Expert opinion
Clay for the Centuries
Comalcalco, city of the great potters

The bricks that form many of the buildings of Comalcalco, and a large number of the pieces displayed in the museum, were handmade using molds. More than 1,500 years ago men and women shaped clay to make pots, casseroles, plates, cups and spoons to cook or serve their food. Numerous ceramic pieces were created thanks to the quality of the material, added to the experience of the potters, and these were traded along the Gulf of Mexico coast with distant places in the Yucatan peninsula.

Clay was also used to make necklaces, rings and pendants, as well as the small malacates (grinders) necessary to crush the cotton fiber into a fine thread to be able to weave clothes. The plasticity of the material made it possible to model cylinders of different sizes which fitted together to form pipes used to convey water to certain parts of the city.

The people of Comalcalco exploited the versatility of local clay in the way they made objects associated with their beliefs and rituals. Enormous funerary urns were made to protect and lay out the bodies of distinguished members of the society. The receptacles required advanced knowledge of the plastic qualities of clay to make containers larger than three feet high and three feet wide without collapsing during firing, as well as the experience to know the amount of fuel and the time needed for firing the pieces without using ovens.

Also noteworthy is the production of scale figures of men, women and animals, with many representations of governors, ball players or scenes from textile making or food preparation. There were also pieces which served as rattles (usually female figures), or wind instruments (in male forms). The figurines can allow us to explore aspects of social roles, clothing and aspects of local identity. They are a means of understanding some of the sounds which accompanied the everyday life and rituals of the people.

Clay is a material which has enabled people to make countless things, from the finest to the most crude objects; the only disadvantage is its fragility. As visitors explore the exhibition we invite you to think about all the work the ancient craftspeople put into making each piece, so that when you take a tour of the archeological site, you will understand why access is restricted to certain areas, which are not only very ancient, but much more delicate than stone constructions.

Would you like to join our team? When you come to visit us, help us by explaining to other people the importance of the heritage preserved by the museum, or you can tell people the reasons why we should stick to the path when we walk around the ancient city of Comalcalco.
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INAH-Museo de Sitio de Comalcalco
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