Postclassic Ceramic Database

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Technical Discusion


The National Science Foundation



      While redwares (vessels with an exterior red slip) are common throughout the occupational history of the lowland Maya, new forms began to be produced that are specific to the Postclassic period. Three of the most prominent Postclassic forms are sag-bottom or flat-bottomed tripod plates, collared jars with short everted necks, and long-necked (parenthesis) jars. In central Petén, these forms are slipped red or pink (a double slip of red slip over which is applied a semi-translucent cream slip) as early as the tenth century (Cecil 2001; Chase 1983; Rice 1987). Marilyn Masson (2000:53-56) suggests that the redwares mark the later Postclassic period in north-central Yucatán as the tradition began in central Petén during the tenth century and spread to Belize in the eleventh century and to Tulum and Mayapán by the twelfth century. Stratigraphically, these redwares at Mayapán began to replace Peto Cream wares during the Hocaba phase (A.D. 1200— 1300) (Masson 2000; Milbrath and Peraza Lope 2003:25; Robles C. and Andrews 1986; Smith 1971). While the redware category exhibits slight regional differences in paste and design elements, Marilyn Masson (2000), Shirley Mock (1997), William T. Sanders (1960), and Robert E. Smith (1971) note the slips, and often pastes, of the Mama Red, Tulum Red, and Rita Red ceramic groups are so visually similar as to be indistinguishable.







      During the Postclassic period, incensarios were used in many rituals and produced in two basic forms: effigy and non-effigy. The effigy incensarios depict  cult figures/Maya deities such as Itzamna and Chaak and those that cannot be identified as deities may represent more local ancestors/gods (Masson 2000:262).
      One  cult /religious identity associated with various incensarios is the Quetzalcoatl-Kukulcan cult. According to Ringle et al. (1998:216), the Quetzalcoatl-Kukulcan cult is represented by an incensario complex that includes  ladle censers, open work censers, spiked hourglass incensarios, and Tlaloc pots. These are typically recovered from Mayapán ritual structures built by the Kokom at approximately A.D. 1250 and this may demonstrate the spread of the Quetzalcoatl-Kukulcan cult in the Maya lowlands during the Postclassic period. However, there was a change in the Quetzalcoatl-Kukulcan incensario complex (ca. A.D. 1300) different forms and full-figure deities that are mainly Maya began to be produced and exchanged (Milbrath and Peraza Lope 2003:7, 41).
      Masson (2000:263) states that these Chen Mul Modeled or  Mayapán effigy incensarios were being produced at Mayapán and became prevalent at Laguna de On and Santa Rita, suggesting a revitalization of this religious cult at Mayapán with the accompanying spread of ritual and/or pottery. These incensarios also may be related to New Year rituals as they are similar to those pictured in the Maya codices (Vail 2004). Additionally, Diane Chase (1985) has documented a ritual pattern at Santa Rita Corozal that indicates New Year ceremonial smashing of incensarios and pairs of effigy incensarios representing yearbearers. Similar patterns also have been documented at Mayapán (Smith 1971) and Zacpetén (Pugh 2001a; Rice 2007). At this same time, and continuing for approximately 250 years, similar censers are found at Tulum and are associated with redwares (Ball 1982:111; Sabloff et al. 1974:412; Sanders 1960) and are found in central Petén at Topoxté Island and Zacpetén, also associated with redwares (Bullard 1970; Pugh 2001a; Rice 2007; Rice and Cecil 2007). Molds for making the faces of some of these effigies have been found at Macanché Island (Rice 1987), Zacpetén (Pugh 2001a), and Mayapán (Smith 1971), suggesting possible places of incensario manufacture. This distribution pattern of incensarios may represent a north-to-south spread of ideas and/material culture in contrast to the spread of the redware manufacturing tradition (Masson 2000, 2003).