La Ruta Maya Foundation manages a collection of more than 3,000 Pre-Columbian objects, duly registered at the Registry of Cultural Property. Among the variety of objects -that illustrate the beauty and creativity of the ancient Maya- we have ornaments, figurines, monuments, dishes, pots of different shapes, and examples of pictorial art in ceramic and stone. These objects were manufactured with different materials from throughout Mesoamerica, such as ceramic, shell, bone, coral, jade, obsidian, flint, and basalt, among others. All works of art are available for loan to exhibitions and accessible to researchers and students.

Photo: Jorge Pérez de Lara

A Quick View to Maya Art

The Pre-Columbian material culture in its various forms has been very useful in the study of the history of Mesoamerica and the Maya area prior to contact with European culture. The architecture, sculpture, jewelry and documents are part of the material culture that is the basis for reconstructing the cultural, social, religious, political and ecological conditions of the inhabitants of Southern Mesoamerica.

Maya Pre-Columbian art, especially the ceramic pictorial art, illustrates the natural, ritual and daily life of antiquity through figures painted in bright colors. Its shape and decoration provide information on ceramic types and groups, manufacturing techniques, location of pottery workshops, artistic decoration and other aspects on function, diet and food processing, among others.

Prominent among other objects frequently found, are polychrome (painted in various colors) ceramic vessels, jade and green stones, bone, shell, obsidian and limestone. The use of other materials obtained in nature, such as coral and feathers, can be seen in the representations of richly attired characters. The vessels’ decoration and shape also provide data that support the archaeological study, providing information on other cultural elements that –because of their perishable nature and the weather conditions- did not survive to the present day. Such is the case of food, textiles, wooden objects, feathers and animal skins.


Photo: FLAAR

Pre-Columbian art also reflected -in whole or in part- the natural environment surrounding the cultural group, through complete scenes and naturalistic or stylized designs. These images include wildlife designs (plants and animals), as well as human and supernatural characters.

Other objects made of different materials (such as a variety of stones, jade, shell, bone and coral) have also allowed us to recognize different species of animals and plants used and represented by the Pre-Columbian inhabitants of Mesoamerica, especially at sites within the Maya lowlands region.

Many animals and plants continue to be the main source of protein and raw materials. Some of them, however, are noted for its association with deities and supernatural or cosmic forces, given by their physical characteristics or their natural behavior.

Paintings, sculptures, murals and clay figurines also confirm the interest in clothing and ornamentation, both for women as in men. Access to certain ornaments, textiles or luxury materials used for decoration (such as jade, quetzal feathers and seashells) depended on the social status and purchasing power. Figures of men appear representing different roles: fathers, warriors, musicians, farmers, rulers and priests, among others.

Women also wore a wide variety of dresses: girded sleeveless gowns made in cotton, dresses with sideway slits that revealed the leg, or long huipiles (blouses) with a long cloth wrapped as a skirt. The role of women is also varied as seen in objects and paintings: mothers, queens, domestic animal breeders, weavers, assistants to the Ruler, nobles of the court, and even warriors. 

Photo: Jorge Pérez de Lara