The artwork explored in this lesson dates between 200 AD and 700 AD, as highlighted on the timeline below, and comes from Bolivia and Peru. These are two modern-day, neighboring countries that are part of the continent of South America.
Historically, the South American cultures covered in this lesson are older than the Mesoamerican cultures of the Olmec and Maya. The South American indigenous cultures of the Nazca, Moche, and Tiwanaku were settled in the Andean high country in modern-day Peru and Bolivia.
The Nazca are probably best remembered for their land images or Nazca line images. These line images were made by drawing relatively wide paths in the earth, and then removing the darker stones from the Nazca plain where they were made, in order to reveal the lighter stone and soil beneath. While the true purpose of these drawings still remains somewhat of a mystery, theories include possible ritualistic processions along the lighter paths or a possible symbolic mapping system with a religious purpose.
EXAMPLEBelow is an example of a line drawing of a monkey.
At first glance, the above image might appear to be a cave drawing or a painting. However, it is an aerial view of a very large land drawing or geoglyph.
The Moche were another culture that flourished in the northern parts of Peru. This culture included expert ceramic artists, and kept extensive informational records on their ceramics.
EXAMPLEThis portrait bottle below is an example of their skill with ceramics, and depicts what may be a warrior or a ruler:
The above is an impressive example of the level of detail and realism that the artists were able to achieve.
The indigenous civilizations of this area were also accomplished metalworkers.
EXAMPLEHere is an example of ear ornaments in gold and semi-precious stone from Sipán, Peru:
This is another impressive example of the attention to detail that these artists had. Each tiny piece would have been independently cut, shaped, and applied on a miniature scale. These were found with an assortment of other funerary items in a tomb of a warrior priest in Sipán.
The Tiwanaku civilization existed for almost 1,000 years in and around southern Peru, Bolivia, and northern Chile. The monolithic gateway of the sun has today been moved from its original location, but is a rather large block of carved stone with a central doorway. Above it is a carved relief depicting a deity, possibly a sun or sky deity, with rays emanating from his head.
EXAMPLEBelow is an image of the monolithic gateway of the sun.
Notice the puma. The puma was the largest predatory animal in this region, and would have been a symbol of power. There are smaller attendant figures beneath him. The entire piece would have originally been elaborately decorated, the deity in gold and turquoise inlay, and the lower reliefs in colorful paint.
EXAMPLEThis is an example of a Tiwanakuan stela sculpture, which contrasts noticeably with the realism of the Moche portrait bottle shown previously in this lesson.
This is a very boxy, stylized depiction of an individual rendered in shallow relief. Its discovery in a temple and the fact that it appears to be holding some sort of tablet may suggest that it served some sort of religious function or simply as a marker to the entrance of a sacred structure.