Americas Timeline

 

c. 8000 BC

Beads made of clam shells, engraved bones and pebbles represent an early interest in body decoration in present-day Wyoming. Originally these beads were strung onto cords through holes made with pointed stone tools. Read more...

c. 7000 BC–c. 6000 BC

Figurines of abstract form and little facial definition made of unfired clay are found in places such as Cowboy Cave in contemporary Utah. Read more...

c. 2700 BC–c. 1700 BC

Monumental temples are built at the Pre-Columbian-period site of La Galgada in the Peruvian highlands. These temples are later converted into tombs containing very early examples of textiles and jewellery. Read more...

c. 2300 BC

Red-slipped ceramic figurines, often of women with elaborate hairstyles, made by the people of the Valdivia culture of coastal Ecuador, are the earliest known pottery statues of humans in the Americas. Read more...

c. 2000 BC–c. 1100 BC

Figurines, typically of animals, made of split-twigs wrapped in a manner similar to that used to fashion baskets, are produced in the Great Basin region of North America and are occasionally found pierced by a sharp object. Read more...

c. 2000 BC–c. 250

Among the earliest examples of Mesoamerican pottery are the containers and figurines found in burials at Tlatilco near Mexico City. The statues often represent richly ornamened females, as well as acrobats, people wearing masks and humans that appear misshapen. Read more...

c. 2551 BC

Cerro Sechín, central platform, east section of north façade, relief carving of a triumphant dignitary, granodiorite stone, h. 3.44 m, c. 1500 BC (in situ)More than 300 stone slabs surround the central platform at the Pre-Columbian complex of Cerro Sechin in northern Peru. The large stones are engraved with standing dignitaries in formal attire, while the smaller slabs are carved with images of the remains of human and animal ritual sacrifice. Read more...

c. 1500 BC

Jade AmuletsJade is worked in Central America to fashion small amulets. This tradition, using local stone, produces ornaments for use by the living and for burials. Read more...

c. 1500 BC–500

Native American Northwest CoastThe distinguishing features of carvings made on the Native American Northwest Coast are established. They include depictions of humans and animals chiselled in flat, low relief; an emphasis on facial features, often on large heads, and a proponderance of symbolically meaningful images on items of daily use. Read more...

c. 1000 BC

Chavin potters of PeruChavín potters of coastal Peru form technically advanced ceramic containers that often combine distinctive shapes such as globular bottles topped by long necks decorated with bold, abstracted geometric and animal patterns. Read more...

c. 900

Stone head StatuesColossal stone heads, weighing several tons, are among the earliest and most distinctive creations of the ancient Olmec. Their different features and naturalism suggests that these sculptures might have been portraits of early kings. Read more...

c. 500 BC–c. 200 BC

The key feature of the Zapotec city of Monte Albán in Mexico is the Main Plaza, which contains in one corner a series of stone slabs carved in low relief with images of captured and dead enemies and some of the earliest known hieroglyphs in Mesoamerica. Read more...

c. 500 BC–AD 500

Anthropomorphic and animal figures are painted on the sheer red sandstone walls of the Great Gallery in Utah's Barrier Canyon. These images, with abstracted heads set on detailed torsos, are among the best prehistoric rock paintings in North America. Read more...

c. 300 BC–AD 400

La TolitaPotters at La Tolita on Ecuador's coast make large numbers of mould-produced figurines of gods, imaginary beings and humans engaged in a wide variety of daily activities. Read more...

c. 200 BC–c. AD 200

Pre-Columbian mummies embroidered textilesPre-Columbian mummies of the Paracas culture are buried in tombs in the Central Andes swaddled in layers of embroidered textiles filled with colourful abstracted images of birds, felines and serpents. Read more...

AD 1–AD 150

The Pyramid of the Sun, along with its smaller and later companion the Pyramid of the Moon, dominates Teotihuacán's extensive programme of monumental architecture and is the largest building ever made in Mesoamerica. Read more...

AD 1–AD 400

Burial and Ceremonial ObjectsThe Hopewell people construct numerous mounds at a site in Ohio. These graves contain a variety of burial goods and ceremonial objects, many of which include materials traded from other regions. Read more...

c. AD 50

A powerful ruler of the Moche civilization in Peru is buried near Sipán with a rich assortment of gold and silver jewellery and ornaments that remained intact until the tomb was excavated in 1987. Read more...

c. AD 300–c. AD 500

The Zapotec people of Monte Albán achieve their highest levels in ceramic production, producing finely grained grey wares that are engraved and incised. Funerary urns are among the finest pieces made. Read more...

c. AD 450

Scenes of battles between men and anthropomorphic weapons are painted on the walls of the pyramid Huaca de La Luna at Moche in Peru, reflecting the political and religious concerns of the society's élite. Read more...

c. AD 600–c. AD 900

Tika, Guatemala CityMesoamerican rulers build a monumental city at Tikal, Guatemala as their capital. This city's paved Great Plaza is flanked by an acropolis that serves as the royal cemetery, another acropolis for rulers and several temple-pyramids for important ritual ceremonies and funerary functions. Read more...

AD 615–AD 684

Temple of the InscriptionsAt the Mayan ceremonial site of Palenque in Mexico, the ruler Pacal builds the Temple of the Inscriptions, which derives its name from the hieroglyphs inscribed on panels that decorate the interior. Pacal's tomb is contained in this temple. Read more...

c. AD 700–c. AD 1050

Mimbres PottersPotters in the Mimbres area of the American Southwest begin decorating wares with black designs painted on white surfaces, a technique that continues for more than three centuries. Read more...

AD 790

The Mayan ceremonial centre of Bonampak in Mexico contains the most complete cycle of Pre-Columbian wall paintings in the region. These colourful paintings on stucco present complex scenes of political events, ceremonies and battles. Read more...

c. 1000

A pyramid-temple, known as the Castillo, is erected in Chichén Itzá in eastern Mexico and follows a radical architectural plan that incorporates astronomical events. Read more...

c. 1000–c. 1470

Gold burial masks are made in the kingdom of Chimú on the northern coast of Peru. Read more...

c. 1000–c. 1500

Weavers of the Milagro-Quevedo culture on the coast of Ecuador make high quality and complex textiles with geometric patterns and enhanced with embroidery. Read more...

c. 1000–c. 1600

Chiriquí JewelleryIn addition to utilitarian objects, smiths of the Chiriquí culture of Costa Rica produce gold jewellery. Most common and distinctive are those pieces derived from animal shapes but rendered in a highly stylized and abstracted manner. Read more...

c. 1000–c. 1600

Tairona OrnamentsThe Tairona people of Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Colombia make highly complex personal ornaments for powerful members of their society. Among the most unusual are composite human-animal figures wearing elaborate headdresses. Read more...

c. 1100

Chaco-style potteryCeramics in Southwest North America are dominated by Chaco-style pottery that is characterized by geometric black-and-white designs. Read more...

c. 1100–1470

Weavers in the Chancay Valley of coastal Peru produce high quality textiles with precise geometric designs that are reversible. Mythical figures such as the god Virococha suggest inspiration from other cultures. Read more...

c. 1200–c. 1350

Spiro Mound in the Ozark Mountains, Oklahoma is a ceremonial burial site in which honoured deceased are buried wrapped in feathered capes or painted textiles and then placed in baskets or bark litters. Read more...

c. 1200–c. 1521

One of the few surviving ancient Mexican manuscripts, the Codex Nuttall illustrates the history of important cities in the Mixtec region and provides key biographical details about the ruler Eight-Deer-Jaguar-Claw. Read more...

c. 1250

People of the Anasazi culture in the Southwest region of North America build the Cliff Palace, one of their multi-storeyed terraced buildings of adobe brick and stone situated on ledges beneath overhanging cliffs. Read more...

1300–1500

Chimú Drinking VesselsMetalworkers of the Chimú culture in Peru fashion elaborate drinking vessels from sheets of hammered silver, probably for royal banquets. Among the most complex are containers in the forms of figures, depicted wearing clothing with intricate geometric patterns. Read more...

c. 1400–c. 1600

In the later stages of the Mississippian culture at Etowah in the Southeast of North America, a few élite members of society are buried with elaborate costumes, headdresses, personal ornaments and ceremonial objects. Read more...

c. 1460

Machu Picchu citadelPachacutec erects the citadel Macchu Picchu in the Andes. This examples of mature Inca architecture serves as a country retreat and fulfils personal, diplomatic and religious functions. Read more...

c. 1475–c. 1500

A great statue of the Aztec Earth goddess and mother of the Moon Coatlícue is made in the Mexican city of Calixtlahuaca. Read more...

c. 1540–c. 1550

Antonio de Mendoza, the first viceroy of New Spain, commissions on behalf of Emperor Charles V a codex to encourage the transition from native to European governance. Aztecs and Mayans had produced graphic codexes to record important official and historical information since 1000 BC. Read more...

1768

Revolutionary patriot Paul Revere crafts one of the most famous examples of American presentation silver, the Sons of Liberty Punchbowl. Read more...

c. 1768

John Singleton Copley, the most famous portrait painter in Revolutionary America, depicts Paul Revere not as a fighter but as a skilled craftsman at work. Read more...

1779

Charles Willson Peale executes one of his most famous portraits of George Washington, representing the leader as an impressive general after the successful Battle of Princeton. Read more...

1793

Work begins on the US Capitol building in Washington DC. The structure of the building symbolizes the composition of the legislature: one flanking wing each for the Senate and House of Representatives and a central domed rotunda to indicate their essential unity. Read more...

1800

The oldest surviving example of Native American Plains battle painting is the Mandan Robe acquired by Lewis and Clark during their expedition. Painted by the men of the tribe, the sparse composition, stick-like figures and concern with hunting events resemble Native American rock paintings. Read more...

c. 1807

Duncan Phyfe FurnitureDuncan Phyfe, known for his Neo-classical furnishings, becomes the most sought-after furnituremaker in New York. Read more...

1836

Thomas Cole PaintingsIn compositions such as Oxbow on the Connecticut River Thomas Cole, one of the foremost American painters of the 19th century, imbues his landscapes with moralizing themes and explores the relationship between man and nature. Read more...

1850

The Great Lakes BagsThe most elaborate use of beadwork in the Woodlands region of North America is on the large bags made by the Great Lakes peoples. While earlier designs consist primarily of geometric motifs, later patterns are denser and contain complex foliate imagery. Read more...

c. 1800–c. 1875

The Pomo Indians Wedding BasketsThe Pomo Indians of North America make elaborate feathered bowl wedding baskets. Read more...

1851

Edward Leutze: Washington Crossing the DelawarePainted by Edward Leutze shortly before the outbreak of the Civil War, Washington Crossing the Delaware presents an heroic General Washington leading his troops to win a victory that marked a key turning point in the Revolutionary War. Read more...

c. 1853

Atsidi Sani is the first Navajo to work independently as a blacksmith and jeweller. Read more...

1858

Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux win the competition to design and build Central Park in New York. Olmsted is inspired by his belief in the ennobling power of culture and landscape and succeeds in making the country's first large fully-landscaped public park. Read more...

1868

The Mandolin Painter;by American artist Mary Cassatt is accepted for exhibition by the Paris Salon. Cassatt's paintings and pastels are distinctive among the Impressionists for their maternal and domestic subjects and extensive influence of Japanese woodblock prints. Read more...

1875

Thomas Eakins portrays, with startling accuracy and detail, the renowned surgeon Samuel Gross in the middle of an operation. Rejected by the Centennial exhibition jury as not being a work of art, the Gross Clinic is instead displayed as a medical exhibit. Read more...

1883

John Augustus Roebling completes the Brooklyn Bridge. This suspension bridge between Brooklyn and lower Manhattan contributes to the eventual political union between the two boroughs. Read more...

1885

William Le Baron Jenney erects in Chicago the Home Insurance Building (destr. 1931), the first building to be constructed entirely with a steel skeleton. This construction method provides the model for future skyscrapers. Read more...

1907

Alfred Stieglitz: The SteerageAmerican photographer Alfred Stieglitz takes one of his most enduring photographs, The SteerageRead more...

1909

Frank Lloyd Wright: The Robie HouseAmerican architect Frank Lloyd Wright builds the Robie House in the Prairie style. Read more...

1925

Mexican painter Frida Kahlo has a bus accident that leaves her seriously disabled. She underwent some 32 operations before her death and her lifeʼs work of over 200 paintings, mostly self-portraits, deals directly with her battle to survive. Read more...

1931

The Empire State BuildingThe Empire State Building in New York is completed only one year and forty-five days after work starts on its steel frame. At 381 metres high, the Art Deco skyscraper remained the tallest building in the world until 1965. Read more...

1947–1952

Jackson Pollock: One: Number 31, 1950Jackson Pollock, key figure of Abstract Expressionism, creates radically new poured or 'drip' paintings, including: One: Number 31, 1950Read more...

1962

Andy Warhol: The Marilyn DiptychAndy Warhol creates his tribute to Hollywood glamour and comment of consumer culture with The Marilyn Diptych, an important example of Pop art. Read more...

1970

American sculptor Robert Smithson creates Spiral Jetty, the first Earthwork in the Land art movement, spawning a whole movement towards site specific and environmental art. Read more...

1974–1979

Judy Chicago: The Dinner Party: A Symbol of our HeritageJudy Chicago creates a major piece of Feminist art with The Dinner Party: A Symbol of our Heritage in which she uses traditional domestic skills, such as embroidery, to honour over 1000 women. Read more...

1994

Kara Walker: Gone: An Historical Romance of Civil War As it Occurred Between the Dusky Thighs of Young Negress and Her HeartKara Walker, African American artist, rises to fame in an exhibition at The Drawing Center in New York of her work Gone: An Historical Romance of Civil War As it Occurred Between the Dusky Thighs of Young Negress and Her HeartRead more...