The vessel depicts three different creatures. In fact, it is a metaphor for three different realms: the human body represents the earthly world; the tiny bird, the upper world; and the serpent, the underworld (the world of the dead). The snake connects all three realms; it lives inside dark caves, goes out onto the ground, and climbs trees to later “disappear” in the foliage. Moving between these “worlds,” snakes link the realms of the living and the dead.
Ekholm, Gordon F., The Maremont Collection of Pre-Columbian Art, Israel Exploration Society in cooperation with the Shrine of the Book, Israel Museum