Exhibitions: Connecting Cultures: A World in Brooklyn

Tetrapod Bowl with Lid

Ancient Maya art often refers to the structure of the universe, conceived as three vertical levels: the celestial upper world of supernatural beings and ancestors, the earthly middle world of human beings, and the watery underworld of the dead. The water bird on the lid of this vessel symbolizes the underworld, and the design on its beak signifies a portal to the supernatural realm. The four modeled legs of the vessel are four nose-down heads of peccaries (a type of pig), possibly representing the four pillars of the world, corresponding to the four cardinal directions.