21-40 of 45 results  for:

  • Pre-Columbian Art x
Clear all

Article

Terence Grieder

Site of Pre-Columbian culture in the highlands of Ancash Department, Peru. It was occupied late in Pre-Ceramic period V (c. 4200–c. 2500 bc), Pre-Ceramic period VI (c. 2500–c. 1800 bc), and the Initial period (c. 1800–c. 900 bc; see South America, Pre-Columbian §III 1., (ii)). Its temples and tombs are dated between c. 2700 and c. 1700 bc. The site was excavated between 1976 and 1985 by Terence Grieder; the finds are in the Museo Nacional de Antropología y Arqueología, Lima. La Galgada’s Pre-Ceramic temples were subcircular chambers, each with a fire-pit in the centre and a bench running around the walls, which contained empty niches. The chambers were later converted to tombs by replacing their log roofs with stone vaults. The chambers were then buried, and new chambers built on top. A shaft was retained for access to burials in the tomb. The resulting mound was supported by a massive corbelled revetment wall. Sixteen intact burials provided cotton mantles, shawls, and bags worn by the site’s Pre-Ceramic inhabitants. Cloth was made by twining, looping, and linking. Bags made by looping were the main art form. These bear intricate two-colour designs of birds, snakes, and, more rarely, frontal views of anthropomorphic beings. Twenty-eight designs in five colours have been identified. After the introduction of the back-strap loom ...

Article

Carolyn Tate

The premier Gulf Coast Olmec ritual and pilgrimage center of the Middle Formative period, which flourished from c. 1100–400 BCE. It carried on the artistic traditions established at the earlier site, San Lorenzo Tenochtitlan, such as the carving of colossal heads, cave-niche thrones, and in-the-round seated figures, but also added a new form of monumental sculpture, the stela. However, it differed from San Lorenzo in important ways. Whereas most of the San Lorenzo monuments were carved from basalt from the Tuxtla mountains, La Venta used this basalt but also imported stone from as far away as the Pacific slope of Oaxaca and the El Chichon volcano in Chiapas, indicating a vast interaction sphere. Also, while caches of regalia and stone figurines have not been found at San Lorenzo, dozens of such caches, some large and complex, fill the plazas between Mounds C-1 and A-2 at La Venta. Furthermore, although four or five monuments were grouped in each of several “scenic displays” at San Lorenzo, at La Venta the entire site, measuring 1927 m north–south, was integrated as an artistic composition....

Article

Labná  

Jeremy A. Sabloff

Site of Pre-Columbian Maya culture c. 6 km east of Sayil in the Puuc region of the Northern Maya Lowlands in Yucatán, Mexico. Labná flourished during the Late Classic (c. ad 600–c. 900) and Early Post-Classic (c. ad 900–c. 1200) periods. It was one of the major Puuc sites that became prominent at a critical time when the great Classic-period sites of the Southern Lowlands collapsed and the cultural and demographic centre of Lowland Maya civilization shifted to the Northern Lowlands. Labná is situated on the level floor of a small valley. Although it has never been intensively surveyed, the site appears to be much smaller than the neighbouring centres of Sayil, Kabáh, and Uxmal. In addition, the civic plan is less ordered than that of other major Puuc sites, and Labná has been described as having a straggling appearance (Pollock, p. 10). The architecture is in the typical Puuc style, with an emphasis on walls decorated above medial mouldings or cornices; stone-mosaic masks over doorways; repetitive stone-mosaic patterns of stylized geometric or naturalistic designs; carefully cut stone veneer masonry; and decorated roof-combs. The most renowned buildings include the Palace, the Mirador, and the Arch or Portal Vault; the Palace is connected to the latter two by a north–south causeway running through the centre of an immense plaza....

Article

David C. Grove

Site of Pre-Columbian Olmec political and religious centre in the southern Gulf Coast of Mexico, c. 15 km south-west of the Tuxtla Mountains in a region of rolling foothills. It has received less scholarly attention than the other Olmec centres of San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán, La Venta, and Tres Zapotes. Excavations were carried out by Alfonso Medellín Zenil in 1960, and, though not fully published, the results demonstrate that the site was an important Olmec ceremonial centre. They also show that the Olmec period occupation was merely the earliest of many, and that the site’s nearly 100 mounds cover a timespan of approximately 1500 years. Exactly which mounds are attributable to the Olmec is therefore uncertain.

No major investigations have been carried out since Medellín Zenil’s; however, in 1978 the available data were summarized (see Bove), and, on the basis of Olmec ceramics from the 1960 excavations, it has been suggested that the initial Olmec occupation occurred in the Early Pre-Classic period (...

Article

Lamanai  

H. Stanley Loten

[Indian Church]

Site of extensive Pre-Columbian Maya settlement in northern Belize, on a low ridge on the west shore of the New River Lagoon at its northern end, where the lagoon drains northwards along a winding jungle river. It is a commanding location that has obvious strategic advantage for the control and exploitation of the river passage north to Chetumal Bay. Archaeological excavations, which have sampled approximately 10% of the structures mapped, indicate that the site was occupied continuously from the middle Pre-Classic period (c. 1000–c. 300 bc) until contact with the Spaniards in 1521. It was previously known as Indian Church, the name still applied to the general locality of the ancient ruins. A major archaeological project was conducted at Lamanai between 1974 and 1986 under the auspices of the Royal Ontario Museum, directed by David Pendergast of the museum and Stanley Loten of Carleton University, Ottawa.

The monumental ceremonial and élite precinct of Lamanai extends along slightly more than 1 km of the lagoon edge, and the site as a whole appears to be contained within an area of 4.5 sq. km on the higher ground along its shore. Within this area, 718 buildings were recorded, most of which appear to be élite ceremonial structures and residences. Test excavations by ...

Article

John Paddock

Site in Mexico, in the Valley of Oaxaca. It was a Pre-Columbian Zapotec settlement, and the modern name derives from the Zapotec terms for place (late) or flat area (lachi) and artificial mound (piteco). Lambityeco lies within the larger and older site of Yegüih: the community expanded into the Lambityeco area from c. ad 600, when it prospered with salt and pottery production, although its lands were poor. Lambityeco provides a picture of Zapotec life outside Monte Albán, probably in the 7th century ad. At this time artists were still anonymous, but interest in the genealogies of nobles had increased sharply. Tomb 6 has named portrait sculptures on its façade portraying ‘Lord 1 L’ (1 Earthquake) and ‘Lady 10 J’ (10 Reed?). Like most Zapotec tombs, this was a family tomb located under the house. A unique masonry altar was placed over it. The façade sculptures probably portray the principal occupant’s parents. Slightly larger than life, they were sculpted in mud and pebbles, with only a thin coating of stucco. Friezes at each side show another named pair, probably the grandparents; these figures, however, depict stylized old people, not portraits. Above these, another pair of friezes with plaster reliefs was almost entirely destroyed ...

Article

Muriel Porter-Weaver

Site of Mesoamerican Olmec culture in southern Puebla, Mexico. It flourished from the latter half (c. 1200 bc) of the Early Pre-Classic period (c. 2000–c. 1000 bc) to c. 800 bc in the early part of the Middle Pre-Classic period (c. 1000–c. 300 bc), yielding important grave goods. Las Bocas was strategically situated on the route of early travellers between the Gulf Coast region and the Mesoamerican Central Highlands. Archaeological remains comprise grave offerings. The importance of the site is twofold: it is a highland site relating to Tlatilco and Tlapacoya in the Basin of Mexico, to Chalcatzingo and Gualupita in the state of Morelos, and to the site of San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán in the Olmec heartland on the southern Gulf Coast. Artefacts of the highland sites share some features of the Olmec style of the Gulf Coast region; examples from Las Bocas are particularly fine. Las Bocas has been repeatedly pillaged by grave robbers, and consequently most of the material from the site, whether in private collections or museums, has no recorded archaeological context. Excavations in the only remaining undisturbed area, directed by ...

Article

Richard F. Townsend

Site of a 16th-century rock-cut Aztec temple, c. 60 km south-east of Mexico City. The temple at Malinalco is an example of a widespread type of ritual building described in 16th-century ethno-historical texts and associated with the cult of the earth. Its monolithic inner chamber is the only excavated example to have survived intact. The temple forms part of a ritual and administrative centre built at the hilltop Matlazinca town of Malinalco after it had been incorporated into the Aztec empire. The buildings were begun in 1501, under the Aztec ruler Ahuizotl (reg 1486–1502), as extensions of the symbolic architectural system developed in Tenochtitlán; they are compactly arranged along an artificial terrace partly carved from the steeply sloping mountainside. The façade comprises two sections. Sculptured guardian figures flank the foot of a flight of 13 steps ascending the lower platform. Similar figures flank the front of the upper temple chamber; another figure forms part of the centre of the 3rd to 6th steps, in which the most important sculpture is a large relief carving of a serpent-like mask framing the chamber doorway. The carved mask functions as a hieroglyph for ...

Article

John R. Topic

Site of Pre-Columbian culture, flourishing c. ad 400–c. 1000, in the northern Peruvian highlands near the modern town of Huamachuco, Sánchez Carrión Province. The site ranges across the top of a hilly plateau 3.8 km long and approximately 500 m wide. The plateau itself is elevated 3400–3600 m above sea-level and is enclosed on three sides by steep cliffs and gorges up to 1000 m deep. The site is important for its architecture and architectural stone-carving.

Max Uhle visited the site in 1900 and made the first scientifically recorded collections; in 1941 Theodore D. McCown made an extensive study of the ruins, collecting more artefacts. Both their collections are housed in the Robert H. Lowie Museum of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. John P. Thatcher conducted surveys in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and a Canadian project directed by John and Theresa Topic, with the collaboration of ...

Article

Jeff Karl Kowalski and Trent Barnes

Site of Pre-Columbian Maya city of the Late Post-Classic period (c. ad 1200–1521), 40 km south-east of Mérida in Yucatán, Mexico. The name means ‘Standard of the Maya’. According to Bishop Landa, a Spanish observer writing in the 16th century, Mayapán was established by a ruler from Chichén Itzá named Kukulcán, who decreed that henceforward all the native lords of Yucatán would reside there. Ethno-historical sources agree that the city was founded between 1263 and 1283 by the Itzá, a Maya group from Chichén Itzá. Between 1362 and 1382 Mayapán was ruled by the Cocom, an Itzá lineage under whom it became the capital of the northern plains region of Yucatán. However, the Cocom became so oppressive that the other resident lords, led by the Tutul Xiu lineage, murdered, and deposed them sometime between 1441 and 1461. Mayapán was traditionally referred to as Ichpa (‘within the enclosure’), and archaeological investigations confirmed that it was indeed a fortified walled city. It contained some 3500 structures within 4 sq. km, about 100 of which were large masonry temples or ceremonial structures. An estimated population of 11,000–12,000 was accommodated in housing ranging from substantial residences to perishable huts....

Article

Mirador  

Elizabeth P. Benson and Trent Barnes

Site of Pre-Columbian Maya city in the lowland forests of northern Petén, Guatemala. It flourished c. 150 bcc. ad 150, but parts were also used in later periods. Survey and excavation work indicates that its centre measured c. 16 sq. km, making it the largest known concentration of Maya civic and religious structures. Its acropoleis were surmounted by immense platforms, plazas, and other buildings. Such monumental structures were commonly constructed of cut-stone block masonry, plastered over and ornamented with stucco masks of Maya gods. According to Ray T. Matheny and others, Mirador provides evidence that such Pre-Classic Maya cities were the focus of early states that rivalled later, Classic period (c. ad 250–c. 900) Maya civilization. The creation of a city as immense as Mirador would certainly have required strong and complex social controls to produce the architects and artisans and to mobilize the necessary workforce and supplies....

Article

Mitla  

John Paddock and Trent Barnes

Site of a Pre-Columbian Zapotec and Mixtec city in the eastern arm of the Valley of Oaxaca, Mexico. Much confusion about Mitla has resulted from what Fray Francisco de Burgoa wrote about it some 150 years after the Spanish Conquest. Burgoa was deceived by the biased account he received from its colonial rulers, who recalled the name of only one Pre-Columbian ruler—a Mixtec. Excavations have revealed that Mitla was a small Zapotec town around ad 400. Mixtec rule began c. ad 1000, when the city became a royal burial centre, but even then most of the population was still probably Zapotec.

Mitla (Nahuatl: ‘Arrow place’, a corruption of ‘Miquitla’, ‘Death place’, which was a rough translation of Zapotec ‘Lyobaa’, ‘Inside-tomb’) comprises groups of surviving palaces and platforms that are a late part of the ancient community, most of which lies under the modern town. The area has been inhabited at least since ...

Article

John Paddock and Trent Barnes

Site in Mexico, in the Valley of Oaxaca. It was an important Pre-Columbian Zapotec city, later occupied by Mixtec. At the convergence of the Valley of Oaxaca’s three arms, on a small range of hills (c. 600 m), Monte Albán was founded by peoples from neighbouring villages c. 600 bc as a ceremonial centre. The site had probably long been sacred. By the time of Monte Albán’s founding, the Zapotecs had established long-distance trading contacts with Olmec centres in the Gulf Coast and had developed a calendrical system for recording dates and events on stone.

The ancient city grew by stages but apparently not at first with a long-term plan, except that a grand work of art was clearly intended. An enormous plaza, measuring 400 m (north–south) by 250 m (east–west), was laid out, and calendrical inscriptions were incorporated into a wall. As problems in construction and settlement arose, remedies were improvised, and the hilltops of the range were gradually modified as the urban centre grew. While major public buildings, monuments, and élite residences were built around the hilltop plaza, ...

Article

Elizabeth P. Benson and Trent Barnes

Site of Pre-Columbian Maya culture, c. 20 km south-west of Escuintla, on the Pacific slopes of Guatemala. It was probably occupied from the 8th century bc to c. ad 200, with a florescence towards the end of that time, but by c. ad 200 it would have been surpassed in political importance by the Maya sites of Kaminaljuyú and Izapa. The site layout at Monte Alto has parallel north–south oriented plazas flanked by platforms and mounds, a pattern typical of the Middle Pre-Classic period (c. 1000–c. 300 bc).

The sculpture of the Pacific slopes is relatively little known. Although much has been found, the pieces are almost always in the context of former ceremonial centres, but often smashed and reused. Boulder sculptures, plain stone stelae, and plain round altars have all been found at Monte Alto. The boulder sculpture probably dates from the Late Pre-Classic period (...

Article

Stella Nair

An Inka royal estate and colonial period town. Straddling the picturesque Patakancha River, Ollantaytambo was one of several private estates of Pachacuti, the Sapa Inka. Situated c. 72 km northwest of Cuzco in a narrow and lush valley downstream from the confluence with the Vilcanota–Urubamba Rivers, the settlement of Ollantaytambo was commissioned by Pachacuti after his conquest of the local population.

As is typical of all Inka royal estates, Ollantaytambo was not a singular bounded entity, but instead consisted of a collection of distinct landholdings that belonged to a ruler. Ollantaytambo was the core of Pachacuti’s royal estate as it housed his private residential quarters. This allowed Ollantaytambo to have functioned as both his private residence as well as a temporary capital. Nearby were agricultural terraces, ritual centers, storage facilities, quarries for building, guard stations, among other sites that addressed a myriad political, economic, and religious needs of a royal estate. When Pachacuti was staying at Ollantaytambo the architecture would have been the theater for the ruler and Inka state. And in his absence, the distinctive architecture would have represented the power and presence of the Inka state’s (and Pachacuti’s) control over local populations....

Article

Merle Greene Robertson

Site of Pre-Columbian Maya ceremonial centre in the foothills of the Sierra de Palenque mountains, Chiapas, Mexico. During the 7th and 8th centuries ad Palenque was the most important city on the far western periphery of the Maya world. Although the area was inhabited in the Late Pre-Classic period (c. 300 bcc. ad 250), only a small group of people lived there. At the height of its importance, in the Late Classic period (c. ad 600–c. 900), however, at least 10,000 people lived there at one time. The site comprises a palace, a ballcourt and several temples sited in groups scattered over a large area.

The architecture at Palenque is both unique and diverse, including the largest surviving Maya palace complex (see fig.). The palace, dominated by a three-storey tower, was built in stages over a period of two centuries. The first stage, at the level of the plaza floor, was later connected to buildings on the upper terrace by subterranean passageways. The earliest building on the upper level was House E, the only known structure at Palenque without a roof-comb. It was also unique in that the entire whitewashed west façade was covered in patterns of flowers resembling those found on codices. House E was used for the coronation of several Palenque kings and includes a plaque depicting the transfer of rulership from Lady Zac-Kuk to her 12-year-old son Pacal (...

Article

Elizabeth P. Benson

Site of Pre-Columbian Maya culture on the Usumacinta River, El Petén, Guatemala. It flourished during the Classic period (c. ad 250–c. 900) and is famous for its painted stone sculpture (Guatemala City, Mus. N. Arqueol. & Etnol.). The site was investigated by Teobert Maler in 1895 and by archaeologists from the University of Pennsylvania between 1930 and 1939. Tatiana Proskouriakoff made reconstruction drawings of the architecture in the 1950s and studied the various stelae. Limestone stelae, circular altars with carved legs, lintels and ‘thrones’ were carved in a combination of high and low relief, in a fluid, expressive and elegantly detailed style, in contrast to more angular, less detailed sculptures in the central Petén region. Early examples were painted red, but later pieces were polychrome. Motifs from Teotihuacán, in the Mesoamerican Central Highlands, were sometimes used.

While at most Maya sites of the Late Classic period (...

Article

Robert J. Sharer

Site of Pre-Columbian Maya Southern Lowland city on the Motagua River flood plain in Guatemala, 100 km from the Caribbean. Quiriguá flourished in the Classic period (c. ad 250–c. 900) and is famous for its sculpted monuments, the largest and among the most beautiful produced by the ancient Maya. Photographs and drawings were published by A. P. Maudslay from 1889 to 1902, and the site has been the subject of several excavations, most recently by the University of Pennsylvania (1974–9).

Ancient Quiriguá covered c. 4 sq. km, but only the largest structures and carved stone monuments rise above 1–2 m of recent alluvium. Most are concentrated at the site core, covering c. 500 sq. m. The sandstone and rhyolite monuments include upright stelae, flat altars and zoomorphic sculptured boulders. Most combine historical texts with portraits of Quiriguá’s rulers being presented with symbols of authority to reinforce their earthly and supernatural power. The monuments were erected in the Great Plaza (300 × 150 m). A massive buried platform in the northern third supports Monuments 1–7 (5 stelae and 2 zoomorphs), all dedicated during the final 24 years of the reign of Quiriguá’s greatest ruler, ...

Article

George E. Stuart

Site of Pre-Columbian Maya culture in the north-east of the tropical rain-forest of Petén, Guatemala. It was discovered in 1962 by oil prospectors, and Richard E. W. Adams and John Gatling carried out preliminary excavations and mapping on behalf of Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, and the Instituto de Antropología e Historia de Guatemala in the same year. Pottery samples from the first test pits indicated that the site was occupied from the Late Pre-Classic period (c. 300 bcc. ad 250) to the end of the Classic period (c. ad 900). Its standing stone buildings, some of which were well preserved, resembled those at Tikal, a much larger Maya site 75 km to the south-west. In 1981 Ian Graham of Harvard University discovered that many of the large pyramids at Río Azul had been cut into and looted; because of this, Adams returned to the site in ...

Article

Carolyn Tate

Early Formative site-complex in Mexico, thought to be the earliest capital of Gulf Coast Olmec culture. San Lorenzo occupies a 1700-acre hill surrounded by branches of the ancient courses of the Coatzocoalcos River in the State of Veracruz. Around 1500 BCE people settled along the rivers, but within 300 years San Lorenzo dominated the settlements around it, until 850 BCE. The elites, who controlled the best fishing and farming lands and the collection and distribution of materials, including stone for monuments, lived on the desirable hilltop. Through coercion or cooperation, they enlisted the work of laborers, who helped them create the first array of monumental stone sculptures (134 have been found) in North America. This collection of monumental art is unusual for the skill of its carving, the innovation of many subjects and themes that would become fundamental to Mesoamerican ideologies, for its probable role in facilitating narrative performances, and because of the mutilation that was eventually inflicted upon it....