Cylinder vase

Late Classic Period
A.D. 740–775

Place of Manufacture: Ik' polity, Motul de San José area, Department of El Petén, Guatemala


Overall: 10.5 x 10.2 cm (4 1/8 x 4 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Earthenware with polychrome slip paint on white slip ground

On View

Ancient Central America Gallery (Gallery LG32)





This small vase portrays ruler Yajawte’ K’inich (reigned ca. 738-768 AD) and his successor K’inich Lamaw Ek’ participating in a “joyaj” ceremony, of unclear meaning but which includes a vision-quest rite, the attendant behind the ruler holding a large divination mirror. The date of this event is recorded in the vase’s rim text (7 Ok 13 Xul, or May 25, 749). Yajawte’ K’inich participated in this important ceremony at least three times during his reign, recorded on other vases. A two-hieroglyph caption behind the figure holding the mirror comprises the master painter’s signature phrase u-ts’ib tu-b’a(h) ajaw “s/he paints it for her/his lord.” The name and emblem glyph of the painter follows, but it is too eroded to translate with certainty.


The glyphic inscription along the rim describes and dates the accession rite of Yajawte' K'inich, ruler of the Ik' Polity, and additional inscriptions between the figures give the name of an Ik' nobleman, K'inich Lamaw Ek', and identify the artist of the vase, known as the Tuub'al Ajaw ("lord of the Tuub'al place").


1970s, in a collection outside of Guatemala [see note 1]. By 1981, in a collection in New York [see note 2]. By 1987 until at least 1994, Carol Meyer, New York [see note 3]. May 10, 2008, anonymous sale, Skinner, Boston, lot 37, to Timothy Phillips, Boston; 2009, gift of Phillips to the MFA. (Accession Date: February 25, 2009)

[1] Nicholas Hellmuth, who photographed Pre-Columbian objects in collections outside of Latin America, photographed the vase in the 1970s. [2] Justin Kerr photographed it in New York City in 1981 (no. K1463). [3] The vase was on loan to the Yale University Art Gallery during this time.

Credit Line

Gift of Timothy Phillips