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Ancient American Cultures South America. Evidence of Early Inhabitants. Cave Art in Brazil: Carbon dating suggests cave art from NE Brazil is 32,000 years old -- much older than Lascaux and Altamira

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evidence of early inhabitants
Evidence of Early Inhabitants
  • Cave Art in Brazil: Carbon dating suggests cave art from NE Brazil is 32,000 years old -- much older than Lascaux and Altamira
  • LUZIA: The oldest dated skeleton(11,500 years old) from the Americas, this young woman with African features may be part of the first wave of immigrants to South America.
  • Monte Verde: Radiocarbon dating has put people at this campsite in south-central Chile around 12,500 years ago
evidence of early inhabitants1
Evidence of Early Inhabitants
  • Aucilla River, Florida, ca. 10,200 bce: Aucilla River Project website
  • Clovis Culture, ca. 9000 bce
  • North American skeltal remains:
    • Spirit Caveman, ca. 7500 bce
    • Kennewick Man ca. 7300 bce
  • See websites:
    • Nova: “Mystery of the First Americans”
    • Center for the Study of the First Americans

The earliest artwork in North America is a geometric design on an ivory shaft recovered in the Aucilla River

Clovis tools, including spear points with a fluted projectile point, were long considered the Americas' oldest technology until such recent discoveries as Aucilla River.

major south american cultures
Major South American Cultures
  • CHAVÍN ca. 1000-200 bce
  • PARACAS-NAZCA ca. 500 bce-500 ce
  • TIAHUANCO ca. 200 bce-1200 ce
  • MOCHE ca. 100 bce-750 ce
  • INCA 1438-1532 ce


Chavin de Huantar




chavin culture ca 1000 200 bce
Chavin Cultureca. 1000-200 bce

"Of all of the ancient cultures I admire, that of Chavin amazes me the most. Actually, it has been the inspiration behind most of my art" Pablo Picasso

  • Elaborate ceramics, textiles, and sculpted stone found in larger sites throughout much of the Central Andes (modern day Peru) demonstrate a certain level of stylistic unity.
  • Little evidence has been found for the unified, bureaucratic, and military organization typical of evolved states
chav n de huantar
Chavín de Huantar
  • The major ceremonial center of the Chavín
  • 10,000 feet above sea level in the Andes
  • Chavín cult was an all-encompassing, cross-cultural success that spread throughout Peru
    • Animal deities
    • Hallucinogenic rituals
    • Search for religious ecstasy
    • Purification and penance rituals using hot pepper


Feline gods: puma, jaguar

  • Clenched teeth and overlapping fangs
  • Ccao: catlike spirit, roaming the Andes peaks, bringing hail and lightning and destroying crops
chavin metallurgy and textiles
Chavin Metallurgy and Textiles
  • Advances in metallurgy also occurred during the Chavin's reign in Peru:
    • Joining pieces of preshaped metal sheets to form both objects of art and of practicability
    • Soldering and temperature control.
  • Cloth production was revolutionized during the time of Chavin by new techniques and materials through the use of camel hair, textile painting, the dying of camel hair and the "resist" painting style similar to tie-dye
chavin heads
Chavin Heads

Large sculptured heads (some weighing half a ton) and the were-jaguar motif suggest similarities with the contemporary Central American Olmec culture

paracas nazca culture ca 500 bce 500 ce
Paracas-Nazca Cultureca. 500 bce-500 ce
  • Nazca were the cultural descendants of Paracas culture: headhunting fishermen who wove incredibly fine textiles for burial shrouds
  • Nazca burial sites revealed beautiful shrouds, gold ornaments, and feather fans
  • Excellent potters who brilliantly painted their ceramics
  • Practiced trepanning -- head surgery
  • Nazca created massive lines in the desert
nazca pottery
Nazca Pottery



Terracotta musician

tiahuanco ca 200 bce 1200 ce
Tiahuancoca. 200 bce-1200 ce
  • The capital of one of the greatest and most enduring of ancient empires.
  • During the height of its power, the Tiahuanaco empire covered large portions of Bolivia, NW Argentina, N Chile, and S Peru.
  • Remarkable agricultural system: the raised-field system
    • raised planting surfaces separated by small irrigation canals
    • canals retained the heat of the intense sunlight during frosty nights on the Altiplano and kept the crops from freezing
    • Algae and aquatic plants that accumulated in the canals were used as organic fertilizer
  • The religion centred around the cult of a sky and thunder god Viracocha.
  • His attendants were ranking deities in the shapes of cougar, condor, falcon and snake.
  • The deity was generally depicted as having staves in both of his hands and an aureole around his head.
    • Aureole: sun god qualities
    • Staves: suggest ancestry from the nearly thousand years older Chavín sky god in North Peru.
moche ca 100 bce 750 ce
Mocheca. 100 bce-750 ce
  • Pyramid builders -- Pyramids of the Sun and Moon
  • Brilliant ceramic sculptures and pottery
  • Extensive trade networks
  • Authoritarian state with two distinct social classes
    • Ruling nobility
    • Commoners: farmers, fishermen and craftsmen
incan civilization 1438 1532
Incan Civilization1438-1532
  • Heavily indebted to Chimu civilization and the Lords of Chan Chan
  • Master assimilationists
  • Reciprocity: Mutual commitment between state and citizen
  • Mit’a: labor tax
  • Master road builders
  • Gold artifacts
tawantinsuyu land of the four quarters
Tawantinsuyu:Land of the Four Quarters
  • Four roads, which went to the ends of each quarter, no matter how distant, came out of Cuzco; each road bore the name of the suyu to which it ran.
    • 1) Anti-suyu included all the land east of Cuzco
    • 2) Cunti-suyu embraced all the lands west of Cuzco, including the conquered coastal empires, from Chan-Chan through the Rimac
    • 3) Colla-suyu was the largest in extent; located south of Cuzco, it took in Lake Titicaca and regions in Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina.
    • 4) Chincha-suyu contained all the land and tribes which lay to the north, up to Rumichaca.
    • Each quarter was ruled by an apo, or governor, related by blood ties to the Inca
inca 1438 1532

Incan Roads

Inca 1438-1532


in colored knotted cords

Macchu Picchu