The central head in this incense burner wears a nose ornament and the large circular ear flares of Maya style. Framing the face is a pastiche of decorative details that include sheaves of vegetation above the head and masks, as well as animal and geometric forms, at top and bottom. The incense burner was probably placed on an altar or on the steps leading into a shrine. It held burning coals and copal incense (an aromatic tree resin) in the bowl at the bottom; smoke rose through the chimney in the back.
The incense burner vividly reflects the historical situation of its time. The Teotihuacán culture of highland Mexico was the most powerful social, economic, political, and, perhaps, religious force in Mesoamerica during the fifth century. The Maya of Guatemala were influenced by the people of Teotihuacán, creating buildings, sculptures, and ceramic vessels in Teotihuacán style. The sudden popularity of incense burners among the Maya may also be credited to Teotihuacán dominance. Guatemala was renowned for its excellent cacao (chocolate), which probably attracted the people of Teotihuacán to this region.