a rare example of an Early Classic Tiquisate area Teotihuacan Escuintla rectangular "burial box" (about the size of a small shoebox).

Hourglass base incensarios are common in Lake Amatitlan and throughout the Tiquisate area of Escuintla. The lids for the Lake Amatitlan incensarios tend to be very distinct: few are pure Teotihuacan in style or content. The incensarios from Escuintla tend to be closer to Teotihuacan prototypes back in Mexico. Nonetheless, if you put ten, twenty or fifty Escuintla incensarios in a room, I would be able to tell which were actually made at Teotihuacan and excavated at Teotihuacan and which were of the style found in Guatemala. The Guatemalan versions tend to focus on certain themes; Teotihuacan focused on other themes; Lake Amatitlan concentrated on still other themes (though all together most are clearly inspired by aspects of Teotihuacan culture).

Tiquisate Escuintla Teotihuacan-style temples as incensario lids

One of the Teo-Escuintla style artifacts is a temple structure. I know of about five of these temples, most were either incensario lids or comparable artifacts. Since the background of Dr Hellmuth's family is architecture, it is logical that Nicholas is interested in pre-Columbian architecture (Google HOK Architects and you will see why most Hellmuth's still today are architects).

What is exceptional about the 3D temple in this museum exhibit is the detail of waterlily pad or turtle-carapace theme. Here is a perfect example that some details of an artifact are not apparent until you use professional studio photography illumination. Although there are larger and more complex “theatrical” temple scenes on other Tiquisate Escuintla incensario lids, the one here in Guatemala is very rich in iconographic detail. Again, this is material for a MA, MS thesis, or PhD dissertation.

It is assumed that Teotihuacan influence came via trade routes. Not many books identify the magnitude of Teotihuacan impact on Early Classic culture of the Escuintla area of Guatemala. The sculpture of this standing eagle-warrior stands out as a monument to the military power that came with the merchants from Mexico. The rest of this character is illustrated in the full-color page-size photographs in the full-color FLAAR Report on this museum.

Tiquisate Escuintla Teotihuacanoid “burial boxes”

Rectangular boxes with reclining human figures are more frequent in the Tiquisate area than at Teotihuacan itself. This complex of reclining figurines inside boxes is worthy of a MA thesis and if enough can be found potentially a PhD. dissertation. I do not find these “Maya” whatsoever. I estimate they are all from the same area that produced the incensarios and female figurines that are in varying degrees of Teotihuacan-related style.

Tiquisate Escuintla Teotihuacanoid-style female figures

Female figurines come in all sizes from 10 cm high to 35 cm high. The smaller ones are free-standing figurines; but there are larger ones that were incensario lids. Often they hold a cacao pod in their hand. The Museo de Arte Precolombino y Vidrio Moderno has many fine examples of all sizes.

Classic Mayan vase paintings, bowls, and plates

The museum has a number of Peten style polychrome Maya vases, bowls, and plates, but we have not yet photographed even a fraction of them.

Olmec-period altar of cortionist

On the initial photography session we concentrated on about eight ceramic artifacts and have not yet had time to photography this monumental altar. The altar was originally purchased by Edwin Shook and sold to the collection where it is now situated. This facilitated that this monument did not leave Guatemala.

This unique round altar-like sculpture is a remarkable example of the transition between Olmec art and proto-Maya art. This sculpture was reportedly found by Edwin Shook in a village market.

The altar is in perfect condition.

There are also several other Olmec and Olmecoid scultures and related three-dimensional artifacts in this collection. Mostly come from the Costa Sur. Indeed probably more than half the collection is from the southern third of Guatemala.

Jade jewelry

You can best appreciate the jade jewelry in the attractive album on the museum, or by visiting the museum in person. The guidebook is in full color and available at a reasonable price in the museum.

Animal effigy:

artifacts that are effigies of parrots, macaws, turtles and other animals.

The Museo VICAL has a turtle effigy, several macaw or parrot effigy, and other effigy containers. These we have not yet had time to photograph.

Conch shell musical instruments

Two world-class ceramic sculptures each portray a seated personage blowing on a conch shell. I would rate each of these as comparable to the best examples of pre-Columbian art in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. And the nice thing is that these two 5 th -7 th century sculptures are, fortunately, in Guatemala and available for study.

It is hardly surprising that whatever kinds of individuals brought Teotihuacan influence to Guatemala's Costa Sur that they also came with their religious beliefs. The remainder of this remarkable ceramic work of art will be presented in the special PDF that is being issued as a FLAAR Report. We show here a close-up detail. What is especially interesting is that Classic Maya art also feature a deity-like personage who lives inside a conche shell (God). One difference is that the Maya God L is portrayed as an elderly individual. The Teotihuacanoid person here is not an aged individual.

Catalog of the collection of art and artifacts

The prologue of the catalog is by Dr Marion Popenoe de Hatch, Director, Department of Archaeology, Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, Guatemala City.

This full-color catalog is available in the museum at a fair price.

Museums are important for nations

A museum does a lot more than show a national patrimony: a museum provides jobs and attracts visitors. Plus, museums attract a higher level of visitor. Tourists are nice to have for a national economy, but tourists who appreciate a good museum even more of an asset.

France has long ago realized that museums attract tourists. New York, Chicago, Boston, all use museums to attract visitors to their cities.

Cairo would be another good example of a museum that attracts people, and frankly the several museums in the Vatican, in Rome, are one of many reasons why I would enjoy going back to Rome several times again.

If you are planning a trip to Antigua Guatemala, consider adding the several museums in the Hotel Casa Santo Domingo to your tour itinerary.


Since I had to fly to South Africa to lecture, I had only portions of two days to select which master pieces of this museum to photograph. So I selected primarily works of art of the Tiquisate culture of the greater Escuintla area.

Arte Precolombino y Vidrio Moderno – Arte en barro, piedra y vidrio – Es una muestra comparativa entre una colección arqueológica y una de vidrio moderno en donde se muestran similitudes que existen entre ambas.

Fundado por el grupo VICAL, Grupo Vidriero Centroamericano

El Museo de Arte Precolombino y Vidrio Moderno ante la idea del Sr. Edgar Castillo Sinibaldi inició como un proyecto en 1998 y se inauguro en octubre de 1999 en la Casa Antigua El Jaulón, como el Museo Coleccion 2000, y en el 2003 pasó a formar parte de "El Paseo de los Museos", en el Hotel Casa Santo Domingo.

Las piezas de Vidrio fueron creadas por artistas y Casas de prestigio como Baccarat, Daum, Lalique, Kosta Boda y Mosser y se adquirieron en el mercado internacional, buscando dichas similitudes.

Opening hours

Monday through Saturday from 9.00 a.m. to 18.00p.m. and Sunday from 11a.m. to 18.00 p.m. Rate Q.30.00 for each person (includes all the Paseo de los Museos).

If you are a guest in the hotel show your room key and there is no cost to enter the museum: Paseo de los Museos, Hotel Casa Santo Domingo, Antigua Guatemala. Tel: (502) 7820- 1220.

Contact: Susana Campins, Directora, Museo Vigua de Arte Precolombino y Vidrio Moderno.

The two people on duty that assisted during the photography are Selvin Orlando Sánchez Sicán and Edwin Geovani Ruíz García.


This page prepared during 2009 for publication to open the new year, January 5, 2010.

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