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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
Copador Polychrome Vessels: Hemispherical bowls, bowls with composite walls, cylindrical vases, and jars with painted designs in red, black and optionally yellowish orange on a cream to light orange base. The red paint used is almost always specular (small flecks of crystals flash as the vessel is moved in strong light). Copador paste is cream colored (or sometimes very light brown) and is not very hard or dense. Designs (usually on the exterior) may include bands of motifs derived from Maya glyphs, seated individuals, individuals in a swimming position, melon-like stripes, birds or other animals, and others. Rare examples have excavated lines or patterns. Copador Polychrome may usually be distinguished on the basis of its specular red paint and cream colored paste.
Dating: Late Classic Period (defined as a member of the Payu Ceramic Complex, also found commonly in Tamasha Phase deposits (Cara Sucia)).
Size: Bowl diameter may vary from 4– 12’’ (10–30 cm), the height of cylindrical vases may range from 6–12.5’’ (15–32 cm), and jar height ranges from approximately 5–11’’ (12–28 cm).
Formal Names: Referred to as the Copador Ceramic Group (Sharer 1978).

Gualpopa Polychrome: This type is closely related to Copador Polychrome, with which it shares a cream colored paste and the hemispherical bowl form (rarer forms in Gualpopa are: flat bottomed bowls with vertical walls, and composite walled bowls). Designs in Gualpopa are painted in red (which unlike Copador is not specular) and black on a cream-orange base. Gualpopa motifs are simpler than Copador. Most common are geometric designs (spirals, ‘‘melon’’ bands, chevrons, and others), but repeating birds, monkeys, or designs derived from Maya glyphs may be found.
Dating: Late Classic, especially the first part of this period. Defined as a member of the Payu Ceramic Complex.
Size: Diameters range from 6–15’’ (16– 38 cm).
Formal Names: Termed as the Gualpopa Ceramic Group (Sharer 1978).

Arambala Polychrome: Formerly referred to as ‘‘false Copador’’ due to its close resemblance to Copador Polychrome. Arambala may be differentiated from Copador by its reddish paste (contrasting with Copador’s cream paste) and the use of a dull red paint (rather than Copador’s specular red paint). Apart from these two differences, however, Arambala closely duplicates Copador’s repertoire of vessel forms, dimensions, and decoration (please refer to the description for Copador Polychrome for this information). A cream-orange slip was added over Arambala’s reddish paste to approximate Copador’s base color, but this slip often has a streaky appearance.
Dating: Late Classic Period. A member of the Payu Ceramic Complex and present in the Tamasha Phase of Cara Sucia.
Size: (See the description for Copador Polychrome)
Formal Names: Defined as the Arambala Ceramic Group (Sharer 1978).

Campana Polychrome Vessels: Flat bottomed bowls with flaring walls, usually large. Provided with 4 hollow supports that may take the form of pinched cylinders or cylinders with human or animal effigies. Intricate painted designs were executed in blackbrown, dull red, and orange, on a cream to cream-orange base. A large portrayal of a human or animal is featured on the interior center of these vessels, and the rims often have a distinctive encircling twisted rope and dot design. Some examples have a few curving lines of broad (up to 0.5’’ or 1.3 cm) Usulután negative decoration. Campana Polychrome paste is dense, hard, and brick red. Other forms include small bowls without supports, with flat bottoms and flaring walls, and cylindrical vases with bulging and sometimes faceted midsections and occasionally short ring bases. The cylindrical vases usually feature panels on opposing side of the vessel with human or animal designs, and may have very short and wide tabular supports.
Dating: Late Classic Period. Present in association with the Payu Ceramic Complex (Sharer 1978), the Lepa Phase (Andrews 1976), and the Tamasha Phase (Amaroli 1987).
Size: The large bowls with supports range from 10–20’’ (25–50 cm) in diameter. The small bowls without supports are usually 6–9’’ (16–22 cm) in diameter. Cylindrical vases range in height from 7–10’’ (18–25 cm).
Formal Names: Termed as the Campana Polychrome Ceramic Group (Sharer 1978).

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.

Quelepa Polychrome: Hemispherical and composite wall bowls, and jars; bowls may have basal flanges or slight angle changes near the rim. Bowls may have small solid or larger hollow supports. Quelepa Polychrome has a hard and very white base (slip) over a fine red paste. On this white base were painted designs in orange (often applied as a wash over most of the vessel), red and black; very rarely a purple paint may be present. Designs include ‘‘checkerboards’’, sunbursts, circles, bands, wavy lines, and others. Animals may be depicted on the interior or exterior (jaguars, birds, and monkeys have been noted).
Dating: Late Classic (a member of the Lepa Ceramic Complex).
Size: Bowls may measure from 4.5– 15’’ (11–38 qcm) in diameter.
Formal Names: Termed as the Quelepa Polychrome Ceramic Group in Andrews 1976.

Los Llanitos Polychrome: Flaring walled bowls, most or all with solid tabular supports (supports may have effigy decoration). A cream colored slip was applied a red paste. Orange paint was applied to the entire interior of the bowl and in small areas bordered by black on the exterior. In addition to orange and black, colors may include dull red, sepia, and rarely purple. Two designs diagnostic of Los Llanitos Polychrome are a ‘‘five-fingered flame’’ and stacks of three or four horizontal bars of decreasing length.
Dating: Late Classic (a member of the Lepa Ceramic Complex).
Size: 7–12.5’’ (18–32 cm) in diameter.
Formal Names: Termed Los Llanitos Polychrome by Longyear (1944) and as the Los Llanitos Polychrome Ceramic Group by Andrews (1976).

‘‘Chinautla’’ Polychrome: Flaring walled bowls with flat bases and 3 or 4 hollow conical supports with simple applique. Red and black-brown designs were painted over a cream slip in registers, including spirals, stepped frets, bars, and dots.
Dating: Late Postclassic (a member of the Ahal Ceramic Complex).
Size: 6.5–10’’ (17–26 cm) in diameter.
Formal Names: First defined in Chalchuapa as the Chinautla Ceramic Group in Sharer (1978) due to its similarities with the ‘‘Chinautla Polychrome tradition’’ found mostly in the Guatemalan highlands. Most would probably now agree that this tradition may be subdivided into several distinct and locally distributed ceramic groups, of which the Chalchuapa variety would be one.

Machacal Purple Polychrome: Bowls (hemispherical, composite walled, or vertical walled with convex bases). With the exception of vertical walled bowls, these may be supported by ring bases, pedestal bases or 4 hollow cylindrical supports. Possesses an orange base slip with red and dark purple designs. Purple designs in the form of an horizontal ‘‘S’’ on the vessel exterior are common. Vessel bottoms usually have a simple purple design that some people have considered to vaguely resemble a bird. The generous use of purple paint on an orange base slip is a distinctive characteristic of this variety.
Dating: End of the Early Classic and beginning of the Late Classic.
Size: 5–11.5’’ (13–29 cm) in diameter.
Formal Names: Termed Red and Purple on Orange by Boggs (in Longyear 1944), and Machacal Purple-polychrome by Sharer (1978).

Nicoya Polychrome: Hemispherical bowls, bowls with rounded to almost flat bases and flaring walls (these may have three hollow cylindrical or conical supports with effigy decoration as an option, often in the form of bird heads), cylindrical vases with ring bases, jars. Red, black, and yellow paint was applied over a very smooth white slip with a ‘‘soapy’’ texture. Usually over half of the vessel was left white. Designs include registers with geometric designs, human figures, and others. Rare vessels may have unusual forms and appendages.
Dating: Early Postclassic.
Size: Bowls range from 6–11’’ (15–28 cm) in diameter; cylindrical vases range from 6.5–12’’ (17–30 cm) in height.
Formal Names: Long called Nicoya Polychrome due to its relationship with the different varieties grouped under that name first defined for Nicaragua and Costa Rica. The variety found in El Salvador differs sufficiently from those varieties in forms and decoration to be considered as an additional type.

Chancala Polychrome: Hemispherical bowls, often slightly flaring from just under the rim. A cream base slip (often streaky in appearance) was painted with designs in brown-black and red. Animals rendered in a distinctive silhouette style were painted on opposing sides of the exterior (monkeys, lizards, and birds seem to be represented), with large solid circles, squares or cross-hatch designs between the two. The upper portion of the exterior body is divided by bands in a register holding step frets, circles, and/ or other designs.
Dating: Late Classic.
Size: 6–8’’ (15–20 cm) in diameter.
Formal Names: Termed Chancala Polychrome by Boggs (1972).

Salinitas Polychrome: Known in bowl forms with a streaky cream to orange base slip. Black circumferencial bands define registers that usually enclose alternating spirals and stylized animals outlined in black with orange infilling.
Dating: Late Classic Period.
Formal Names: Termed Salinitas Polychrome by Boggs.

Example shown: Mixteca-Puebla style polychrome cup, Postclassic 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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