Unknown: Maya Vase K0521 (7th–8th century)

(Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA)

This is a so-called rollout photo of a famous Maya vase. Depicted is a mythological scene: On the left you can see the god Chahk (or Chaac). He is the god of rain who produces thunder and rain with his lightning axe. On the right side there is a skeleton-like creature - this is the god A, the Maya death god. On his back the death god has an elaborate backrack composed of textiles, bone elements, and extruded eyeballs.The death god on the right is accompanied by 2 companions. Floating above the ground is a firefly who holds a cigar - a symbol that this is a creature of the night. Below the firefly is a dog, a creature which guided the souls of the departed on their journey into the underworld. Both the god Chahk and A are dancing around an infant which has a jaguar tail and paws. This infant is called the Jaguar baby and his overbite with shark-like tooth indicates that this infant is linked with Chahk and the sun god Kinich Ahau. The infant lies on what is called a 'Kawak throne'. The meaning of the entire scene is unclear. One explantion is that the scene symbolizes the transformation of the baby jaguar into a hero or a hero into a jaguar. Another explantion is that the scene symbolizes the interaction of the life-giving rains and rotting death - the contrast which is needed to produce life (represented here by the baby jaguar god). The scene is taking place on top of a mythological mountain at the center of the Maya world (the Kawak throne). Chahk emerges and celebrates the birth of the baby jaguar while the death god pose seems to show that the baby jaguar was snatched from the clutches of death. Vase from the 7th–8th century.