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Ancient Americas

In 1911, Henry Walters purchased almost 100 gold artifacts from the Chiriqui region of western Panama, creating a core collection of ancient American art. Now strengthened by long-term loans and generous gifts from private collectors, the Ancient American collection features exceptional works of art from Central and South America, including masterpieces from the Mesoamerican Olmec, Aztec, and Maya cultures, as well as the Moche and Inca peoples of eastern South America.

The artworks revolve around a core set of themes, including agricultural fertility, the role of the ruler in forging a bond between the natural and supernatural realms, and the practice of shamanism, which included the ritual of uniting with an animal spirit.

Most of the objects, made of gold, jade, turquoise, shell, or clay, were found in tombs, intended to equip the deceased for his journey to the next world. The ancient American art collection includes extraordinary sculptures, masks, game objects, figurative and painted vases, as well as gold jewelry and ritual works. The installation is especially strong in objects from Mesoamerica (including present-day Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and Honduras, the Intermediate Area of Central America and northern Colombia), and the Andean civilizations of Ecuador and Peru. The collection provides a comprehensive overview of the enormous variety of artistic expression from these regions.

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Image for Stirrup-spout Vessel with Ridged Surface

Stirrup-spout Vessel with Ridged Surface

Cupisnique Artist
1200-500 BCE (Early Horizon-Early Intermediate)
48.2861
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Image for Feline-and-Cactus Stirrup Vessel

Feline-and-Cactus Stirrup Vessel

Cupisnique Artist
1200-500 BCE (Early Horizon-Early Intermediate)
48.2832
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Image for Stirrup spout vessel with supernatural being's head

Stirrup spout vessel with supernatural being's head

Cupisnique Artist
1200-500 BCE (Initial Period-Early Horizon)
48.2830
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Image for Spouted Vessel with Carved Designs

Spouted Vessel with Carved Designs

Cupisnique Artist
1200-500 BCE (Early Horizon-Early Intermediate)
48.2829
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Image for Manioc Effigy Bottle

Manioc Effigy Bottle

Cupisnique Artist
1200-500 BCE (Late Initial-Early Horizon)
2009.20.101
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Image for Head from Female Figure

Head from Female Figure

1200-900 BC (Early Formative)
2009.20.183
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Image for Mask

Mask

n.d.
2009.20.129
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Image for Standing Figure

Standing Figure

n.d.
2009.20.125
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Image for Head from a Figure

Head from a Figure

Olmec Artist
1200-900 BC (Early Formative)
2009.20.185
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Image for Standing Figure

Standing Figure

n.d.
2009.20.124
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Image for Zoomorph Effigy

Zoomorph Effigy

Chorrera Artist
1200-300 BC (?)
2009.20.120
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Image for Effigy Celt

Effigy Celt

n.d.
2009.20.119
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Image for Effigy Bowl

Effigy Bowl

Chorrera Artist
1200-300 BC
2009.20.117
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Image for Chirimoya Effigy Bottle

Chirimoya Effigy Bottle

Cupisnique Artist
1200-500 BCE (Late Initial-Early Horizon)
2009.20.158
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Image for Forearm Effigy Pendant

Forearm Effigy Pendant

n.d.
2009.20.276
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Image for Ritual Celt

Ritual Celt

Olmec Artist
1200-600 BC (Early-Middle Formative)
2009.20.288
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Image for Female Figure

Female Figure

Mexican Artist
1200-900 BC (Early Formative)
2009.20.52
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Image for Female Figure

Female Figure

Mexican Artist
1200-900 BC (Early Formative)
2009.20.50
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Image for Infantile Figure

Infantile Figure

Olmec Artist
1200-900 BC (Early Formative)
2009.20.64
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Image for Standing Figure

Standing Figure

Chavín Artist
900-200 BC (Initial Period-Early Horizon)
48.2850
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Image for Pectoral (Ritual Object)

Pectoral (Ritual Object)

n.d.
2009.20.229
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Image for Ballplayer Figure

Ballplayer Figure

Olmec Artist
900-600 BC (Middle Formative)
2009.20.228
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Image for Tripod Dish

Tripod Dish

Olmec Artist
900-600 BC (Middle Formative)
2009.20.220
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Image for Standing Female Figure

Standing Female Figure

900-600 BC (Middle Formative)
2009.20.253
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Image for Avian Effigy Vessel

Avian Effigy Vessel

Chorrera Artist
ca. 800-400 BC (Formative)
48.2772
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Image for Mask

Mask

Sultepec Artist
ca. 600-300 BC (Late Formative)
29.4
On view
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Image for Hunchback Figure

Hunchback Figure

Mexican Artist
600-300 BC (Formative)
29.5
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Image for Stirrup-spout Bottle

Stirrup-spout Bottle

Tembladera Artist
600-200 BC
2009.20.96
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Image for Human Effigy

Human Effigy

n.d.
2009.20.299
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Image for Effigy Celt

Effigy Celt

n.d.
2009.20.159
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Image for Mask

Mask

n.d.
2009.20.127
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Image for Effigy Celt

Effigy Celt

n.d.
2009.20.157
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