Miniature altar

Maya
Late Classic period
A.D. 550–750


Object Place: Guatemala, Belize, or Mexico

Dimensions

1.6 x 10.8 cm (5/8 x 4 1/4 in.)

Accession Number

1987.714a-d

Medium or Technique

Fine-grain limestone or alabaster: specular hematite pigment

On View

Ancient Central America Gallery (Gallery LG32)

Collections

Americas

Classifications

Ritual objects

This miniature sculpture replicates the round, monumental altars found at many Classic period Maya sites. The circular top rests on three stone spheres, and may make reference to the Three Stone Place where the ancient Maya gods created the cosmos as recounted in the Maya epic “Popol Vuh.” The pictorial and hieroglyphic imagery incised on the altar’s top may pertain to a ritual associated with the planet Venus.


This tiny sculpture replicates the monumental altars found in ancient Maya cities. The top rests on spheres symbolizing the three stones of the cosmic hearth. The altar’s imagery pertains to the planet Venus and perhaps to its role in the creation myth.

Provenance

About 1971-1973, purchased in Guatemala by John B. Fulling (b. 1924 – d. 2005), Lighthouse Point, Florida; 1987, year-end gift of John B. Fulling to the MFA. (Accession Date: January 20, 1988)

Credit Line

Gift of John B. Fulling