Vase with Hunting Scene located in Guatemalan Highlands

GUATEMALAN HIGHLANDS. Chama style. Late Classic Maya, AD 600–900. Polychromed orange-gloss ceramic. K808. Jay I. Kislak Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress

The hunters in this scene wear hats, probably woven from plant fibers, and carry long blowguns. Scenes similar to this still occur in Yucatán today. A group of male villagers form a hunt. They march home triumphantly carrying a prize deer, while blowing on conch shell trumpets to herald their entrance to the village.

As with a number of other vessels from this region, the text on this vessel is entirely pseudoglyphic—that is, the glyphs are not meant to be read, but merely present the “idea” of writing. The glyphic sign below the tongue of one of the deer and in front of the mouth of one of the hunters may indicate the “last breath” glyph.

Scholar's Commentary

This cylindrical drinking vessel records a number of hunters returning from a successful hunt. If we roll out the scene, we see that there are two individuals who are carrying deer on tumplines hanging right from their very foreheads.

Other individuals are blowing on conch­shell trumpets, indicating the return of successful hunters from their foray into the wilderness. Intriguingly, hieroglyphs above the scene are not actually legible.

They're what scholars refer to as pseudo-glyphs, illegible writing provided to give the idea of writing, and to channel the prestige of writing from the center of the Maya world into texts that are recorded on the outskirts of Maya civilization, where perhaps a very different Maya language was actually spoken.

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