Bat sculpture from Izabal or Alta Verapaz


Bat sculpture Batz Isabal o Alta Verapaz Guillermo Mata

Bat Sculpture, From Isabal or Alta Verapaz. Taken by Guillermo Mata, July 1966

I thank Dr Guillermo Mata for providing these helpful snapshots. I do not know the origin of this sculpture, nor where it is today. But the presence of these images is very helpful.

Keep in mind that the Chama region is not exactly right next door to either Izabal or Alta Verapaz. But I would expect to find more actual giant False Vampires throughout Alta Verapaz and Izabal since these departamentos (and El  Peten) are where you find giant Ceiba pentandra trees with hollow cores (you also get lots more of these immense Ceiba pentandra trees with “cave doors” throughout the Costa Sur, far to the south of traditional Classic Maya areas.


Bat on Codex Style vase, VIGUA Museum

VIGUA Museum 238 Codex styler vase anthropomorphic bat electronic rollout copyright FLAAR
Mayan Codex vase Rollout, VIGUA Museum

What is nice about this particular Codex Style vase is that it may be in full original authentic condition. Most Codex Style vases were looted, smuggled to USA, and slyly repainted. The repainting was cleverly done under the pseudo guise of “restoration.”

But in reality the repainting of many of the looted vases was simply to pump up their selling price. So the repainting was to dupe the purchaser (the real reason was to dupe the appraiser, so when donated to a guillable museum the vase could be pumped up in an unrealistic value).

In many cases the “restoration” or “repainting” could be considered a form of forgery (especially if the intent was to raise the appraised “value”). So a tad of fakery, a tad of forgery, and a tad of potential fraud if there was too much “repainting.”

There was even a period when pottery from Maya sites, excavated with permits, were “over-restored” by the actual archaeological project. Fortunately such awful repainting by licensed archaeology projects (which damages the authentic original) is rare today. But repainting looted vases probably still continues.

This Codex Style VIGUA vase 238 was photographed with a BetterLight rollout camera in the museum in Antigua more years ago than I can remember. This vase is preserved in Guatemala. The advantage of the rollouts by FLAAR is that the digital rollout system we use does not distort the image.


Bats on polychrome Maya pottery

Most Codex Style vase paintings are black or brown on off-white background (so not really “poly”chrome). But you can also find renditions of bats on normal polychrome paintings. Codex Style vases tend to have been found in far northern Peten and adjacent southern Campeche.  Traditional polychrome paintings tend to be found throughout the rest of El Peten and adjacent Belize. Since many vases were traded in ancient times you can also find polychrome “Peten” vases, bowls, and plates in Copan to the southeast or Campeche and Yucatan or Quintana Roo to the north.

So “Peten” style does not mean a vase or plate was found in Guatemala.


Tepeu (Late Classic) Maya polychrome ceramic plate, Bat polychrome drawing  by Barbara Van Heusen, Copyright FLAAR Mesoamerica
Here is a Tepeu (Late Classic) Maya polychrome ceramic plate, drawn for FLAAR by Barbara Van Heusen so many decades ago I can’t remember the date. This plate was in original condition, not restored.
Copyright Flaar Mesoamerica


Bats in Maya art, hieroglyphis, and myths would be a good dissertation topic

A  PhD dissertation topic of bats would allow a student to learn about

  • Epigraphy (Mayan hieroglyphic writing)
  • Mayan languages (the word for bat in each language)
  • Mayan ethnography (myths and local beliefs about bats)
  • Ethnozoology (learn about habits of actual bats)
  • Archaeology (bats on vases, bowls, plates, figurines, sculptures)
  • Iconography (how to recognize bats in art, and what is the meaning of the associated symbols)
  • Cross-cultural sharing and differences (bats in various areas of Mesoamerica

“Maya civilization” is more than just sherds and artifacts. The Classic Maya were real actual people; millions of them. They had stories about their vampire bats equally as interesting as tele-novelas about vampire friends today.

Pre-columbian stone Statue of Camazotz - the Mayan 'Deathbat' God, Copan killer bat false vampire
Copan Killer Bat sculpture, Camozotz, Copyright Flaar Mesoamerica



First posted July 2014

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