GUATEMALAN LOWLANDS. Late Classic Maya, AD 600–900. Red and black on cream ceramic. K1372. Jay I. Kislak Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress.
This vase is one of only twelve all-glyphic vases known to exist. Called “Dynastic Vases,” the vessels recount and date a series of coronations of rulers of the Snake Dynasty, a powerful ruling lineage of the Maya. The exact number of coronations recounted varies depending on the size of the vessel and the scale of the glyphs. The attested range is between five and nineteen, and this vessel provides the second-longest document sequence: twelve separate coronations.
The dates of the twelve accessions vary somewhat from vessel to vessel, but a listing of dates and ruler names, where decipherable, is shown below. Apart from minor deviations, all sentences are read from top to bottom and begin with the date of the coronation (occasionally erroneous), or Calendar Round (in red). Included below is the nickname for the dynastic founder “Skyraiser” and also four suggested readings where the symbols are especially clear or namesakes are well known.
One of the most striking features of this vase are the red-outlined day hieroglyphs that separate the text into twelve separate sections.
They actually outline for us the twelve separate kings of the Snake polity who acceded to the throne. This kind of a pot, which was copied from a book recording the histories of these kings, would have been owned by a large number of nobles.
Although there are only twelve of the vessels in existence today, we have to imagine many more that archeologists haven't found yet and that all of them would have been treasured heirlooms of the individual noble who had one.