Link to W1.012c © Maline Werness

Maline Diane Werness

Pabellon Molded-Carved Ceramics: A Consideration in Light of the Terminal Classic Collapse of Classic Maya Civilization


A series of mini-collapses shook the Maya region during the Terminal Classic period (700-900 CE). By the end of the Terminal Classic, inhabitants had begun to leave and in some cases had already completely abandoned centers throughout the Maya area. A period of general decline ensued, bolstered by the decay of many sites that were both geographically and chronologically distinct.

During this chaotic time of change, Maya potters shifted from making polychrome vessels and began producing a unique ceramic type known today as Pabellon Molded-Carved. Pabellons typically exhibit no temper and come in several different shapes and sizes. They have been referred to as the "porcelain" of the Maya for several reasons. Most obviously, the Pabellon type is made from an orange paste that has an extremely fine texture (hence the term fine orange), which results in thin vessel walls. This type of ceramic would have taken a lot of time and effort to produce. The length of time needed to develop a fine orange paste, build a pair of molds (one for each half of the ceramic), shape a vessel and apply the molds would have been extensive.

Despite the fact that this ceramic variety can add to the current understanding of the collapse, no one has considered these ceramics in depth. My intent in this thesis is to conduct analyses that can be used as a point of departure for the greater discussion of Pabellon ceramics and the Terminal Classic period. I will identify scenes, discuss stylistic issues, and suggest interpretations for each scene grouping in Chapter 2. In my third chapter, I will analyze the hieroglyphic content of these vessels. In both of these chapters, I will contextualize the Pabellon type within the Terminal Classic period when appropriate. Finally, in my conclusion, I will highlight the ways in which Pabellons reflect elite ideologies and other issues pertinent to the Terminal Classic period.

Photographs by Maline Werness, permission of Museo Nacional de Arqueología y Etnología and the Ministerio de Cultura y Deportes in Guatemala City.

NOTE: The following PDF files require Adobe Acrobat Reader, to download the latest version, click here.

Click for the complete thesis in PDF format (1.36 MB)

Click to view the images and data from this thesis.

Return to top of page