In this thesis, I interpret the meaning of “monkey pots,” a pottery vessel found throughout the Maya world. This study looks at three kinds of monkey pots recovered from the Mirador Basin. Carmelita Incised and Zacatal Polychrome monkey pots date to the Late Classic period (AD 680-800) and were manufactured in the Basin; Telchac Composite monkey pots date to the Terminal Classic period (AD 780-830) and were made in the Usumacinta River region. These monkey pots are described, followed by an analysis and comparison of the function, the monkey genus on the vessels, and the contexts from which the vessels came. I found that each kind of monkey pot functioned as a domestic tool for serving food and later as part of death and burial rituals. The monkeys on the vessels appear to be spider monkeys, which were associated anciently with death and the underworld. Finally, most of the monkey pots were found in burials, implying that they were part of burial rituals. From this information, I suggest that monkey pots assumed meanings associated with death and the underworld when placed in burials. Comparing the function, decoration, and context of these monkey pots implies that their meaning did not change through time and space. I believe the monkey pots demonstrate that some meanings and ideas about death and the underworld endured from the Late to Terminal Classic period in the Mirador Basin and that these meanings may have been shared with people in the Usumacinta River area.



College and Department

Family, Home, and Social Sciences; Anthropology



Date Submitted


Document Type





Maya, pottery, monkeys



Included in

Anthropology Commons