J_Hunting 1

Details of a Classic period polychrome vase animating a squatting hunter shooting a water bird with a long blowpipe. On rotation of the vase, the bird’s death is conveyed by its thrown-back head and closed eyes; it has dropped a fish it previously held in its beak, scooped up by another bird standing nearby (see Maya Gods of Time, fig. 1.24). In fact, the three birds depicted on the vase, the one shot, the thief and another flying in the air above the blowgun, describe a circular motion pivoting around the end of the long blowpipe, their unseen spinning forming a mnemonic to the cyclical progression of time enabling birth, growth and death. On turning of the vessel, each of the three birds, moreover, changes position according to their action (dying, leaning forward to pick up the dropped fish, and beating its wings in flight). The bird’s final exhaled breath is represented by a black scroll (repeated emitting from the shooter’s mouth). The two depictions of the hunter reveal a slight change in position and costume to convey the movement required in blowing the pellet, including a three-dot ‘time’ cluster marking the side of his chest; while the feathers in his headdress have transformed into a real bird perched atop his hat.

The hunter possibly represents God L as Venus, identified by his regalia (wide-brimmed hat with bird, and black body paint) and role in propelling the sun (ahaw [‘sun/day’] pellet) from the sea each morning (see Maya Gods of Time, Chapter 5). Wichman and Nielson (2016:292-293) independently also noted the two scenes depicted on this vase representing a successive hunting scene, although they believe that the two hunting figures represent two different individuals.

Animation extracted and adapted from Reents-Budet 1994:247, fig. 6.14.