Gallery

The Ancient Americas

Ancient Mesoamerica Gallery (Gallery LG32), and Pre-Columbian Gold and Andean Civilizations Gallery (Gallery LG33)

The Ancient Americas galleries present the artistic creativity of more than three dozen cultures from Mexico to Chile prior to European contact in the late 15th century. The works on view, spanning two millennia, express the social, political and spiritual concerns of various cultures that flourished across diverse landscapes and climate zones. In these galleries, the power of rulers is embodied by portraits preserved in precious jadeite, cast in gold, and painted on ceramic feasting vessels. The collection is noteworthy for its impressive holdings of Classic Maya earthenware, including five dramatic burial urns made by the ancestors of the modern K’iché Maya of Southern Guatemala, and for its outstanding ancient Andean textiles, which display some of the world’s most complex dyeing and weaving techniques. The often unnamed artists who created these captivating objects of power, history, and devotion are revealed primarily by distinctive personal styles, although a few rare objects bear an artist’s signature, such as a cylinder vase (AD 600–800) inscribed with hieroglyphic texts.