Ryan Melsness11/29/17IB Art HL YR. 1Ms. Grant Cultural Artifact EssayThe artifact which I based my cultural final artwork on is an ancient Mayan poison pot. It is a portrait-type vessel that depicts an individual with large ear ornaments. The rim damage on the pot is due to the excessive use as a tobacco storage container. The vessel was used to contain tobacco leaves that ancient Mayans would use for medicinal and ceremonial purposes.
I painted a “modern version” of the poison pot by using vivid colors and different facial features. Tobacco use was very common in the ancient Mayan culture. With the use of tobacco came the need for it could be stored. Poison pots or vessels were used as tobacco holders in the Ancient Mayan culture. Mayans used tobacco a lot and used the vessels to put the tobacco leaves in. There have been hundreds of small containers found in areas where ancient Mayans used to live. The containers are known as poison pots or vessels.
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The vessels were made out of clay and were crafted in pottery huts. They are the size of a pack of cigarettes and many show images of gods smoking. The vessel found that contained tobacco was from a burial site in Southern Campeche, Mexico, and it dated back to 700 AD, the height of the Mayan civilization.
There were hieroglyphics on the container that read “Yo-‘OTOT-ti ‘u-MAY” meaning, “the home of his tobacco.”Tobacco was a godlike plant for ancient Mayans that had a soul and wielded the force of lightning and thunder. Anthropologist and ancient Mayan expert Kevin Groark said, “It provided spiritual protection and healing properties, and Mayan shamans used tobacco enemas to invoke powerful visions.” It was used in ceremonies and in medicine as well as used for relaxation purposes.
Tobacco used in ancient Mayan civilizations was as potent as a form of nicotine and was used as chewing tobacco or snuff. It was a lot stronger than current tobacco that is used in cigarettes and cigars. Tobacco is still used today in ceremonies and for medicinal purposes by descendants of ancient Mayans. “Contemporary Mayans use it as a stimulant and all-purpose protective agent they believe can fend off evil forces, witches and demons,” Groark said. Tobacco use in ancient Mayan culture is compared to the current use of alcohol in today’s society. Humans have indulged in stimulants and depressants for several centuries. It’s a continuation of human behavior and humans enjoy those things in their different forms and have for a very long time. Ancient Mayans worked very hard and did a lot of manual labor.
Most of them were farmers when they weren’t working on their cities. The daily life of a Mayan included farming, pottery making, weaving, cooking, and gardening. They did these activities without the help of draft animals such as horses or oxen. That being said, life for Mayans involved difficult work (they weren’t unhappy). There were a lot of injuries from working hard out in the fields all day. This is where tobacco would be used as a medicinal plant to help heal these injuries.
Mayans were also very religious people. Mayans believed in many human-like Gods (over 165), and they believed that these gods could help or harm them. Mayans would build pyramid-like temples for religious ceremonies as they were known for their astronomical buildings.
They used tobacco in their religious ceremonies, however, it is unknown what they did with it and what they used it for. Tobacco use was very prevalent in the ancient Mayan culture. Tobacco was used for medicinal purposes as well as for ceremonial purposes. Mayans used clay vessels to hold the tobacco leaves. These vessels or poison pots came in all different shapes and sizes often with a unique design on them.ReferencesAncient Resource.
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