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Art of the Ancient Americas
Artist: Unknown

Urn of the Old Fire God

A.D. 300–600


20.5 × 13.5 cm (8 1/16 in.)
Stephen Carlton Clark, B.A. 1903, Fund
The Old Fire God guarded the hearth in many parts of Mesoamerica. Here his toothless, wrinkled face grins from under his wrapped turban headdress. The Zapotecs knew him by the name Old God 2-Tiger. The figure at Yale is painted red-orange on head and torso. Instead of being attached, in customary Zapotec fashion, to the back of the torso, the urn serves as the torso, to which are joined the head and arms. Stylistically, the piece is an amalgam of the tubular arms associated with period II. The old man’s bulbous nose, protruding lips and chin, and coarsely gashed wrinkles are similar to pieces believed to have been made at Teotihuacan sometime during period IIIIV (A.D. 450–750).
Mexico, Zapotec
Early Classic Period
Containers - Ceramics

Fred H. Olsen (1891–1986), and Florence Quittenton Olsen, Guilford, Conn.; gift in 1973 to Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.


“Acquisitions, 1973,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin 35, no. 1 (Summer 1974): 77.

George A. Kubler, ed., Pre-Columbian Art of Mexico and Central America (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1986), 26, 101–2, no. 209, color plate 7, ill.

Handbook of the Collections, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1992), 317, ill.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.