During the Classic period (200–900 C.E.), Maya culture developed in the region from the northern Yucatán peninsula to the southern highlands of Guatemala, from eastern Mexico to western Honduras. The Maya built monumental architecture in cities strategically located on trade routes traversing land, rivers, and sea. By the Late Classic period (600–900 C.E.), an expanding Maya elite traded in luxury items such as feathers, cacao, cotton cloth, obsidian, and jadeite sourced from southeastern Guatemala and western Honduras. The desire by Maya elite for exotic goods expanded interaction with non-Maya populations into the southeast periphery of Mesoamerica.
The Ulúa River system served as a crucial conduit for cultural exchange into central Honduras. Maya traders from coastal Belize and the Yucatán peninsula transported worked objects to northern Honduras in exchange for local resources. Artisans from the Ulúa River regions produced elaborately carved marble cylinder vases, which were traded as far north as central Mexico and south into Panama. The Ulúa River valley, Lake Yojoa, and Comayagua populations further developed a regional polychrome painted ceramic tradition. These “Ulua Polychromes” varied in form and decoration; however, they often incorporated visual motifs adapted from their highly prolific Maya neighbors. The Ulua Polychrome tradition flourished in central Honduras throughout the Late Classic period.
Kimberly L. Jones, PhD, Label text, Edith O'Donnell Institute of Art History (EODIAH), 2017.