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Art of the Ancient Americas
Artist: Unknown

Pyriform Vase

A.D. 900–1200

Incised ceramic with pigment, Tohil Plumbate

21.3 × 7.7 cm (8 3/8 × 3 1/16 in.)
Gift of the Olsen Foundation
1958.86.2
As the name plumbate implies, vessels such as this look metallic, as if made of lead, but this metal was unknown in the pre-Hispanic world. Plumbate pots turned black and shiny when oxygen was cut off toward the end of firing. After the abandonment of Classic cities, Toltec warriors filled the vacuum of power in Mesoamerica. Wherever they went, they introduced the new technology and shapes of pots seen in this example. The Toltecs established strong cultural contact with the Maya, and most Maya plumbate ceramics appear to have been made in the Guatemalan Highlands, near the border with Mexico.
Geography: 
Mexico
or Guatemala
or Honduras
or El Salvador
Culture: 
Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, or El Salvador, Maya
Period: 
Early Postclassic Period
Classification: 
Containers - Ceramics
Provenance: 

Fred H. Olsen (1891–1986), and Florence Quittenton Olsen, Guilford, Conn.; gift in 1958 to Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.

Bibliography: 

Professor George A. Kubler, The Art and Architecture of Ancient America, 2nd ed. (Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1975), pl. 131a.

George A. Kubler, ed., Pre-Columbian Art of Mexico and Central America (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1986), 149, 312, no. 323, fig. 171.

Handbook of the Collections, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1992), 319, ill.

Rosemary A. Joyce, Revealing Ancestral Central America, exh. cat. (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2013), 83, fig. 40, 43.

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.