Yaoyotl: Aztec Warfare

An almost life-size terracotta Aztec Eagle Warrior, one of the elite warrior groups in the Aztec military. 13-15th century CE, from Tenochtitlan. (National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City) / Photo by Dennis Jarvis, Flickr, Creative Commons The military commander-in-chief was the king himself, the tlatoani. By Mark Cartwright / 03.18.2015 Historian Introduction The Aztecs engaged in warfare (yaoyotl) to acquire territory, resources,[…]

Complexity and Vision: The Staff God at Chavín de Huántar and Beyond

Archaeological site of Chavín de Huántar (photo: Julio Martinich, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) The artistic style seen in stone sculpture and architectural decoration at the temple site of Chavín de Huántar is deliberately complex, confusing, and esoteric. By Dr. Sarahh Scher / 09.27.2018 Visiting Lecturer in Art History Salem State University Art for the Initiated The artistic style seen in stone[…]

Moche Human Sacrifice: The Role of Funerary and Warrior Sacrifice in Moche Ritual Organization

Despite the extensive study of Moche iconography, the motivations behind the practice remain poorly understood By Christina Taggart The University of Western Ontario Introduction Human sacrifice has been an enduring topic of interest to archaeologists, as it embodies an extreme representation of the exotic ‘other’ and offers considerable insight into past ritual behaviour and ideological organization.[…]

Circulation of Feathers in the Mesoamerican Aztec Realm

The feather merchant, Florentine Codex Book 10, folio 41r / Creative Commons Feathers, especially those from colorful tropical birds, were among the most highly prized materials in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. By Dr. Frances Berdan / 01.21.2006 Professor of Anthropology California State University San Bernardino Abstract Feathers, especially those from colorful tropical birds, were among the most highly[…]

Sacred Politics: Inca Huacas for Political and Social Organization

Acequía del Camino Inca entrada a la Huaca de los Monos / Photo by Johnattan Rupire, Wikimedia Commons By incorporating pre-existing Andean beliefs into the official state ideology, the Inca were able to utilize huacas to aid in their political and social expansion. By Dr. Amy B. Scott / 06.24.2011 Assistant Professor of Bioarchaeology University[…]

Templo Mayor: Sacred Precinct of Aztec Tenochtitlan

A model reconstruction of the Temple Mayor at the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. In use from the 14th to early 16th century CE, the huge pyramid was topped by two temples, one dedicated to Tlaloc, the god of rain (north side), the other to Huitzilopochtli, the god of war (south side). (National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City). / Image by Wolfgang Sauber, Wikimedia Commons It was the scene[…]

Aztec Sacrifice: Repayment to the Gods for Continued Prosperity

An Aztec ceremonial knife with a cedarwood handle and flint blade. The figure of the handle is covered in turquoise and shell mosiac and represents an Aztec Eagle knight. 1400-1521 CE. (British Museum, London) / British Museum The highest possible honor to the gods regarded as a necessity to ensure humanity’s continued prosperity. By Mark Cartwright / 05.03.2018[…]

From Alteptl to Empire: Aztec Civilization

A map indicating the maximum extent of the Aztec civilization which flourished between c. 1345 and 1521 CE in what is now Mexico. The three major cities which formed the Aztec Triple Alliance were Tenochtitlan, Texcoco and Tlacopan. / Image by El Comandante, Wikimedia Commons Tenochtitlan came to dominate an Alliance of city-states, its ruler became the supreme ruler – the huey tlatoque (‘high king’) –[…]

Teotihuacan: Golden Age Metropolis of Ancient Mexico

Teotihuacan, 300 BCE Teotihuacan, located in the Basin of Central Mexico, was the largest, most influential, and certainly most revered city in the history of the New World, and it flourished in Mesoamerica’s Golden Age. By Mark Cartwright / 02.17.2015 Historian Teotihuacan, located in the Basin of Central Mexico, was the largest, most influential, and certainly most[…]

The Olmec Engima: An Ancient Mexican Civilization

A mask of jadeite from the Olmec civilization of the Gulf coast, Mesoamerica, 900-500 BCE. Provenance: Rio Pesquero, Mexico. / Photo by Mary Harrsch, Flickr, Dallas Museum of Art The Olmec civilization presents something of a mystery, indeed, we do not even know what they called themselves. By Mark Cartwright / 04.04.2018 Historian The mysterious Olmec civilization, located[…]

Native American Art and Architecture before 1300 CE

Basketry bowl with checkerboard and arrow head motif / Mint Museum Edited by Matthew A. McIntosh / 04.25.2018 Historian Brewminate Editor-in-Chief 1 – The New World 1.1 – Introduction Indigenous visual arts traditions in the Americas span thousands of years, representing cultures from Mesoamerica to the Arctic. The New World refers to the western hemisphere,[…]

Where Is Yucatan? Julius Shulman at Chichen Itza in 1956

One of Julius Shulman’s views of Chichen Itza with a Chac Mool in the foreground. Julius Shulman photography archive. The Getty Research Institute, 2004.R.10 The power of the modern Californian lifestyle to assimilate difference By Dr. Robert J. Kett / 01.12.2015 Emerging Curator, Canadian Centre for Architecture and Curatorial Assistant of Architecture + Design San[…]

Hurtling Back through Time – Harvard Wintersession Course and the Atlatl (Spear Thrower)

During Wintersession, students learn to make and use the technology that revolutionized human life. The atlatl, or spear-thrower, is a 10,000-year-old tool developed independently across the globe by cultures from the Arctic to New Zealand. The workshop takes place in the Peabody Museum at Harvard University. Andrew Majewski (pictured), the workshop instructor, demonstrates how to[…]

What do “Pre-Columbian” and “Mesoamerica” Mean?

The routes of the four Voyages of Christopher Columbus, 1492-1504 to the Caribbean Islands and the coast of Central America (image: CC BY-SA 3.0) By Dr. Maya Jiménez / 08.19.2016 Adjunct Assistant Professor of Art History Borough of Manhattan Community College What does “pre-Columbian” mean? The original inhabitants of the Americas traveled across what is now known as the Bering Strait,[…]

Brief Encounters with Jean-Frédéric Maximilien de Waldeck

Engraving by Jean-Frédéric de Waldeck, featured in Monuments anciens du Mexique. Palenqué et autres ruines de l’ancienne civilisation du Mexique (1866). Note the lions, not known for their presence in the pre-Columbian Americas  / National Library of France Not a lot concerning the artist, erotic publisher, explorer, and general enigma Count de Waldeck can be taken at[…]

Introduction to Andean Cultures

Inka ruins, Písac, Peru (photo: Chensiyuan, CC BY-SA 3.0) By Dr. Sarahh Scher / 10.06.2017 Visiting Lecturer in Art History Salem State University A land of contrasts “The Andes” can refer to the mountain range that stretches along the west coast of South America, but is also used to refer to a broader geographic area that includes the[…]

Mesoamerica: An Introduction

Map of Mesoamerica, with the borders of modern countries By Dr. Lauren Kilroy-Ewbank / 09.12.2017 Assistant Professor of Art History Pepperdine University Avocado, tomato, and chocolate. You are likely familiar with at least some of these food items. Did you know that they all originally come from Mexico, and are all based on Nahuatl words (ahuacatl, tomatl, and chocolatl)[…]

Introduction to the Inka

Along the Inka road system or Qhapaq Ñan today, Pucará del Aconquija, Argentina (photo: Ministerio de Cultura de la Nación Argentina, CC BY-SA 2.0) By Dr. Sarahh Scher / 09.15.2017 Visiting Lecturer in Art History Salem State University An Empire of Roads—and Cords Map of the Qhapaq Ñan (Inka road system) (map: Manco Capac, CC BY-SA 3.0)[…]