Chama Polychromes

This painted cylinder vessel, circa 8th century CE, was excavated by the Penn Museum at the ancient Maya site of Chama (in modern day Guatemala) in 1916. Height: 21 cm. Diameter: 19 cm. (Penn Museum object number NA11701). Photo: Penn Museum.

This painted cylinder vessel, circa 8th century CE, was excavated by the Penn Museum at the ancient Maya site of Chama (in modern day Guatemala) in 1916. Height: 21 cm. Diameter: 19 cm. (Penn Museum object number NA11701). Photo: Penn Museum.

The appearance of a lowland style of ceramic painted cylinders in the highland site of Chama is one of the most visible signs of outside influence in the limited archaeological record of the region. This style of pottery was introduced by a new group, perhaps displaced from its lowland city by constant warfare, who took over the town of Chama. They replaced the local tradition of incised ceramics with a lowland pottery style of narrative scenes painted on cylinders, a shape well suited to such illustration. These painted scenes spread the news of the new rulers far and wide.