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Joan K. Lingen

Pre-Columbian culture of the Isthmian region of Latin America (classed archaeologically as part of the Intermediate area; see South America, Pre-Columbian, §II). Due to the paucity of archaeological investigation, the full geographic extent of Chiriquí material culture is not known. Chiriquí materials have been found in western Panama in Chiriquí Province and part of Bocas del Toro Province, and in south-eastern Costa Rica in the Pacific coastal region of Diquís and parts of Puntarenas and San José provinces. Thus the northern extent may be defined by the Talamanca and central mountain ranges of Costa Rica and Panama. The western and eastern boundaries are uncertain: Chiriquí-like materials have been found almost as far west as Quepos in south-central Costa Rica and as far east as the Veraguas River (Río Tabasara) in central Panama. The territory thus defined is extremely varied, having jagged coastlines with peninsulas, gulfs, bays, and deltas, and mountain ranges up to 4000 m high. A range of wet and dry tropical and temperate climates provided numerous ecological niches in which cultures developed. The Spanish entered the region in the mid-16th century. By the 19th century large collections of Pre-Columbian pottery, carved stonework, and metalwork had been made, including the ...



David M. Jones and Jaime Litvak King

Pre-Columbian site in Mexico, about 10 km south-west of the city of Puebla in north-central Puebla State. A huge Mesoamerican city and place of religious pilgrimage, it flourished throughout the Classic and Post-Classic periods (c. ad 250–1521). Its period of continuous occupation was one of the longest among sites in central Mexico, although there may have been a short hiatus in the Early Post-Classic period (c. ad 900–c. 1200). Pre-Columbian occupation in the vicinity began c. 600 bc and continued to the Spanish Conquest, after which Cholula became an important colonial city. The major period of monumental construction was between the 1st century ad and the 8th century. The city described and conquered by Cortés in 1519 was to the north-east of the Great Pyramid.

The Great Pyramid appears today as a large hill. It was surveyed in 1847 by the American Robert E. Lee and excavated by ...


Peter W. Stahl

Pre-Columbian culture, named after the site of La Chorrera on the River Babahoyo, in the Guayas Basin, Ecuador. It flourished between c. 1000 and c. 500 bc, during Ecuador’s Late Formative period (c. 1500 bcc. 500 bc). The terms ‘Chorrera’ and ‘Chorreroid series’ encompass a number of diverse but related cultures of the Guayas coast, ranging northwards from the province of El Oro to the northern area of the province of Manabí and reaching inland to the banks of the Daule and Babahoyo rivers.

The Chorrera style shows particular affinity to the earliest stages of the art of the Engoroy phase (c. 900–c. 500 bc). La Chorrera itself was discovered by F. Huerta Rendón, and later work was carried out by Emilio Estrada, Clifford Evans, and Betty Meggers.

The culture represents the apogee of the early art styles of Ecuador, having a wide geographical distribution and serving as a basic foundation for subsequent developments. During the Late Formative period, the use of metal was introduced, along with the manufacture of earrings and new types of figurines, figure modelling, red and white zoned ceramics, and negative-painted wares. The ...


Muriel Porter-Weaver

Pre-Columbian site in Mexico, formerly on the Lerma River in southern Guanajuato, c. 129 km north-west of Mexico City. It gives its name to a distinctive ceramic style that flourished in the region during the Late Pre-Classic period (c. 300 bcc. ad 250). For many years large quantities of brightly coloured ceramics and human figurines were found in the region by pot-hunters and sold commercially. In 1946–7 the Mexican Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia conducted excavations near Chupícuaro village at the confluence of the Lerma River and a small tributary. When the Solís Dam was completed in 1949, the village and excavated hilltop were flooded by the newly formed lake. Archaeological remains are still reported occasionally from the general area.

Chupícuaro was a farming community with a ceramic industry. Its art style spread to central and western Mexico along the Lerma River and to the north, perhaps as far as the south-western USA. Fragments of burnt adobe floors, fire-pits (Náhuatl ...



George E. Stuart

Pre-Columbian Maya site at Lake Cobá and Lake Macanxoc, 40 km inland from the coastal site of Tulum in the Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico. The area is also the location of the modern town of Cobá, founded in the 1940s. At the height of its power Maya Cobá was apparently an important regional centre and perhaps acted as a commercial hub in the distribution and redistribution of goods between the interior of the northern lowlands and the ports of the East Coast. It also served as the seat of powerful rulers, and as such doubtless played a key role in rivalries with neighbouring states, such as Chichén Itzá, to the west and north. Along with Tikal and Calakmul, Cobá is among the largest sites of the Maya Lowlands, and its system of elevated roadways is not matched at any other known Maya site. Although the discovery of Cobá is attributed to ...



Joan K. Lingen

Pre-Columbian culture of central Panama. It flourished in Coclé Province on the Gulf of Panama, and together with the Pre-Columbian culture of Veraguas Province (see Veraguas) it comprises the central Panamanian culture area. This is classed more broadly by archaeologists as part of the Intermediate area (see South America, Pre-Columbian, §II). The nature of Coclé culture has been variously interpreted: according to Richard Cooke, Coclé and Veraguas cultures are homogeneous, with local differences of degree, not kind. The earlier view held by Samuel K. Lothrop considered Coclé to be a distinct archaeological or cultural region comprising Coclé Province and the eastern Azuero Peninsula provinces of Herrera and Los Santos. Lothrop based his interpretation on the presence of Coclé artefacts throughout this area, inland from the lowlands of the Pacific watershed to the mountainous areas, from sea level to over 4000 m, culminating at the continental divide in northern Coclé Province. The eastern portion comprises a narrow, desolate coastal strip and a wide savanna grassland plain, cut by numerous rivers, and the western and northern parts the high peaks of the continental divide. The annual rainfall in this tropical forest region varies from marked wet and dry seasons in the flat eastern coastal area to year-round rains in the western and northern sections....


George F. Andrews

Pre-Columbian Lowland Maya site on the broad coastal plain of Tabasco, c. 3 km north-east of the modern town of Comalcalco, Mexico. There were two major periods of occupation: an early period from c. 1200 bc to ad 100 and a late period from c. ad 800 to 1350. The earliest description of the ruins was provided by (Claude-Joseph-)Désiré Charnay, who visited the site in 1880, while a more complete account was provided by Frans Blom and Oliver La Farge in their pioneering study of little-known Maya ruins in Tabasco and Chiapas during the 1920s. During 1956–7, Gordon Eckholm of the American Museum of Natural History, New York, carried out a preliminary exploration and ceramic study at the site, and this was followed in 1960 by a limited programme of excavation and stabilization by a team of archaeologists from the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Mexico. In 1966 an extensive mapping project was conducted by a team from the University of Oregon, and several years later a major programme of excavation and reconstruction was initiated, again by the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia. Directed by ...



Paul Gendrop

Pre-Columbian Maya site of the Classic period (c. ad 250–c. 900), set in the Copán Valley, Honduras. At an altitude of 600 m, it is one of the highest and southernmost sites of the Maya Lowlands. After the city, which flourished from c. ad 400–c. 800, had been abandoned, the Copán River overflowed its bed, undermining the foundations of the eastern part of the Acropolis, which collapsed, revealing numerous archaeological strata in the process. The site first became known in 1841 through the descriptions of John L. Stephens and the drawings of his companion, Frederick Catherwood.

The central part of the city is organized along a north–south axis in a grandiose composition resulting from numerous phases of remodelling. At its northern extremity, a ceremonial square served as the setting for the most important carved monoliths; it was delimited on three sides by enormous flights of steps, and on the fourth, southern, side by a radial pyramid. The southern extremity of the site ends in a wide, raised flight of steps that accommodates the undulating terrain to create the artificial platform known as the Acropolis. A smaller square is integrated into the north-east corner, next to the elegant ballcourt and the famous Hieroglyphic Stairway. From the centre of this southern flight of steps rise the remains of a temple (Temple II). Complex calculations concerning the eclipses of the planet Venus are sculpted on its interior walls, a reminder of Copán’s important role as a centre of ...


Daniel Schávelzon

Pre-Columbian site in Mexico, on the southern periphery of modern Mexico City. It flourished in the Late Pre-Classic period (c. 300 bcc. ad 250), until overshadowed by the city of Teotihuacán in the north-east Basin of Mexico. Few of Cuicuilco’s structures have been excavated. Excavations were carried out by Manuel Gamio and Byron Cummings in 1922 and 1925, and by Eduardo Noguera, Hugo Moedano, and Robert Heizer in the 1950s. Further study and new interpretations of the results of these excavations were completed in the 1970s.

Cuicuilco’s occupation began c. 900 bc as early agriculturists settled at the site. By the time of its apogee it covered a wide region close to an already drained ancient lake in the southern Basin of Mexico and controlled up to 40,000 people. In the final centuries bc and the 1st century ad Cuicuilco was a serious rival to Teotihuacán for control of the Basin of Mexico. The eruption of nearby Xitle volcano caused the first destruction of the city, and another eruption at the beginning of the 4th century ...


George Bankes

Pre-Columbian culture and art style of South America. It was centred on a small, dry valley c. 50 km north of the Chicama Valley, Peru. Various sites were located and excavated in the 1930s by Rafael Larco Hoyle. Ceramics from Cupisnique burials and stone-walled structures in the Chicama Valley were attributed to the north-coast version of the Chavín style in the Central Andean area. Lumbreras suggested that Cupisnique ceramics were contemporaneous with the ‘Ofrendas’ style of Chavín and therefore dated between c. 800 and c. 300 bc. Cupisnique pottery has also been found in the Moche and Nepeña valleys south of Chicama. The earliest date for the Cupisnique culture has been pushed back to c. 1000 bc using radiocarbon measurements from such temples as the Huaca de Los Reyes in Moche with its enormous unbaked clay feline heads. Both Larco and A. R. Sawyer proposed chronologies for Cupisnique ceramics. Sawyer defined Early Cupisnique pottery (...



Ann Kendall

revised by Michael Schreffler

City in Peru, in the heart of the Andes, 3560 m above sea-level. Cuzco occupies the head of the fertile valley of the Huatanay River. The climate is temperate, with a rainy season from December to March. It was the capital of the Inka Empire. Now a city of over 400,000, a majority of whom are native Andeans, it is the present-day capital of the department of Cuzco.

Ann Kendall, revised by Michael Schreffler

Archaeological evidence shows that the larger Cuzco region was inhabited by c. 1200 bce; this early phase is represented by pottery in the Marcavalle style and subsequently the Chanapata style. There is also evidence for settlements of later pre-Inka cultures in the valley, such as Wari (Huari), and the Killke ceramic style has been defined as a precursor of the Inka style. Initially, archaeological work was carried out under the auspices of the Patronato de Arqueología de Cuzco and subsequently by the Instituto Nacional de Cultura....



John Paddock

Zapotec site in Mexico, in the Valley of Oaxaca. Dainzú (Zapotec: ‘hill of the Organ cactus’) is in fact only one excavated section of the ancient city now called Macuilxóchitl. Investigations have revealed stone reliefs of ball-players in action, massive architectural terracing against a hillside, and embedded reliefs of a kind unique to Mesoamerica. Associated remains suggest that construction began before c. 200 bc, and other evidence indicates that placement of the sculptures occurred periodically between c. 200 bc and c. ad 200. Costumes of priestly figures on four stones, like pottery fragments found near by, may date to ad 100–200. However, an adjoining ballcourt was built for the ball-game as played after c. ad 1000, when players did not touch the ball with their hands. From c. ad 1200 to 1600 Macuilxóchitl was the capital of a territory ruled by Mixtec lords, and its rivalry with Lambityeco may have caused that town to be moved further away. Macuilxóchitl itself remained important until after the Spanish Conquest....


Jeff Karl Kowalski

Site of a Mesoamerican Pre-Columbian Maya city, c. 15 km north of Mérida, Yucatán. Excavation and mapping carried out between 1956 and 1965 revealed that the site covers more than 19 sq. km and contains about 8400 ruined structures, most of which are small platforms that formerly supported perishable pole-and-thatch houses. The majority of some 240 stone-faced, vaulted buildings probably served as élite residences, although the largest pyramidal platforms and vaulted structures, located around the central Cenote Xlacah (cenote: Maya tz’onot, a natural water hole with collapsed limestone sides), probably served for religious and administrative functions. Most of the visible remains lie within this administrative and ceremonial core. North-east of the Cenote Xlacah is the large, open, centralized Main Plaza; another plaza lies to the south-west. Surrounding these are several pyramid-temples and many ranges of vaulted rooms. A central east–west axis is formed by two long sacbeob (raised causeways; sing. ...



George F. Andrews

Site of Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican Maya urban centre, occupied from c. 700 bc to c. ad 1000; its ruins lie in the upper part of a shallow basin known as the Edzná Valley, c. 50 km north-east of the city of Campeche, Mexico. On the basis of several mapping projects, the site is known to cover at least 17 sq. km and therefore ranks among the largest known archaeological sites in the Lowland Maya area. The importance of Edzná, for both archaeologists and art historians, lies in its strategic location between southern Campeche and the Petén in Guatemala and Yucatán to the north. Some of its sculpted monuments show influences from the ‘classic’ sculptural style of the Petén, while others show similarities to the Yucatecan style. The same influences can be seen in architecture: the Large Acropolis includes several buildings in the Petén style, while the Cinco Pisos pyramid shows a combination of Chenes and Puuc traits. While much of Edzná’s history is still obscure, it seems clear that the western part of central Campeche formed an important regional variant of Lowland Maya culture, with Edzná as its principal centre....


A. Villalobos

revised by Rex Koontz

The site of El Tajín, 21 km west of the Gulf of Mexico, close to the city of Papantla in Veracruz, was a primary urban center on the Gulf Coast of Mexico c. 600–1000 CE. The site was originally discovered by Europeans in 1785, although the indigenous people of the region were probably always aware of it. For more than a century after its discovery, the site was considered to be no more than the Pyramid of the Niches, the central monumental building first uncovered in 1785. It has only been in the last century that the rest of the urban core has slowly come to light, and serious studies of the urban periphery and important satellite centers have only been undertaken since the 1960s. While it is clear from ceramic evidence and architectural style distribution that the El Tajín realm at its apogee once encompassed a large part of north-central Veracruz, no significant survey or other systematic study of the realm has been attempted....


Indigenous inhabitants of the Arctic coasts of Siberia, Alaska, Canada and Greenland. They are biologically classified as Arctic Mongolians and are descended from peoples of a region in north-east Asia, who probably began to migrate c. 12,000 bc. Such peoples generally do not use the term ‘Eskimo’ (‘eaters of raw meat’) of themselves, which was the Canadian Algonquin name for them adopted by European explorers. There are instead three main groups, the largest of whom are the Inuit of Canada and Greenland.

For main discussion see under Native North American art.


Native North American art, §I, 1(i): Geography and peoples: Arctic

Native North American art, §I, 6: Status of art and role of the artist

Native North American art, §III, 1: Carving and sculpture: Arctic

Native North American art, §XI, 1: Quillwork: Introduction

Native North American art, §XV, 3(ii)(a): Other late 20th-century developments: Tourist art

Native North American art, §XVII, 1: Historiography: Anthropological approaches...


Phil C. Weigand

[Itzatlán; Ytzatlán]

Site in the highland lake district of Jalisco, Mexico. A Pre-Columbian settlement dating mostly to the Post-Classic period (c. ad 900–1521), it is partly overlain by the modern town of Etzatlán. Ruins surround the town and may represent wards of the ancient settlement: Rancho San Antonio (north-west), Ranchos Guaje and Cortijo (north-east), Huistla (west), Chirimoya and La Garita (east), and Santa Clara (south), together with Puerto de Veracruz, El Templo, and others. The siting of the ancient town and its environmental setting facilitated communications with peoples on the Pacific coast. Data gathered during modern sewer and water-line excavations and from archaeological excavations in 1967 by M. Glassow at Huistla have contributed to a systematic understanding of ancient Etzatlán.

The most important ceremonial plaza, surrounded by low platforms, lies beneath a Franciscan convent (1534), which is one of the earliest in west Mexico. Another section is under the adjacent ...


George Bankes

Pre-Columbian culture and art style that flourished in northern coastal Peru during the Early Intermediate period, between c. 300 bc and c. ad 200. It was named after the site of Gallinazo (Sp. ‘turkey buzzard’) in the Virú valley, which was excavated by the American archaeologist Wendell Bennett in 1936. The Gallinazo culture has been shown to have succeeded that of Salinar in the Virú, Moche and Chicama valleys. Gallinazo architecture in the Virú valley was characterized by a honeycomb dwelling pattern. Some of the walls of the buildings were decorated with cut-out designs in tapia (puddled clay) and adobe mosaics, such as the frieze at El Carmelo. The Gallinazo culture as represented in the Virú valley was subdivided by Bennett into three phases, on the basis of changes in building methods and pottery styles. Gallinazo i is characterized by incised and punch-decorated pottery with some use of negative-painted decoration, which involved covering the design areas in a heat-resistant substance and then firing it. The substance was removed after firing, leaving the negative design. In Gallinazo ...


Joan K. Lingen

Pre-Columbian culture of the Isthmian region of Latin America (classed archaeologically as part of the Intermediate area; see South America, Pre-Columbian, §II). It flourished in the north-western portion of modern Costa Rica and the south-western part of Nicaragua, bordered to the north by the Gulf of Fonseca and the Honduran border, to the south by the Gulf of Nicoya, to the east by Lake Managua, Lake Nicaragua, and the Costa Rican Cordillera Volcanica, and to the west by the Pacific Ocean. In the past the region was tropical dry forest land but is now mostly low hills and flatlands around lakes Managua and Nicaragua. Despite marked seasonality, there is little annual rainfall, and thus few permanent rivers. Gran Nicoya culture is defined principally by artefacts from the sites of Nacascolo, Papagayo, Ruiz, Las Haldas, Vidor, and Ometepe and Zapatera islands in Lake Nicaragua. The cultural uniformity of the region was recognized and defined by ...


Warren B. Church


Pre-Columbian site in Río Abiseo National Park, Peru, occupied c. 450 bcad 1532. Gran Pajatén sits at 2850 m above sea-level in a highland rain-forest setting often compared to that of Machu Picchu. The site is a complex of stone terraces, stairways, platforms, and circular buildings extending over approximately 1 ha along a crescent-shaped ridgetop above the Montecristo River, a tributary of the Abiseo and Huallaga rivers. Ceramic evidence and radiocarbon dates of c. 420 bc and c. 250 bc (Church, 1994) place Gran Pajatén among the oldest known sites of the Andean highland rain-forest. The architectural style, however, may not pre-date the Late Intermediate period (c. ad 1000–1476).

Stone cornices divide virtually all of the 26 known circular buildings into two levels. Tenoned heads and an unusual variety of stone friezes featuring anthropomorphic, zoomorphic, and geomorphic motifs structurally incorporated into the tabular slate masonry distinguish Gran Pajatén from similar highland rain-forest sites near ...