Published online by Cambridge University Press: 10 October 2008
Maya codex-style ceramics are among the most highly sought antiquities for collectors because of the fine art and extraordinary mythological scenes depicted on the pottery; yet the source of these ceramics has remained elusive. Recent archaeological explorations by the Regional Archaeological Investigation of the North Peten, Guatemala (RAINPEG) project at the site of Nakbe, Peten, have discovered codex-style ceramics in archaeological context. The hieroglyphs and painted scenes on the ceramics demonstrate the authenticity of the art style. Neutron activation analyses of the ceramics indicate that subtle differences in the ceramic corpus can be detected between proximal sites such as El Mirador and Nakbe. These data also indicate that codex-style ceramics were not manufactured in a site-specific workshop, but originate in a variety of production areas. While most codex-style vessels appear to have been manufactured within the immediate area of the extreme north-central Peten, several codex-style vessels that depict scribes are consistently similar in chemical composition to the codex-style pottery from Nakbe. The presence of fine painted codex-style pottery from modest plaza groups suggests a wider distribution of high-quality ceramic artifacts from among varied levels of economic, social, and political status of ancient Maya society. This accounts for the extensive looting of low-housemound complexes throughout the northern Peten.