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Ceramic | Terracotta | Fired Clay 


Object Type

Containers and Vessels


Ceramic | Terracotta | Fired Clay

Country of Origin

El Salvador


Secretaría de Cultura de la Presidencia


Import restricted since 1995.

Section 3a of Designated List in force since 1995.

Polychrome Vessels
Salua Polychrome: Mostly cylindrical vases, usually with very short and wide tabular supports. The larger examples may have two opposing modeled head handles just below the rim representing monkeys or other animals. Bold designs are painted on a cream to orange base, using different combinations of black, dull red, dark orange, and yellow. The normally invisible paste is brick red. Black was often used to create ample panels (or even to cover almost the entire vessel) as a backdrop for featured designs. The principal designs are strikingly displayed and can include: mat patterns (petates), twisted cord patterns, animals (jaguars, parrots, owls, and others), humans, sea shells, ballcourts (represented by a two or four colored ‘‘I’’-shaped drawing) and other motifs. Humans are often arrayed in finely detailed costumes and may be represented playing musical instruments, sowing with a digging stick, armed for battle, seated within a structure, or in other attitudes. A decorative option was to excise or stamp designs in panels or registers. The remainder of the vessel (or, if a featured motif is lacking, all of the vessel) is decorated with panels and registers with circumferencial bands near the rim and geometric patterns elsewhere. Other vessel forms known for Salua are short cylinders ranging grading into bowls, convex walled bowls (i.e., with bulging sides), composite walled bowls, and jars. Strangely enough, despite their exceptional decoration, colored stucco was sometimes used to cover areas of Salua vessels (when eroded this stucco leaves chalky traces). Salua vessels have rarely been found filled with red pigment.
Dating: Late Classic (associated with the Payu Ceramic Complex and the Lepa Phase).
Size: The cylindrical vessels grade into vertical walled bowls over a range of heights from 3.5–12.5’’ (9–32 cm). Bowl diameters range from 6–12’’ (15– 30 cm).
Formal Names: The name Salua is a local term employed in the National Museum of El Salvador. It has been long recognized that probably several different ceramic groups are lumped under this term, and that at least some of these groups probably correspond with the so-called Ulua or Sula Valley Polychromes of neighboring Honduras (which in recent years have been divided among several ceramic groups). Sharer (1978) cites Salua as a special group of the Payu complex, termed Special: Polychrome B, and he also mentions the name Salua Polychrome. At Quelepa it was noted as an unnamed ceramic group referred to as Dark Orange and Black on Orange (Andrews 1976). Several examples are illustrated in Longyear 1944 and 1966. It is interesting to note the relative abundance of Salua Polychrome in national and private collections in El Salvador in comparison with Honduran collections.

Example shown: Maya Salua polychrome cylinder vase, Late Classic period.

For import restrictions in force from 1987, see History of Import Restrictions below.

> CPIA Import Restriction Designated List

> History of Import Restrictions

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