Ancient Ceramic Snail Shaped Vessel, West Mexico, Jalisco (3290BLB) $435


H: 4.75”  W: 2.75”  D: 1.75” | FREE SHIPPING

This Protoclassic (circa 200BCE – 200CE) ceramic painted figurine of an ovoid snail was fashioned as a vessel with a wide large spout on top. Many early Jalisco ceramics were utilitarian and used for cooking, carrying water or storing seeds. The size and shape of this piece suggest it was made to hold liquids. Pieces like this were often decorated with applied painted designs that faded because they were not fired after painting. In contrast to the rest of Mesoamerica which had complex urban centers, areas of habitation in West Mexico were small, especially in the Colima Jalisco-Nayarit area. Because these areas had been abandoned for centuries, utilitarian objects like this were rarely found whole and required their fragments to be assembled and restored. This piece is in very good condition with cracks and paint losses and may have expected repairs at its spout.


Representations of snails were fairly common in Mesoamerican Pre-Columbia. Although each culture developed distinctive snail imagery, the theme was culturally interlinked and shared common stylistic and iconographic traditions.  David Palmer presents a compilation of data from many sources about the symbolic importance of snails, citing Tozzer and Allen who state from earliest times Nahuas (the largest indigenous group in Mexico) have considered the the snail as the symbol of birth and death. Rios writes, “Just as the snail comes out of the shell, so too man emerges from the womb of his mother.” Westheim states, “…the snail shell represents the female reproductive organs” and also notes that gods and humans throughout Mesoamerica and Peru were depicted emerging from shells similar in form and shape to female reproductive organs. In later Classic periods in West Mexico from 250-900 CE, they were closely associated with Quetzalcóatl, the Feathered-Serpent creator-and-fertility deity from whom most Mesoamericans believed they were descendants and as  procreator of man and arbiter of life and death, Quetzalcóatl is, “The god born of water (who) rises from a snail shell. ” So, snails signified birth, generation, and resurrection and were a source of spirituality. (Palmer)


Christopher Minster, “9 Facts about Quetzalcoatl, the Plumed Serpent God of the Solteca and Azetcs,” ToughtCo, March 15, 2019,

David A. Palmer, “A Study of Mesoamerican Religious Symbolism”,, “Mesoamerican Religions: Mythic Themes”,

Additional information

Weight 5 lbs
Dimensions 8 × 8 × 8 in
Place of Origin

The Americas

Materials and Technique



Protoclassic Period


200BCE – 200CE

Dimensions (inches)

Ht: 3.25” W: 6.75” D: 2.25”

Dimensions (metric)

Ht: 8.255cm W: 17.018cm D: 5.715cm


1 lb


Very good, see description

Item Number


Shipping Box Size