Bowl (Tecomate)

Date: 12th–10th century B.C.

Geography: Mexico, Mesoamerica

Culture: Olmec

Medium: Ceramic

Dimensions: H x Diam.: 4 5/8 x 6 1/4 in. (11.7 x 15.9 cm)

Classification: Ceramics-Containers

Credit Line: Gift of Arthur M. Bullowa, 1989

Accession Number: 1989.314.18


A common vessel type called a tecomate, this bowl was shaped by hand into a gourd form using coils of clay, and the surface was finished by burnishing. Actual gourds of similar shape have been used for everyday storage in Mesoamerican households since at least the second millennium B.C.; the very word tecomate means gourd. By emulating such a quotidian object, the potter evoked the vessel's origin in natural forms while creating an object of greater value that indicated the elevated social status of its owner. While numerous tecomates are said to be from highland sites such as Tlatilco and Las Bocas in central Mexico, the comparatively heavy, thick walls of this example suggest that it might be from one of the Gulf Coast Olmec sites such as San Lorenzo or La Venta.