Lidded bowl with a man riding a peccary

CULTURE:
Maya
DATE:
250–550 CE
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General Description

The ancient Maya believed that the creator gods remade the cosmos on August 13, 3114 BCE, after a great flood destroyed the third creation. On this pot, the wizened old man riding the peccary, or wild pig, is Itzamnaaj (Itzamna) or God D, one of the most important deities in the Maya pantheon, the first shaman and one of the creator gods. Normally depicted as an aged deity, Itzamnaaj wears a flower marked with the ak'ab' ("darkness") glyph on his headband. Itzamnaaj acts as a central deity in the creation myth associated with the sky; though the specific legend linking Itzamnaaj with the peccary is not known, the wild pig symbolizes the constellation Gemini, or the Twins. The creator gods originally painted the star patterns, just as Maya sages painted books of astronomical calculations. According to the Classic Maya, the first human being, One-Maize-Revealed, was born at the center of the night sky on August 13, 3114 BCE, when the peccary constellation and other important star patterns clustered at the heart of heaven. With its portrayal of a man and a pig, this lidded bowl narrates the origins of the world.

Adapted from

  • Bonnie Pitman, ed., "Lidded bowl with a man riding a peccary (1972.10.a-b)," in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012), 42.

  • "Lidded Vessel Depicting Itzamnaaj on Back of Peccary (1972.10.a-b)," in Lords of creation: the origins of sacred Maya kingship, Virginia M. Fields, Dorie Reents-Budet, Ricardo Agurcia Fasquelle, et al. (Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art; London: Scala, 2005), 146 (cat.48).

  • Carol Robbins, Label text, A. H. Meadows Galleries, 2010.