Saturday, August 2, 2008
Our odd vessel (photo at right; see prior post) is probably some kind of 3-prong brazier. We had figured this out in general terms, but the only examples I knew were the "3-prong burners" from Teotihuacan, which are very different from our "fondue-pot." But thanks to a tip from Liz Brumfiel I looked at the article in Latin American Antiquity by Joe Ball and Jennifer Taschek (2007), and found some vessels not too different from the Calixtlahuaca forms. (I should have been familiar with this myself, but I was several months behind in my journal reading.....).
Ball and Taschek note that these vessels from Belize had been confused in the literature with incense burners that share some similar traits. But their finds from a number of sites suggest that these 3-prong braziers were stoves, not censers: "The three-prong brazier was an article of everyday domestic service, not of mystical ritual use" (p.454). The illustration here (one of several very nice drawings) is from p. 452 of their article. Note that the flat base of this and other Maya examples have "a solid, center-point 'wing-nut' or 'bow-tie' applique" (p.451), just like the circular base of the Calixtlahuaca examples.
We are still trying to figure out what the top of the vessels were like. Our "prongs" open up on top into some kind of upper framework, but we haven't figured out yet what it may have looked like. But for our continuing work on this (and other) ceramic mysteries, the very informative (and witty) article by Ball and Taschek has been a great help. I tip my hat to Mayanists like Ball and Taschek for doing a much better job of publishing their ceramics than we Aztec folks (see also Borhegyi 1959, and other sources cited by Ball and Taschek).
Ball, Joseph W., and Jennifer T. Taschek
2007 Sometimes a "Stove" Is "Just A Stove": A Context-Based Reconsideration of Three-Prong "Incense Burners" from the Western Belize Valley. Latin American Antiquity 18:451-470.
Borhegyi, Stephan F. de
1959 The Composite or Assemble-it-Yourself Censer: A New Lowland Maya Variety of the Three-pronged Incense Burner. American Antiquity 25:51-58.