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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

Olivier de Montmollin

Valley forming part of the Upper Grijalva tributaries region on the south-western edge of the Lowland Maya area in Chiapas, Mexico. It was the site of several Pre-Columbian settlements noted for their Classic period (c. ad 250–c. 900) art. The nearest large Maya centres are Chinkultic in the Comitán Highlands and Yaxchilán, Bonampak and Piedras Negras in the Lacandón jungle, running eastward to the Usumacinta River. Ceramics predating the Classic period suggest that the upper tributaries were originally inhabited by speakers of the non-Maya Zoque language. However, the ceramics and iconography of the Classic period suggest that by this date the area was inhabited by speakers of Maya and that close links had been established with the Lowland Maya area. Between the collapse of the Classic Lowland Maya culture (c. ad 800–c. 950) and the Spanish Conquest (ad 1521), close links existed with the Highland Maya cultures of Guatemala....

Article

Robert J. Sharer

Intermontaine basin immediately north of Motagua Valley in the northern Maya Highland area of Guatemala, covering an area of c. 74 sq. km and with an average elevation of c. 1000 m. The region was investigated in 1972–4 by Robert J. Sharer and David W. Sedat for the Verapaz Project of the University Museum, University of Pennsylvania. Twenty-four Pre-Columbian sites were located within the valley, 21 of which were sampled by surface surveys and 9 by excavations. The data from this work indicate that the sedentary occupation of the valley dates to between c. 1200 bc and the Spanish Conquest in the 1520s.

The first peak of local socio-political development began in the Middle Pre-Classic period (c. 1000–c. 300 bc) and culminated in the Late Pre-Classic period (c. 300 bcc. ad 250). A second, more rapid developmental cycle peaked during the Late Classic period (...

Article

Salango  

Richard Lunniss

Pre-Columbian site in Manabí Province on the central coast of Ecuador, centred at the southern end of a sandy bay, sheltered by a headland and Salango Island. It had several phases of occupation, paralleled on nearby La Plata Island.

An early Valdivia culture settlement, indicated by ceramics, stone artefacts and animal remains and dated by radiocarbon analysis to the 4th or late 3rd millennium bc, lay between the beach and a lagoon. Extending over the area of the lagoon was a Machalilla-phase midden containing a high density of fish bone and shell, and many mother-of-pearl fish-hooks. Thirty-eight individuals were found in graves cut through the midden, for which radiocarbon analysis has given dates in the second half of the 2nd millennium bc. Attributes of the Chorrera culture and Engoroy style are found in ceramics associated with a rectangular wooden structure built over a clay floor capping part of the Machalilla midden. The formal design of its construction and the more elaborate nature of the associated burials and depositions of artefacts suggest a ritual or ceremonial purpose. The dismantling of this building was immediately followed by the construction of the first of several low rectangular platforms surmounted by wooden structures. Later mounds were surrounded by clay-filled trenches supporting posts. Pottery of the Engoroy type, dated by radiocarbon analysis to the first half of the 1st millennium ...

Article

Warwick Bray and Trent Barnes

Pre-Columbian culture of the Northern Andean region that flourished between c. 800 bc and c. ad 1630. It is named after the small town of San Agustín in the department of Huila, southern Colombia. It is classed archaeologically as a culture of the Intermediate area (see South America, Pre-Columbian, §II). The region where San Agustín culture developed covers several hundred square kilometres and contains approximately 40 Pre-Columbian archaeological sites, each with its own history. The more important of these include Alto de Lavapatas, Alto de Lavaderos, Alto de los Idolos, Las Mesitas, Isnos, El Vegón, and Quinchana. The entire landscape shows evidence of human habitation: ancient trackways and field systems, house terraces, carved boulders, cist graves, shaft tombs, and a series of mounds covering stone-built chambers containing carved statues. These monuments were first described by Juan de Santa Gertrudis in 1758 and have been studied sporadically ever since....

Article

Janet Catherine Berlo

[Bilbao]

Pre-Columbian Highland Maya site in Escuintla, southern Guatemala, on the outskirts of the modern town of Santa Lucía Cotz. It is the typesite of the Cotzumalhuapa art style also known at El Baul, El Castillo, Palo Verde, Palo Gordo and other sites in the region. Both site and style flourished during the Classic period (c. ad 250–c. 900). The ceremonial centre of Santa Lucía of Cotzumalhuapa stood on a manmade acropolis surmounted by seventeen pyramidal platforms. L. A. Parsons recorded seventy-six stone monuments at the site, although only six remain in situ. In 1880, thirty monuments, including eight famous stelae of ball-players from the Monument Plaza, were removed to the Museum für Völkerkunde, Berlin. Other pieces are kept at the local finca (landed estate), Las Ilusiones, and at the Museo Nacional de Arqueologia y Etnologia, Guatemala City.

The Santa Lucía Cotzumalhuapa style, typically executed in a combination of high and low relief, is best known from stelae and other stone sculptures. The stelae, set in a vertical position, are rectangular stone slabs dressed on six sides but usually carved on only one face. The Berlin stelae are a coherent group, each depicting a ball-player, shown in profile and carved in low relief, supplicating a front-facing sky deity in high relief. Irregularly shaped boulder sculptures also occur, and horizontally tenoned stone heads are common. Figural realism is common in the sculptures, and the imagery focuses on the relationship between humans and supernatural beings, portrayed in a frozen narrative suggestive of action and sequence. The central themes are concerned with death and include the ball-game, the sacrifice of trophy heads and hearts and skeletal imagery. There are strong iconographic similarities with the art of such central Mexican centres as ...

Article

Gordon R. Willey, David M. Jones, Gordon Brotherston, Peter W. Stahl, Elizabeth P. Benson, Warwick Bray, H. Stanley Loten, Ursula Jones, Karen Olsen Bruhns, Frederick W. Lange, Sara Lunt, Annemarie Seiler-Baldinger, Elizabeth K. Easby, M. E. Moseley, W. Iain Mackay, Susan A. Niles, Pauline Antrobus, Duccio Bonavia, George Bankes, R. José Berenguer, Daniel Schávelzon, Irmhild Wüst, Tania Andrade Lima, José R. Oliver, Ann M. Mester, Luis A. Borrero, Colin McEwan, Anthony Alan Shelton, William J. Conklin, Peter Cloudsley and Joanne Pillsbury

This survey covers a region comprising the entire subcontinent of South America, lower Central America (present-day Panama and parts of Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador) and the Antilles. It ranges in date from the earliest known works of art and architecture in the region to the period of European contact and colonization in the early 16th century. During this timespan many different civilizations and cultures flourished; the most important of these have articles devoted to them elsewhere in this dictionary, as do individual sites of particular interest. Certain art forms (architecture, sculpture, wall painting, pottery, textiles and dress, and lapidary arts) are covered under the area headings of §§II–VII below; others (for example bone-carving and metalwork) are treated pan-regionally in §VIII. The Post-Columbian development of the region is discussed under the headings of the modern states of which it is now made up.

Article

Helaine Silverman and Trent Barnes

Pre-Columbian Andean site in the Acarí Valley, c. 600 km south of Lima, 100 km south of the Nazca drainage and 25 km inland. Although the valley is separated from the Nazca drainage by a bleak desert, the headwaters of the Acarí River lie in the vicinity of the Nazca’s highland catchment basin. This geographical proximity is significant, since at various times in the Pre-Columbian past the Acarí and Nazca cultures were closely related, and both were subjected to the same external pressures when they were conquered, first by the Huari peoples and later by the Inca empire.

Tambo Viejo had two main occupations. The first occurred c. ad 200–c. 400, when Tambo Viejo was established as the principal centre of Acarí’s Nasca phase 3 pottery-using population. At this time the settlement was quite large, measuring 1.5 km north–south×0.5 km east–west. Identifiable pottery at Tambo Viejo is Nasca 3 in style and date. In addition, the ground-plan of Tambo Viejo closely resembles that of the Nazca capital at ...

Article

Tayasal  

Arlen F. Chase and Trent Barnes

Pre-Columbian Maya site in the Petén region of north-eastern Guatemala, on the peninsula that divides Lake Petén. Tayasal has been occupied since c. 600 bc, but is known primarily from its presumed association with the historically identified Itzá Maya, believed to have migrated to the Petén from Yucatán in the Post-Classic period (c. ad 900–1521), who were finally conquered by the Spanish in ad 1697. Excavations were carried out by Carl Guthe for the Carnegie Institution of Washington around 1920 and by Arlen Chase in the 1970s, uncovering both Post-Classic and much earlier remains. The association of the site with the Itzá has been questioned, but sizeable Post-Classic deposits have been found along the shores of Lake Petén adjacent to Tayasal.

Ancient Tayasal extended over both the peninsular spine and the lake-shore, but occupation shifted within this area over time: Middle to Late Pre-Classic (c. 600 bc...

Article

J. C. Langley

Pre-Columbian site in the Mexican Central Highlands. It was the region’s pre-eminent city during the Late Pre-Classic and Classic periods (c. 250 bcc. ad 900).

Teotihuacán’s ruins, which lie c. 50 km north-east of Mexico City, are an eloquent memorial to the achievements of a culture whose influence at the middle of the 1st millennium ad extended over much of Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. The site covers more than 20 sq. km and is laid out on a regular grid orientated 15°30′ east of north (see Mesoamerica, pre-columbian, fig.). The ceremonial centre is a grandiose arrangement of planned space and monumental structures surrounded by modular single-storey apartment compounds that housed most of the city’s inhabitants. Little is known about their ethnic origins, but, with a population estimated at up to 200,000, in the 6th century ad Teotihuacán was the largest and most populous city in the Pre-Columbian Americas and sixth most populous in the world. Its arts have survived most conspicuously in the form of architecture and in closely integrated wall paintings, but fine pottery and some stone sculpture also remain.....

Article

Warwick Bray and Trent Barnes

Pre-Columbian archaeological zone in the region of the headwaters of the River Magdalena, Cauca Department, Colombia. Dating evidence for the sites and artefacts is imprecise, although some of the burial architecture probably dates to c. ad 600–850. Scattered throughout the area are cists and graves, stone statues, carved boulders, house sites, and painted underground sepulchral chambers grouped in ridge-top cemeteries; these were apparently unknown to the inhabitants of the region when the Spaniards arrived in 1539.

There are approximately 200 underground tombs, which served as family or community vaults, cut into the soft granodiorite rock. Each tomb is entered by either a straight or spiral stairway, sealed at the top by an earth-covered slab, leading to a circular or oval chamber with inset niches and a roof supported on free-standing square columns chiselled out of rock. Walls and ceilings were covered with a layer of white paint on which geometric patterns and stylized representations of lizards, frogs, serpents, large shield-shaped human faces, and full-length human figures were depicted in red, black, and yellow paint. Shaft tombs, often with side chambers, were also used. A painted underground chamber at ...

Article

Tikal  

William A. Haviland

Site of a Pre-Columbian Maya city in the Petén region of north-eastern Guatemala. By the 2nd century ad Tikal had become the undisputed political and cultural leader in the southern Maya lowlands, from which it dominated the Maya world c. ad 250–c. 870. During the early part of this period there were extensive trading and political relations with Teotihuacán in the Basin of Mexico. By 593 Tikal was beset by political instability after war against Maya Caracol, but by the late 7th century recovery was under way, and the city experienced a second florescence before its final decline and abandonment in the latter part of the 9th century, for reasons still unclear. Scholarly interest in Tikal began in 1848, when it was visited by Modesto Méndez, Ambrosio Tut and the artist Eusebio Lara, who made somewhat fanciful drawings of several carved monuments and lintels. Over the next 100 years, others mapped, drew and photographed whatever monuments and standing architecture could be seen without excavation. Some objects were removed from the site, most notably carved wooden lintels now in London (BM), Basle (Mus. Vlkerknd) and New York (Amer. Mus. Nat. Hist.). (Copies made from moulds of the originals in the European museums have been installed in their proper places in Tikal.) From ...

Article

Duccio Bonavia

Region in South America, centred on Lake Titicaca on Peru’s south-eastern border with Bolivia. It was an important culture area in Pre-Columbian times (see South America, Pre-Columbian, §III), being one of only six areas in the Central Andes large enough to allow important human concentrations. Geographically, it corresponds to the Puno depression of south-eastern Peru and the Bolivian altiplano (a small part of the Andean altiplano that extends as far south as Argentina). Lake Titicaca is endorheic (its waters do not reach the sea) and has a large plateau catchment area, whose rivers all flow into the lake. It has one outlet, the River Desaguadero, which flows into Lake Poopó (also endorheic) in Bolivia. Titicaca, at c. 3809 m above sea-level the highest navigable lake in the world, is surrounded by extensive plains and pastures, which rise gradually to form plateaux (punas) at over 4000 m, until they reach the arid areas at the foot of the snow-capped mountain peaks ...

Article

Margaret Young Sanchez

[Tiahuanaco]

Tiwanaku is an extensive archaeological site in the Bolivian altiplano (high plains) 3842 m above sea level and 21 km southeast of Lake Titicaca; the name is also applied to a Pre-Columbian culture and political entity that flourished c. 300 bcec. 1150 ce. The site features monumental architecture and monolithic sculpture. Religious imagery carved on Tiwanaku monuments and used to decorate ceramics, carved wood, precious metal objects, and textiles, was widely influential in the south-central and central Andean region (Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, and Peru).

The ruins of Tiwanaku attracted the attention of Europeans by the mid-16th century, but scientific documentation of the site’s visible architectural and sculptural remains did not begin until the 1800s. In the 20th century, archaeological surveys and excavations at Tiwanaku and in the surrounding region revealed data on the site, its chronology, and its political and economic context, but much remains unexcavated. Centuries of stone-robbing for use in later construction, the cutting of a railway line through the site, lost and unpublished excavation data, and controversial restorations also limit understanding of Tiwanaku and its history....

Article

Tonalá  

David M. Jones and Trent Barnes

Pre-Columbian site in Chiapas, Mexico, 13 km north-east of the modern town of the same name. The ancient site, spread across a mountain slope, was explored by Philip Drucker in 1947 and mapped by Edwin Ferdon in 1949. It comprises five groups of masonry structures, together with various carved stelae, so-called altars, and stone sculptures, many of which appear to be earlier than the final masonry structures. Tonalá was occupied from at least the Middle Pre-Classic period (c. 1000 bcc. 300 bc) into the Post-Classic period (c. ad 900–1521). Throughout its occupation it appears to have been on a major Mesoamerican north–south communication route and to have played a prominent role in the spread of Olmec ideas and in trade between Teotihuacán in the Central Highlands and the Maya region, part of the traffic across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec and down the Pacific Coast to the Maya cities of ...

Article

David M. Jones and Trent Barnes

Pre-Columbian site in the northern Petén region, Guatemala. It was a principal Maya political, cultural, and ceremonial centre during the Late Pre-Classic (c. 300 bcc. ad 250) and Classic (c. ad 250–c. 900) periods. Sylvanus G. Morley explored the site in 1916 and made photographs, plans, and drawings. Between 1926 and 1937 further plans and reconstructive drawings were made, and excavations were carried out for the Carnegie Institution of Washington, DC, by Morley, Oliver and Edith Ricketson, A. Ledyard Smith, Robert Smith, Robert Wauchope, Edwin Shook, and Tatiana Proskouriakoff. Uaxactún’s ceramic sequence, which began in the early Middle Pre-Classic period (c. 1000–c. 300 bc), established the foundations of Lowland Maya chronology and has ultimately been linked to the ceramic chronologies of most of Mesoamerica. In the Middle Pre-Classic period a few low platforms were the principal constructions, but the earliest pyramidal platforms were erected in the Late Pre-Classic period. The earliest stele to be erected has a Long Count date (...

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Annemarie Seiler-Baldinger

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Beatriz de la Fuente

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Joan K. Lingen

Pre-Columbian culture of the Veraguas Province of central Panama. This area extends from the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean; it is bordered on the west by the Bocas del Toro and Chiriquí provinces and on the east by the Colon and Coclé provinces, and by the Azuero Peninsula provinces of Los Santos and Herrera. The extreme northern and southern parts consist of high mountains supporting a wet tropical climate, while the central area is dry. Veraguas culture was included by Richard Cooke as part of the central Panamanian cultural region, which exhibits cultural homogeneity through much of the archaeological record. More broadly, it is classed as part of the Intermediate area (see South America, Pre-Columbian, §II). Its earliest known site, Pueblo Nuevo on the Veraguas–Chiriquí border, has yielded a radiocarbon date of c. 230 bc, but the presence of iron tools in graves near Soná indicates the continuous use of the site into the 16th century ...

Article

Gordon R. Willey, David M. Jones, Gordon Brotherston, Peter W. Stahl, Elizabeth P. Benson, Warwick Bray, H. Stanley Loten, Ursula Jones, Karen Olsen Bruhns, Frederick W. Lange, Sara Lunt, Annemarie Seiler-Baldinger, Elizabeth K. Easby, M. E. Moseley, W. Iain Mackay, Susan A. Niles, Pauline Antrobus, Duccio Bonavia, George Bankes, R. José Berenguer, Daniel Schávelzon, Irmhild Wüst, Tania Andrade Lima, José R. Oliver, Ann M. Mester, Luis A. Borrero, Colin McEwan, Anthony Alan Shelton, William J. Conklin, Peter Cloudsley and Joanne Pillsbury

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