K'iché burial or cache urn base

Late Classic Period
A.D. 650–850

Object Place: Guatemala, Southern Highlands

Catalogue Raisonné



132 x 64 cm (51 15/16 x 25 3/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Earthenware: white, black, yellow, green, blue, and red post-fire paint

On View

Ancient Central America Gallery (Gallery LG32)





The front of the urn base is decorated with a modeled rendering of a saurian with open maw. Emerging from its mouth is the head of a supernatural being with scroll eyes, hooked nose with vertically incised lines resembling wrinkles, and wearing a wide headband decorated with a floral motif or divination mirror at its center. A vertical flange at each side of the urn is painted yellow with alternating rows of horizontal black lines and lines of small black dots, and the body of the urn too is painted yellow with black spots, both imitating a jaguar pelt.

The Maize god on the lid symbolizes life after death, as the appearance of maize in the fields each spring was the Maya metaphor for the resurrection of the human soul. Offerings to the dead were made through the lid’s opening, which also allowed the living to communicate with the gods and deified ancestors.


Between about 1974 and 1981, probably purchased in Guatemala by John B. Fulling (b. 1924 – d. 2005), The Art Collectors of November, Inc., Pompano Beach, FL; May 20, 1987, sold by John B. Fulling to Landon T. Clay, Boston; 1988, year-end gift of Landon Clay to the MFA. (Accession Date: January 25, 1989)

NOTE: This is one in a group of Maya artifacts (MFA accession nos. 1988.1169 – 1988.1299) known as the “November Collection” after John Fulling’s company, the Art Collectors of November, Inc. John Fulling sold this group of objects to MFA donor Landon Clay in 1987, and they were given to the Museum the following year.
Evidence suggests that John Fulling built the November Collection from sources in Guatemala between 1974 and 1981. Only a portion of what he acquired during this time came to the MFA in 1988. It is not possible to determine precisely which objects were acquired when or from whom.

Credit Line

Gift of Landon T. Clay