THE MAYA PORTRAYED the visible cosmos and the otherworld in myriad ways. Serpents and alligators became the tangible entities that could inhabit the otherworld and encircle the earth or the heavens. The Maya artist who created this bowl used a spiral design to depict universe as an ever-changing conflict between light and dark, day and night, this world and the otherworld.

The carved areas of the bowl are carefully composed of abstract sections of otherworld creatures combined with celestial signs. These are integrated into the flow of the great cosmic saurian/serpent that is seen as the Milky way.

Carved bowl with swirl patterns. Guatemalan Lowlands. Early classic Maya. AD 200–500. Burnished black brown ceramic. Kislak Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress

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Carved bowl with swirl patterns
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