The PSS sequence on this vase is typical of a large series of vessels in private collections and museums. These vases are of one of dozens of styles that are common throughout central Peten and adjacent areas. This particular vase features two cut-away views of an enigmatic flower.

Polychrome Mayan vase, Late Classic Peten, with PSS sequence of hieroglyphs around the top and several stylized flowers as decoration. The complete rollout will be published in an upcoming FLAAR Report.

Vase of “Catfish series”

Uaxactun has produced quite a few vases that picture catfish against a red background (of a very consistant hue of red). Other examples are in collections around the world. These all appear to be in Central Peten style. Although most show two catfish, some show other iconographic features, such as the one here. Often snail-like shells are shown (but with no God N associations). In the Popol Vuh, the Hero Twins, Hunahpu and Xbalanque reappear after death as human-like fish. In some editions this is translated as catfish. However the particular fish on the Peten catfish series show no features yet recognized as indicating the Hero Twins or any anthropomorphic features. But since there are hundreds of fish that an artist could show, the fact they almost always show a catfish like creature is suggestive. In scenes with waterlilies, however, it is fish other than waterlilies. Catfish tend to be bottom feeders.

Feline spots (jaguar, ocelot, margay iconography)

This vase is one of the best representations of feline spots in the repetoiry of Late Classic (Tepeu 2) Maya ceramics. I have been working on feline spot patterns for over a decade. I estimate these spots are not entirely from a jaguar but are more likely featuring aspects of other felines such as ocelot and/or margay.

Tepeu 3 Mayan ceramics

Pabellon-modeled carved is the usual designation. Ceramic specialists will sub-divide this classification based on a host of factors. These were mold-impressed and some details subsequently carved. The fact they are moldmade means that many examples are known of the same scene.

Pabellon-modeled carved vases and bowls are Tepeu 3 in date, Terminal Classic. They are found at Seibal (Ceibal), Tikal, Uaxactun, Belize and at many other sites.

The iconography and hieroglphs are of interest: glyphs sometimes are framed with a square cartouche (but regular Mayoid glyphs are also found). Subject matter is often Classical Maya but may also be unique to this Tepeu 3 genre.

Motagua River area or Escuintla area mold-impressed scene

A recent thesis and several articles by archaeologists have discussed these deer-scenes. There are perhaps a half-dozen of comparable vases that you could find around the world: all probably from Guatemala. The style is very regionally specific and quite distinct from styles of Peten or Honduras or Mexico (though these vases were evidently widely traded in pre-Columbian times).

Tiquisate Escuintla female figures

You could probably find two or three hundred, or maybe twice that quantity, of female figures of all sizes and diverse shapes. There are more than enough for a PhD dissertation, especially since many have been published earlier by archaeologists. Noteworthy are the tattoo-like decorations on their shoulders.

Larger versions of females with comparable accoutrements are found as incense burner lids.

Between the late 1960's and the 1980's probably several hundred fired clay figurines were ransacked from archaeological sites from Retauhuleu eastward past Tiquisate. A few were published earlier by various scholars but they knew only about 1% compared to the mass of material that is available today. The issues, in addition to the destruction of the mounds by bulldozers, tractors, and looters, is how to classify and catalog this immense corpus.

Close-up of a female figurine, Tiquisate Escuintla area, circa 450-700 AD.

Tiquisate Escuintla Teotihuacan-related incense burner lids

Incensario lids are found all over the Tiquisate and adjacent regions of Guatemala. There is no archaeological field report that yet comes close to understanding the extensive area from which these incensario lids are known to have been derived.

The headdress is an excellent example of a butterfly proboscis and two antennae.

These objects have a chimney inside and were used as lids for incense burners. The bases were hourglass shaped.

This speciment is relatively authentic. The presence of two earrings is a known trait and is fully correct. Too many other incensarios have faked accessories added by greedy grave robbers and art dealers.

Close-up of Tiquisate Escuintla Teotihuacan style incense burner lid. The camera produces a 61 MB image, so every detail can be studied. FLAAR uses the best quality professional studio lighting to help bring out the detail. Because of this experience, FLAAR was selected as the consultant and training for the Malta cultural heritage institute, University of Malta. We trained their entire staff in advanced digital photography. FLAAR is available to provide training as well as individual lectures about archaeological photography.

Repairs, repainting, and issues with forgeries

Probably over 50% of the museums and private collections of the world have some fakes. Probably over 80% of the museums and private collections of Maya pottery have repainted pieces. “repainting” is an attempt to claim that it is authentic restoration, but in most cases repainting is a sleazy attempt to pump up the price and earn more profit. Sadly there was even a period of a few years when archaeological objects from licensed field projects in Guatemala were repainted under the guise of restoration.

Restoration is understandable and implies preserving the artifact in its original condition.

Repainting is in most cases is more than unacceptable; repainting in many cases changes an ancient artifact into a modern parody.

A repainted piece is a modern work of art; it is not ancient, is not Maya, and is not authentic. I estimate that more than 75% of the repainting on Maya vases, plates, and bowls is either inaccurate or is so obviously modern that it obliterates the inherent natural beauty of the original 4 th -9 th century Maya craftsman. Gradually scholars may face reality to learn that many of the learned studies of both hieroglyphic inscriptions and iconography of vases, bowls and plates during the last 30 years were actually done on modern pastiches.

Thus it is nice to report that the majority of the art exhibited in this collection is not only authentic, but restoration in most cases is professional done. After all, restoration is needed to protect the cracks and hold the piece together. I would need to do a study of each piece to ascertain the degree of repainting, but in general this collection is better than many others that I have seen elsewhere.

Nice Exhibit of Fundacion La Ruta Maya

In the same room is a splendid display of repatriated Mayan ceramic art (vases, bowls, and plates) from the Fundacion La Ruta Maya. Their goal is to bring back to Guatemala, and to preserve within Guatemala, portions of the national patrimony which were looted in past years and left the country. Let us also hope that such an exhibit reminds us that it would be better if there were no looting to begin with.

A museum associated with a hotel is a clever combination

Hotels provide significant employment throughout Guatemala, Mexico, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador and Costa Rica (the countries which we call pre-Columbian Mesoamerica). Museums in these same countries are major attractions as well, the best example being the Museo Nacional de Antropologia in Mexico. The Museo de Escultura in Copan is another example of how the archaeological findings can be displayed in a world-class display. I would also commend


We appreciate the hospitaly of the experienced Director, Ana Claudia de Suasnávar.

Entrance to the Museum of Archaeology within the Hotel Casa Sto Domingo.

Horario de Apertura

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.

The archaeological sample seen in the Archaeological Museum, Hotel Casa Santo Domingo is comprised of a complete collection of over 50 ceramic and stone objects, such as female figurines, vases, plates, bowls, urns, funeral homes, censers, axes, and yokes ceremonial mostly correspond to the Classic Period (200-900 AD), period of the Mayan Culture. In addition, a collection of colonial pottery jars that probably used to store grain or liquid that was found at the site during the archaeological research.


This page prepared during 2009 for publication to open the new year, posted January 6, 2009.

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