Pottery and ceramics are among the earliest crafts in history. In the American continent, pottery originated in South America around 2700 BC and reached the Yucatan peninsula towards 1200 BC, as evidenced by the finding of such objects as pots, animal-shaped containers, cups, and anthropomorphic figurines. The most primitive techniques consisted of hand-shaping a mixture of water, clay and a special kind of sand known as “sac-cab” or white earth or by superposing and molding coils or flat straps of this material.
Nowadays, round-section pieces are made on a potter’s wheel or “k’abal”, consisting of a rectangular tray that holds the clay and is placed on a turntable, which the potter spins by means of a kick wheel.
After molding, the pieces are dried, buffed and decorated or painted before firing them in a wood-fired kiln, made of clay and stones.
A special characteristic of modern Yucatecan pottery is that pieces are colored red by coating them with an engobe, or clay slip, made with “k’ankab”, a kind of earth rich in iron oxides.
Yucatan’s pottery production consists basically of plant pots, vases, decorative pieces, and ceremonial utensils to be used in the Day of the Dead celebrations (locally known as Hanal Pixan, or Meal of the Souls).
The main villages where pottery is produced are Ticul, Uayma, Maxcanu, Calkini, Mama and Dzidzantun. Sophisticated pieces of ceramics are produced in the village of Cholul, located in the municipality of Merida.
Source: Merida artesanal (Handcrafts in Merida)
Segunda edicion 2005.
City Council of Merida.