Cylinder Vessel with "Death Eye"/Jaguar Spots



Cylinder Vessel with "Death Eye"/Jaguar Spots


Ceramic, container


600 - 900 AD


Late Classic
Mesoamerica, Guatemala


7 1/8 x 4 3/16 in. (18.1 x 10.7 cm)

Object Number



Cylindrical vessels were high-status items in Maya society, used for drinking beverages made with kakaw, or chocolate. Not consumed as solid food, chocolate was frothed into water as a ritual drink. Not sweet as we would expect, kakaw was often mixed with chili peppers and even substances that helped shamans transform into their spirit selves. This vessel is decorated with a motif of disembodied eyes that in other depictions is worn by several supernatural beings, including wayob (pronounced why-ohb), the animal spirit doubles of shamans. Around the eyes, the black marks resemble the rosette spots of the jaguar, and together the two patterns may therefore refer to the beverage inside having the power to turn the drinker into his jaguar wayob. Since the jaguar was the most powerful animal spirit, the vessel probably belonged to an important shaman or was used for a significant ritual.

Credit Line

Anonymous gift in honor of William C. and Carol W. Thibadeau


'For I am the Black Jaguar': Shamanic Visionary Experience in Ancient American Art, Michael C. Carlos Museum, September 5, 2012 - January 5, 2013|
MCCM Permanent Collection Reinstallation, February 9, 2013 - Present
Rebecca Stone-Miller, Seeing With New Eyes: Highlights of the Michael C. Carlos Museum Collection of Art of the Ancient Americas (Atlanta: Michael C. Carlos Museum, 2002), 12, figure 12.


© Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University. Photo by Michael McKelvey.
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On View



“Cylinder Vessel with "Death Eye"/Jaguar Spots,” Michael C. Carlos Museum Collections Online, accessed July 11, 2020,

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