Ancient Americas Collection

From Mexico, the Museum is strongest in the cultural material of the Maya, with several painted pottery tripod plates and cylinder vases, an impressive terracotta ceremonial incense burner with the head of a jaguar, several terracotta figurines, a group of chipped eccentric flints, a number of jade and obsidian objects, a stone hacha relating to the Mesoamerican ballgame, almost three dozen stone celts, and two fine stucco sculptures of a portrait head and a seated deity. From western Mexico there are several Colima ceramics, including a well-fed techichi dog, a number of Jalisco and Nayarit figurines, and a sampling of abstracted human figures in stone from the Mezcala culture. There are also two dozen Chupicuaro pottery vessels and a painted ceramic figurine of a standing woman.

Central Mexico is represented by several ceramic and stone objects as well as two important mural fragments from Teotihuacan. Other Mexican items include Preclassic terracottas and Michoacan "gingerbread" figurines, along with objects from the cultures of the Zapotec, Mixtec, Tarascans, and others. A particular strength is the collection of impressive terracotta sculptures from Veracruz on the Gulf Coast that includes a large portrait head, an imposing decorated incense burner, several heads from so-called "laughing boy" figures and a stunning sculpture of the god Xipe Totec wearing the flayed skin of a human victim.

From Costa Rica in Central America the Museum has several stone sculptures of seated shamans and an ornamented grinding platform (metate) along with over twenty painted ceramic vessels, a number of green stone pendants and beads, and two miniature sculptures in gold.

From South America, most of the Museum's holdings originated in Peru. This Peruvian material includes an extensive collection of remarkably-preserved textiles, numbering over 150 examples, and covers a wide range of styles and techniques, mostly from the Paracas, Nazca, and Chancay cultures. A number of these textiles, such as two masks for covering the heads of mummy bundles, employ brightly colored feathers. Aside from the textiles, works of ceramic, stone, wood, shell, bone and metal represent nearly all of the pre-Inca cultures: the Moche, Nazca, Recuay, Vicus, Huari, Chancay, Chimu and Inca.

Ancient Americas

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"I still remember the feeling of awe and disbelief when I was alone and walked in the room with those casts." --Ruth Tofle, chair of architecture, winner of the 2013 distinguished faculty award from the MU Alumni Association