Designs on some vases refer to the Maya cosmos, the orderly and harmonious universe. Many of the design elements within very dense and complicated decorations on vessels can be interpreted and give insight into Maya beliefs about cosmology.
Shapes of vessels were based on their intended functions, which have been inferred from texts on the pots. Cylindrical vases contained beverages such as cacao or atole, a maize gruel, and were drinking vessels. Bowls held semi-liquid foods. Wide flat plates were for solids and sacrificial offerings. Although most of the ceramics probably came from elite burials, heavy use-wear on rims, bases and interior bottoms is evidence that many of the pots were used for food service and in rituals before being placed with the dead. It may be significant that the majority of vessels with cosmological imagery in the Palmer Collection are bowls, rather than cylindrical vases.