Fleur-de-lys Vase with Primary Standard Sequence Glyph Band located in Guatemalan Lowlands

GUATEMALAN LOWLANDS. Late Classic Maya, AD 600–900. Black and orange on white ceramic. K5229. Jay I. Kislak Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress

This tall, narrow cylindrical vessel is a striking example of a class of vessels that feature a stylized, repetitive motif of three-lobed white and black flowers reminiscent of the lilies (fleurs-de-lis) used in later European art and heraldry. Despite their frequent appearance on vessels from this region, their significance remains unclear.

This vessel was a drinking cup, signified by its shape and a glyph that names it as such. Unlike most cups of this type, this vessel omits the proper name of its owner, which may have rendered it suitable as a gift or an item of tribute.

Along the outer rim of the vessel runs a nine-glyph dedicatory formula. Such formulae are repetitive and predictable, and this recurring sequence of glyphs was noted well in advance of its successful decipherment. These glyphs can be read as follows:"The writing of the drinking-cup of [the] Great Prince . . . is here[by] presented."

Scholar's Commentary

This tall cylindrical drinking vessel has a very repetitive, formulaic sequence of glyphs along its upper surface. Many vessels across the Maya area record the dedication of these drinking vessels and their owners.

This one tells us that the owner was a great prince, of a site unknown, unfortunately, yet the decoration on the surface with the stylized water lilies tells us that this vessel came from northeastern Guatemala, and there's a chance that this noble's name may yet turn up on a monument from that region, letting us know the home site from which this extraordinary vase comes.

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