Unit 5: 1000 BCE - 1980 CE

Indigenous Americas

Images 153-166

Main Ideas:

  • Before 1492, the Indigenous Americans were disconnected from Afro-Eurasia and developed their own lifestyle. This Unit's artwork showcases that unique lifestyle

  • Indigenous Americans often had much more extreme & personal relations with their Gods, and a lot of their artwork incorporates spiritual imagery to activate their Gods & natural/ancestral spirits

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Ancient North American Art

 
  • Ancient Art from Present-day US: Often contains earthworks and other buildings that are designed around ceremonial purposes

  • Ancient Mesoamerican Art: Uses religious imagery (such as human sacrifices, bloodletting, wings, serpents, etc.) to emphasize the power of the Mesoamerican Rulers and to please the gods so that the Mesoamerican people can move to the afterlife after their death

Image 154: Mesa Verde Cliff Dwellings

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Name

Mesa Verde Cliff Dwellings

Location

Montezuma County, Colorado

Culture

Ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi)

Date

450 - 1300 CE

Material

Sandstone

  • Showcases how the Anasazi lifestyle revolves around ceremonial purposes
    • Composed primarily of Kivas (Underground circular spaces) and other architectural units related to kivas → Emphasizes how Anasazi lifestyle revolves around kivas

      • Kivas are fire pits also used for ceremonial purposes

      • Families lived in circular architectural units around kivas → Emphasizes the spiritual power of a kiva

      • Had some plastered and painted murals with geometric designs, plants, and animals

    • Largest Mesa Verde settlement is the Cliff Palace (photo above)

      • The location in a cliffside probably provides natural defense or maybe had some spiritual significance

      • Had a circular tower whose purpose is unknown

Image 156: Great Serpent Mound

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Name

Great Serpent Mound

Location

Adams County, Southern Ohio

Culture

Mississippian (Eastern Woodlands)

Date

c. 1070 CE

Material

Earthwork / Effigy Mound

  • Associates the mound's visual characteristics with religious and astronomical significance
    • Appears to be a snake or a lizard

      • Mississippians believed reptiles (such as snakes & lizards) had supernatural powers as if they were the deity of the underworld

    • Head of the serpent aligns with the sunset on summer solstice, and the tail points to the sunrise on winter solstice

    • The spiral at the head could represent many things that all have spiritual connections to the sun

      • An enlarged eye, a hollow egg, a frog, or the swallowing of the sun → All of these relate to the sun, and the power of the sun relates to God

Image 155: Yaxchilán

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Name

Yaxchilán

Location

Chiapas, Mexico

Culture

Maya

Date

725 CE

Material

Limestone (architectural complex)

  • All the structures allude to the power of the Mayan city of Yaxchilán and to its kings
    • Structure 33:

      • Elaborate roof-comb makes the building seem taller than it really is​

        • Has decorative friezes & niches, and a man is in the top center, which could be bird Jaguar IV (Yaxchilan's ruler) himself​

      • Has lintels that depict Bird Jaguar and his power as a ruler

      • Has typical Mayan architectural style: A rectangular vaulted building with a stuccoed roof comb

    • Structure 40:

      • Also has a typical ​Mayan architectural style (rectangular building with roof comb)

      • Has a stele that shows Bird Jaguar IV triumphing over his opponents → Emphasizes Bird Jaguar IV's right to rule

    • Lintel 25: 

      • Shows Lady Xook (or Lady Xoc) (wife of the king) performing a bloodletting ritual​

        • Seated at bottom right, she looks upward toward the vision serpent

        • She wears an elaborate huipil with quilted patterns and has an elaborate headdress with ear spools​

        • Holds a bowl in her left hand with pieces of paper stained with her blood

          • She's likely burning it so it can rise upward to the vision serpent

      • A figure emerges from the vision serpent's mouth, and it too has an elaborate headdress and ear spools

        • Also has a shield, spear, and war helmet → Emphasizes his power​

      • An inscription (in glyphs) in the top left corner mentions the date when King Shield Jaguar II ascended to the throne in Oct 681

        • Represents the power of the king as this lintel alludes to how God approves and supports the king's power​

Image 157: Templo Mayor

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Name

Templo Mayor (Main Temple)

Location

Tenochtitlan (Modern Mexico City, Mexico

Culture

Mexica (Aztec)

Date

1375 - 1520 CE

Material

Temple: Stone
Olmec-Style Mask: Jadeite
Coyolxauhqui Stone: Volcanic Stone
Calendar Stone: Basalt

  • Templo Mayor: Architecture represents Mesoamerican religious beliefs
    • Tenochtitlan was divided into 4 quadrants, and Templo Mayor was at center of the city → The temple is like the Axis mundi of the universe (the Mexica cosmos)

    • Has a twin temple dedicated to Huitzilopochtli (god warfare) and Tlaloc (god fertility)

      • Together they symbolize the concept of “atl-tlachinolli”: How the Mexica were able to acquire power and wealth through military conquest and agriculture

  • Coyolxauhqui Stone: References the power of the Mexica’s main god, Huitzilopochtli
    • Mother of Huitzilopochtli gets impregnated → Coyolxauhqui gets mad and tells her 400 brothers to kill her → Huitzilopochtli is born and throws Coyolxauhqui’s body to the base of the stairs → Her body breaks into multiple pieces, and this is what the stone shows

      • Alludes to religious sacrifice of Coyolxauhqui toward the God Huitzilopochtli

  • The Calendar Stone (Aztec Sun Stone): Promotes the theme of order, balance, harmony, and symmetry in Aztec society
    • The description below is in order from the center to the outside:

    • Center is Tonatiuh, one of the Aztec sun gods

      • His hands claw a heart → A sacrifice was necessary to put the sun into motion

    • There are 4 squares around him → current year-cycle is called the 5th era (5th sun) or “four movement”

    • 20 glyphs (small rectangles) around them represent the 20 days of Aztec calendar

    • Rays point in the 8 cardinal directions → Represent the idea of the axis mundi, or a connection between the Earth and the Mexica cosmos

    • Outside band has 2 serpents that meet in bottom center

      • These are fire serpents, and they are associated with solar calendar and time as they carry the sun across the sky → Put time into motion

  • Olmec Mask: Represents how the Aztecs look to the past for guidance and how they build off of the Olmecs
    • Just like Europeans look to Romans, Aztecs looked to Olmecs for guidance

      • Olmecs lived in 1500-1200 BCE, long before the Aztecs, even in a different part of Mexico than the Aztecs

    • Made in smooth greenstone jade → Polished baby face with almond eyes looks very young and ideal

      • Olmec is like mother culture of Aztecs → Showing how Aztecs are building off of the Olmecs

Image 158: Ruler's Feather Headdress

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Name

Ruler's Feather Headdress (Probably of Motecuhzoma II)

Culture

Mexica (Aztec)

Date

1428 - 1520 CE

Material

Feathers (quetzal and cotinga) and gold

  • Represents a ritual connection between this world and the next world (since birds can fly between them)
    • Feathers like this were very common in rituals

      • Symbol of wealth and status, also part of warriors’ clothing

    • Extensive trade was necessary to acquire all these feathers → Represents interconnectedness of Mesoamerica as well as Aztec dominance & wealth

    • Also, birds can literally “fly” between this world and the next world → Represent how ritual and ceremonial dances with the feathers activate the birds to connect the living with the next world

Andean Art

 
  • Pre-Incan Art: Its buildings and artworks depict religious and spiritual objects to emphasize the spiritual power over their daily lives

  • Incan Art: Commissions grand, well-organized artworks to emphasize the sense of wealth, control, harmony, and order within the Incan empire

Image 153: Chavín de Huántar

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Name

Chavín de Huántar

Location

Norhtern Highlands, Peru

Culture

Chavín

Date

900 - 200 BCE

Material

Architectural Complex: Stone
Lanzón and Lintel: Granite
Jewelry: Hammered Gold Alloy

  • Temple: Located in a spiritually powerful place as it was at the confluence of Huachesca & Mosna Rivers
    • Important pilgrimage site

    • Has many tunnels that project sounds from the inside to the outside → When you make a sound inside the building, it appears that the building is "speaking" with the voice of god

  • Lanzón: Shape of stone resembles a footplow → Emphasizes God’s power in ensuring a successful harvest
    • Lanzón means "great spear"

    • Left hand points down, while right hand points up → Signifies the connection between the Earth and heaven

  • Lintel: Has pictographs representing fields, water, mountains, and creatures → Represents God’s control over the natural landscape, agrculture, and fertility

  • Nose Ornament: Would’ve been worn by an elite, showing off wealth & power and allegiance to the Chavín religion
    • Has a serpent motif, symbolizing fertility and a creation force

Image 159: The City of Cusco

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Name

The City of Cusco, including Qorikancha (Inka main temple), Santo Domingo (Spanish colonial convent), and Walls at Saqsa Wayman (Sacsayhuaman)

Location

Central Highlands, Peru

Culture

Inka

Date

c. 1440 CE
Convent Added: 1550 - 1650 CE

Material

Andesite

  • City Layout: Represents the sense of order and power within the city
    • Axis mundi: Center of existence & a connector between Earth and heaven

      • Shaped like a puma with the fortress at the head of the puma → Emphasizes the power of the city (since pumas are powerful)

    • Divided into four quarters → Represents a miniature Inca empire (that’s also divided into four quadrants) → Shows how the Inca empire has a good sense of order and how Cusco is a display of Incan order & power

  • Qorikancha & Santo Domingo: Emphasizes Inca spiritual power
    • Qorikancha is a shrine dedicated to the worship of Inti (Sun God)

      • Sun’s worship is held above all other gods

      • Incas are believed to descend from the Sun

      • Had imaginary radiating lines to all other shrines in the empire → Showcases the power of this shrine

    • Santo Domingo was a Catholic convent built on top of an already-existing Incan shrine → Represents persistence of Incan style

      • Uses Incan architecture (trapezoidal doorways, polished rectangular stones, etc.) → Represents lingering Incan influence

    • Has a huge garden made with gold and silver → Meant to micic the natural landscape of the world → Emphasizes Incan control over the world

  • Saqsa Wayman: Represents the power the Incas have in controlling their population for labor
    • Labor tax allows for considerable manpower to haul the larger stones in place

      • Represents the power of the Incas over its realm

    • This is a citadel built on a hill → Emphasizes Incan power

Image 160: Maize Cobs

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Name

Maize Cobs

Culture

Inka

Date

c. 1440 - 1533 CE

Material

Repoussé on sheet metal & metal alloys

  • Part of a garden in an Incan temple (Qorikancha): Asserted the natural world as an Incan possession → Proclaimed their divine right to rule
    • Qorikancha (Image 159) had a garden of miniature llamas, corn, flowers, and people made of gold and silver

      • The fact that all these figures of natural objects are in the garden emphasizes Incan control over the world & over the cosmos

        • They're made of gold & silver → Emphasizes Incans' wealth​

      • Sometimes give these as offerings to Gods → Symbol of supernatural origin

    • This corn sculpture represents expert metalwork

      • Each individual kernel of corn was carved

Image 161: City of Machu Picchu

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Name

City of Machu Picchu

Location

Central Highlands, Peru

Culture

Inka

Date

c. 1450 - 1540 CE

Material

Granite (architectural complex)

  • Emphasizes the power of the Incan empire, the Incan ruler, and the Incan cosmos
    • A royal estate for the 1st Inca emperor, Pachacuti

    • Had views of the other Andean mountains, which were known to represent spirits or deities → Emphasizes Machu Picchu's spiritual location

    • Represents Incan life, power, and engineering feats

      • Stones are carefully fitted against each other → Earthquake-resistant

      • Terraced agriculture → Provide more food for the population and for rituals

      • System of stone channels to drain water throughout the residences and to the ritual bath of the emperor

    • Had an astronomical observatory next to the emperor’s residence → Emphasized the emperor’s relationship with the cosmos

    • Intihuatana (The Hitching Post of the Sun): This carved boulder was known to track the movement of the Sun to determine when major religious events would take place

      • Emphasizes Incan relations with their cosmos​

    • The Temple of the Sun personifies the Incan cosmos

      • ​Bottom part (hidden from photo) is more like a cave → Represents the underworld

      • Upper part is more open → Represents relationship with the cosmos

        • Has some niches which were used to calculate summer solstice and other astronomical events

Image 162: All-T'oqapu Tunic

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Name

All-T'oqapu Tunic

Culture

Inka

Date

1440 - 1540 CE

Material

Camelid fiber and cotton

  • Represents the power and the resources that the Incan ruler had over his population
    • Obtaining red and blue dye was difficult as it required lots of time and access to rare materials

    • The Incan king collected women known as aclla from all over the empire (who were textile experts) and relocated them to certain textile workshops → Represents the king’s ability to command labor

    • Iconography represents the Incan ruler’s power:

      • T’oqapu are the square motifs that make up the entire tunic

      • Different designs relate to different aspects of Incan society

        • For Example: One pattern shows a black and white chessboard, which references the military → Shows the Incan ruler’s military power

        • The fact that this tunic has all those designs shows that the Incan leader is able to control all aspects of society

Native North American Art

 
  • Often depicts natural objects (such as bison, clouds, etc.) and ancestors because Native Americans (of present-day US & Canada) believed that the nature around them and their ancestors had spiritual power
  • As Europeans were colonizing and forcibly destroying indigenous culture, the Natives promoted different aspects of their culture in an attempt to save it from colonization

Image 163: Bandolier Bag

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Name

Bandolier Bag

Culture

Lenape (Delaware Tribe, Eastern Woodlands)