Urn of the Old Fire God Artist: Unknown

A.D. 300–600

Art of the Ancient Americas

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 III–IV (A.D. 450–750).




8 1/16 in. (20.5 × 13.5 cm)

Credit Line

Stephen Carlton Clark, B.A. 1903, Fund

Accession Number



Early Classic Period


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 records is ongoing.



Stable Gallery, New York, February 17 and 28, 1956; Alfred Stendhal, Los Angeles, CA. March 1, 1957; Fred H. Olsen (1891–1986), and Florence Quittenton Olsen, Guilford, Conn.; gift in 1973 to Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.
  • Handbook of the Collections, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1992), 317, ill
  • 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
  • "Acquisitions, 1973," Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin 35, no. 1 (Summer 1974), 77
Object copyright
Additional information

Object/Work type

human figures (visual works), mythology, urns, utilitarian objects

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