Podcast

The History, Context, and Legacy of an Ancient Maya Plate

Four experts peel back the layers of history hidden in an object that people believe was once used to serve white venison tamales centuries ago.

Described as a “plate with hieroglyphic text,’ this Maya plate, dating to 550-650 CE, is an excellent example of an Earthenware vessel decorated with an orange slip, red pigment, and black pigment. It was donated to the museum by founders George and Helen Gardiner. (image courtesy the author for Hyperallergic)

On the first floor of the Gardiner Museum, in the Art of the Americas gallery, there is a large Maya plate dating to the 6th to 7th centuries CE. It features a large deity in the center of the orange and black earthenware object with a band of glyphs around the edge of the dish. This object is well-known to Maya specialists, not only for the mastery of the design, but because of the inscription that not only mentions the name and location of the donor but also explains that it was a plate used to serve white venison tamales.

Plate with hieroglyphic text in the collection of the Gardiner Museum. Maya culture, Guatemala, Waxaktún (Uaxactún) area, Early Late Classic Period, 550–650 CE, Gift of George and Helen Gardiner, G83.1.120 (image courtesy Gardiner Museum)

In this episode, we talk to four experts in the field, Gardiner Museum educator and curator Siobhan Boyd, Metropolitan Museum curator James Doyle, cultural historian Margaret Visser, and Popti storyteller Maria Monteja to peel back the layers of history in this wondrous artifact from ancient times to learn about Maya traditions and culture through the lens of today.

A special thanks to musician SunSon for providing the music to this special series, which is produced by Hyperallergic in conjunction with the Gardiner Museum.

This and more in the current episode of our weekly Art Movements podcast.

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