Tripod Vessel

Date: 4th–5th century

Geography: Mexico, Mesoamerica

Culture: Teotihuacan

Medium: Ceramic, red ochre

Dimensions: H. 9 5/8 x Diam. 9 5/8 in. (24.4 x 24.4 cm)

Classification: Ceramics-Containers

Credit Line: The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979

Accession Number: 1979.206.364


Bowls with three sturdy feet and more or less straight sides are so identified with central highland Teotihuacan that their presence anywhere else in Mexico is considered evidence of the great city's influence. Teotihuacan tripods were made in a wide range of size, color, and surface treatment, and were widely disseminated in ancient Mesoamerica, whether by trade or by warfare is not completely resolved. The present example is reported to be from a burial site in the Basin of Mexico called Santiago Ahuizotla, which is known to have been dug in the 1940s by local inhabitants. The surface is carved in very low relief; the main motif is a large feathered headdress. Smaller symbols are stacked in the center of the headdress—a half-star at the top, a feathered eye in the center, and a "reptile-eye" at the bottom. Scholars associate the reptile-eye with mortuary symbolism, underscoring the probable burial function of the vessel.