Ancient America: South American Art

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Prior to the European invasion, South America was the home to many highly developed civilizations. Homo sapiens have lived in South America for at least 15,000 years and possibly longer. By 2000 BCE some highly developed civilizations had emerged in the region. There was a dramatic increase in population during this time and the economies became more dependent on stable, intensive agricultural systems.

The Inka Empire was the dominant state at the time of the Spanish conquest. The Inka had expanded out of their home in Cuzco to control an empire which spread from modern Ecuador in the north to central Chile in the south. The expansion of the Inka Empire began about 1438 and grew by military conquest.

The ancient civilizations of South American are well-known for their metalwork, particularly their work in gold which the Spanish often melted down; their pottery, which includes realistic portrayals of men and women (including men and women engaged in sexual intercourse); and finely woven textiles. Shown below are some of the items from these ancient South American cultures which are on display at the Portland Museum of Art.

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Shown above are clothing pins.