This Maya vase from the Guatemalan Highlands dates from AD 600–900, the Late Classic Maya period. Experts believed that scenes such as this represented gods from the Underworld, but recent scholarship has clarified the role of these horrific creatures as animate spells and personified illnesses sent out by sorcerers. Although glyphs appear in the rim text of this vessel, and an additional seven are in the imagery (ostensibly as captions), none are legible. Rather, these repetitious and imaginative pseudoglyphs merely convey the “idea” of writing, along with all of the attendant social status of a literate text.
Experience the Interactives