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
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.
or geography Guatemala
or geography Honduras
or geography El Salvador
Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, or El Salvador, Maya
Early Postclassic Period
Containers - Ceramics

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


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

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.

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.