Mesoamerica is a historical region and cultural area in North America. It extends from central Mexico through Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and northern Costa Rica, within this region pre-Columbian societies flourished before the Spanish colonization of the Americas. In the 16th century, European diseases like smallpox and measles caused the deaths of upwards of 90% of the indigenous people, it is one of five areas in the world where ancient civilization arose independently, the second in the Americas along with Norte Chico in present-day Peru, in the northern coastal region. As a cultural area, Mesoamerica is defined by a mosaic of cultural traits developed and shared by its indigenous cultures. Beginning as early as 7000 BCE, the domestication of cacao, beans, avocado, vanilla and chili, as well as the turkey and dog, caused a transition from paleo-Indian hunter-gatherer tribal grouping to the organization of sedentary agricultural villages. In the subsequent Formative period and cultural traits such as a complex mythological and religious tradition, a vigesimal numeric system, a complex calendric system, a tradition of ball playing, a distinct architectural style, were diffused through the area.
In this period, villages began to become stratified and develop into chiefdoms with the development of large ceremonial centers, interconnected by a network of trade routes for the exchange of luxury goods, such as obsidian, cacao, Spondylus shells and ceramics. While Mesoamerican civilization did know of the wheel and basic metallurgy, neither of these technologies became culturally important. Among the earliest complex civilizations was the Olmec culture, which inhabited the Gulf Coast of Mexico and extended inland and southwards across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. Frequent contact and cultural interchange between the early Olmec and other cultures in Chiapas and Oaxaca laid the basis for the Mesoamerican cultural area. All this was facilitated by considerable regional communications in ancient Mesoamerica along the Pacific coast; this formative period saw the spread of distinct religious and symbolic traditions, as well as artistic and architectural complexes. In the subsequent Preclassic period, complex urban polities began to develop among the Maya, with the rise of centers such as El Mirador and Tikal, the Zapotec at Monte Albán.
During this period, the first true Mesoamerican writing systems were developed in the Epi-Olmec and the Zapotec cultures, the Mesoamerican writing tradition reached its height in the Classic Maya hieroglyphic script. Mesoamerica is one of only three regions of the world where writing is known to have independently developed. In Central Mexico, the height of the Classic period saw the ascendancy of the city of Teotihuacan, which formed a military and commercial empire whose political influence stretched south into the Maya area and northward. Upon the collapse of Teotihuacán around 600 AD, competition between several important political centers in central Mexico, such as Xochicalco and Cholula, ensued. At this time during the Epi-Classic period, the Nahua peoples began moving south into Mesoamerica from the North, became politically and culturally dominant in central Mexico, as they displaced speakers of Oto-Manguean languages. During the early post-Classic period, Central Mexico was dominated by the Toltec culture, Oaxaca by the Mixtec, the lowland Maya area had important centers at Chichén Itzá and Mayapán.
Towards the end of the post-Classic period, the Aztecs of Central Mexico built a tributary empire covering most of central Mesoamerica. The distinct Mesoamerican cultural tradition ended with the Spanish conquest in the 16th century. Over the next centuries, Mesoamerican indigenous cultures were subjected to Spanish colonial rule. Aspects of the Mesoamerican cultural heritage still survive among the indigenous peoples who inhabit Mesoamerica, many of whom continue to speak their ancestral languages, maintain many practices harking back to their Mesoamerican roots; the term Mesoamerica means "middle America" in Greek. Middle America refers to a larger area in the Americas, but it has previously been used more narrowly to refer to Mesoamerica. An example is the title of the 16 volumes of The Handbook of Middle American Indians. "Mesoamerica" is broadly defined as the area, home to the Mesoamerican civilization, which comprises a group of peoples with close cultural and historical ties. The exact geographic extent of Mesoamerica has varied through time, as the civilization extended North and South from its heartland in southern Mexico.
The term was first used by the German ethnologist Paul Kirchhoff, who noted that similarities existed among the various pre-Columbian cultures within the region that included southern Mexico, Belize, El Salvador, western Honduras, the Pacific lowlands of Nicaragua and northwestern Costa Rica. In the tradition of cultural history, the prevalent archaeological theory of the early to middle 20th century, Kirchhoff defined this zone as a cultural area based on a suite of interrelated cultural similarities brought about by millennia of inter- and intra-regional interaction. Mesoamerica is recognized as a near-prototypical cultural area, the term is now integrated in the standard terminology of pre-Columbian anthropological studies. Conversely, the sister terms Aridoamerica and Oasisamerica, which refer to northern Mexico and the western United States have not entered into widespread usage; some of the significant cultural traits defining the Mesoamerican cultural tradition are: sedentism based on maize agricultu
Art of Europe
The art of Europe, or Western art, encompasses the history of visual art in Europe. European prehistoric art started as mobile Upper Paleolithic rock and cave painting and petroglyph art and was characteristic of the period between the Paleolithic and the Iron Age. Written histories of European art begin with the art of the Ancient Middle East and the Ancient Aegean civilizations, dating from the 3rd millennium BC. Parallel with these significant cultures, art of one form or another existed all over Europe, wherever there were people, leaving signs such as carvings, decorated artifacts and huge standing stones; however a consistent pattern of artistic development within Europe becomes clear only with the art of Ancient Greece and transformed by Rome and carried. The influence of the art of the Classical period waxed and waned throughout the next two thousand years, seeming to slip into a distant memory in parts of the Medieval period, to re-emerge in the Renaissance, suffer a period of what some early art historians viewed as "decay" during the Baroque period, to reappear in a refined form in Neo-Classicism and to be reborn in Post-Modernism.
Before the 1800s, the Christian church was a major influence upon European art, the commissions of the Church, architectural and sculptural, providing the major source of work for artists. The history of the Church was much reflected in the history of art, during this period. In the same period of time there was renewed interest in heroes and heroines, tales of mythological gods and goddesses, great wars, bizarre creatures which were not connected to religion. Most art of the last 200 years has been produced without reference to religion and with no particular ideology at all, but art has been influenced by political issues, whether reflecting the concerns of patrons or the artist. European art is arranged into a number of stylistic periods, which overlap each other as different styles flourished in different areas. Broadly the periods are, Byzantine, Gothic, Baroque, Neoclassical and Postmodern. European prehistoric art is an important part of the European cultural heritage. Prehistoric art history is divided into four main periods: Stone age, Bronze age, Iron age.
Most of the remaining artifacts of this period are cave paintings. Much surviving prehistoric art is small portable sculptures, with a small group of female Venus figurines such as the Venus of Willendorf found across central Europe; the Swimming Reindeer of about 11,000 BCE is one of the finest of a number of Magdalenian carvings in bone or antler of animals in the art of the Upper Paleolithic, though they are outnumbered by engraved pieces, which are sometimes classified as sculpture. With the beginning of the Mesolithic in Europe figurative sculpture reduced, remained a less common element in art than relief decoration of practical objects until the Roman period, despite some works such as the Gundestrup cauldron from the European Iron Age and the Bronze Age Trundholm sun chariot; the oldest European cave art dates back 40,800, can be found in the El Castillo Cave in Spain. Other cave painting sites include Lascaux, Cave of Altamira, Grotte de Cussac, Pech Merle, Cave of Niaux, Chauvet Cave, Font-de-Gaume, Creswell Crags, England, Coliboaia cave from Romania and Magura, Bulgaria.
Rock painting was performed on cliff faces, but fewer of those have survived because of erosion. One well-known example is the rock paintings of Astuvansalmi in the Saimaa area of Finland; when Marcelino Sanz de Sautuola first encountered the Magdalenian paintings of the Altamira cave, Spain in 1879, the academics of the time considered them hoaxes. Recent reappraisals and numerous additional discoveries have since demonstrated their authenticity, while at the same time stimulating interest in the artistry of Upper Palaeolithic peoples. Cave paintings, undertaken with only the most rudimentary tools, can furnish valuable insight into the culture and beliefs of that era; the Rock art of the Iberian Mediterranean Basin represents a different style, with the human figure the main focus seen in large groups, with battles and hunting all represented, as well as other activities and details such as clothing. The figures are rather sketchily depicted in thin paint, with the relationships between the groups of humans and animals more depicted than individual figures.
Other less numerous groups of rock art, many engraved rather than painted, show similar characteristics. The Iberian examples are believed to date from a long period covering the Upper Paleolithic and early Neolithic. Prehistoric Celtic art comes from much of Iron Age Europe and survives in the form of high-status metalwork skillfully decorated with complex and abstract designs using curving and spiral forms. There are human heads and some represented animals, but full-length human figures at any size are so rare that their absence may represent a religious taboo; as the Romans conquered Celtic territories, it entirely vanishes, but the style continued in limited use in the British Isles, with the coming of Christianity revived there in the Insular style of the Early Middle Ages. The Minoan culture is regarded as the oldest civilization in Europe; the Minoan culture existed in Crete and consisted of four periods: Prepala
Great Goddess of Teotihuacan
The Great Goddess of Teotihuacan is a proposed goddess of the pre-Columbian Teotihuacan civilization, in what is now Mexico. In years leading up to 1942, a series of murals were found in the Tepantitla compound in Teotihuacan; the Tepantitla compound provided housing for what appears to have been high status citizens and its walls are adorned with brightly painted frescoes. The largest figures within the murals depicted complex and ornate supernaturals. In 1942, archaeologist Alfonso Caso identified these central figures as a Teotihuacan equivalent of Tlaloc, the Mesoamerican god of rain and warfare; this was the consensus view for some 30 years. In 1974, Peter Furst suggested that the murals instead showed a feminine deity, an interpretation echoed by researcher Esther Pasztory, their analysis of the murals was based on a number of factors including the gender of accompanying figures, the green bird in the headdress, the spiders seen above the figure. Pasztory concluded that the figures represented a vegetation and fertility goddess, a predecessor of the much Aztec goddess Xochiquetzal.
In 1983, Karl Taube termed this goddess the "Teotihuacan Spider Woman". The more neutral description of this deity as the "Great Goddess" has since gained currency; the Great Goddess has since been identified at Teotihuacan locations other than Tepantitla – including the Tetitla compound, the Palace of the Jaguars, the Temple of Agriculture – as well as on portable art including vessels and on the back of a pyrite mirror. The 3-metre-high blocky statue which sat near the base of the Pyramid of Moon is thought to represent the Great Goddess, despite the absence of the bird-headdress or the fanged nosepiece. Esther Pasztory speculates that the Great Goddess, as a distant and ambivalent mother figure, was able to provide a uniting structure for Teotihuacan that transcended divisions within the city; the Great Goddess is peculiar to Teotihuacan, does not appear outside the city except where Teotihuacanos settled. There is little trace of the Great Goddess in the Valley of Mexico's Toltec culture, although an earth goddess image has been identified on Stela 1, from Xochicalco, a Toltec contemporary.
While the Aztec goddess Chalchiuhtlicue has been identified as a successor to the Great Goddess of Teotihuacan, archaeologist Janet Catherine Berlo has suggested that at least the Goddess' warlike aspect was assumed by the Aztec's protector god – and war god – Huitzilopochtli. The wresting of this aspect from the Great Goddess was memorialized in the myth Huitzilopochtli, who slew his sister Coyolxauhqui shortly after his birth. Berlo sees echoes of the Great Goddess in the veneration of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Defining characteristics of the Great Goddess are a bird headress and a nose pendant with descending fangs. In the Tepantitla and Tetitla murals, for example, the Great Goddess wears a frame headdress that includes the face of a green bird identified as an owl or quetzal, a rectangular nosepiece adorned with three circles below which hang three or five fangs; the outer fangs curl away from the center. She is always seen with jewelry such as beaded necklaces and earrings which were worn by Teotihuacan women.
Her face is always shown frontally, either masked or covered, her hands in murals are always depicted stretched out giving water, seeds,and jade treasures. Other defining characteristics include the colors yellow. In the depiction from the Tepantitla compound, the Great Goddess appears with vegetation growing out of her head hallucinogenic morning glory vines or the world tree. Spiders and butterflies appear on the vegetation and water drips from its branches and flows from the hands of the Great Goddess. Water flows from her lower body; these many representations of water led Caso to declare this to be a representation of the rain god, Tlaloc. Below this depiction, separated from it by two interwoven serpents and a talud-tablero, is a scene showing dozens of small human figures wearing only a loincloth and showing a speech scroll. Several of these figures are swimming in the criss-crossed rivers flowing from a mountain at the bottom of the scene. Caso interpreted this scene as the afterlife realm of Tlaloc, although this interpretation has been challenged, most by María Teresa Uriarte, who provides a more commonplace interpretation: that "this mural represents Teotihuacan as prototypical civilized city associated with the beginning of time and the calendar".
The Great Goddess is thought to have been a goddess of the underworld, the earth, water and even creation itself. To the ancient civilizations of Mesoamerica, the jaguar, the owl, the spider were considered creatures of darkness found in caves and during the night; the fact that the Great Goddess is depicted with all of these creatures further supports the idea of her underworld connections. In many murals, the Great Goddess is shown with many of the scurrying arachnids in the background, on her clothing, or hanging from her arms, she is seen with shields decorated with spider webs, further suggesting her relationship with warfare. The Great Goddess is shown in paradisial settings, giving gifts. For example, the mural from Tepantitla shows water dripping from her hands while in the tableau under her portrait mortals swim, play ball, dance; this seeming gentleness is in contrast to similar Aztec deities such as Cihuacoatl
The Pre-Columbian era incorporates all period subdivisions in the history and prehistory of the Americas before the appearance of significant European influences on the American continent, spanning the time of the original settlement in the Upper Paleolithic period to European colonization during the Early Modern period. While the phrase "pre-Columbian era" refers only to the time preceding Christopher Columbus's voyages of 1492, in practice the phrase is used to denote the entire history of indigenous Americas cultures until those cultures were exterminated, diminished, or extensively altered by Europeans if this happened decades or centuries after Columbus's first landing. For this reason the alternative terms of Precontact Americas, Pre-Colonial Americas or Prehistoric Americas are in use. In areas of Latin America the term used is Pre-Hispanic. Many pre-Columbian civilizations established hallmarks which included permanent settlements, agriculture and monumental architecture, major earthworks, complex societal hierarchies.
Some of these civilizations had long faded by the time of the first permanent European colonies and the arrival of enslaved Africans, are known only through archaeological investigations and oral history. Other civilizations were contemporary with the colonial period and were described in European historical accounts of the time. A few, such as the Maya civilization, had their own written records; because many Christian Europeans of the time viewed such texts as heretical, men like Diego de Landa destroyed many texts in pyres while seeking to preserve native histories. Only a few hidden documents have survived in their original languages, while others were transcribed or dictated into Spanish, giving modern historians glimpses of ancient culture and knowledge. Indigenous American cultures continue to evolve after the pre-Columbian era. Many of these peoples and their descendants continue traditional practices while evolving and adapting new cultural practices and technologies into their lives.
Before the development of archaeology in the 19th century, historians of the pre-Columbian period interpreted the records of the European conquerors and the accounts of early European travelers and antiquaries. It was not until the nineteenth century that the work of men such as John Lloyd Stephens, Eduard Seler and Alfred P. Maudslay, of institutions such as the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology of Harvard University, led to the reconsideration and criticism of the European sources. Now, the scholarly study of pre-Columbian cultures is most based on scientific and multidisciplinary methodologies. Asian nomads are thought to have entered the Americas via the Bering Land Bridge, now the Bering Strait and along the coast. Genetic evidence found in Amerindians' maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA supports the theory of multiple genetic populations migrating from Asia. Over the course of millennia, Paleo-Indians spread throughout South America; when the first group of people migrated into the Americas is the subject of much debate.
One of the earliest identifiable cultures was the Clovis culture, with sites dating from some 13,000 years ago. However, older sites dating back to 20,000 years ago have been claimed; some genetic studies estimate the colonization of the Americas dates from between 40,000 and 13,000 years ago. The chronology of migration models is divided into two general approaches; the first is the short chronology theory with the first movement beyond Alaska into the Americas occurring no earlier than 14,000–17,000 years ago, followed by successive waves of immigrants. The second belief is the long chronology theory, which proposes that the first group of people entered the hemisphere at a much earlier date 50,000–40,000 years ago or earlier. Artifacts have been found in both North and South America which have been dated to 14,000 years ago, accordingly humans have been proposed to have reached Cape Horn at the southern tip of South America by this time. In that case, the Eskimo peoples would have arrived separately and at a much date no more than 2,000 years ago, moving across the ice from Siberia into Alaska.
The North American climate was unstable. It stabilized by about 10,000 years ago. Within this time frame pertaining to the Archaic Period, numerous archaeological cultures have been identified; the unstable climate led to widespread migration, with early Paleo-Indians soon spreading throughout the Americas, diversifying into many hundreds of culturally distinct tribes. The Paleo-Indians were hunter-gatherers characterized by small, mobile bands consisting of 20 to 50 members of an extended family; these groups moved from place to place as preferred resources were depleted and new supplies were sought. During much of the Paleo-Indian period, bands are thought to have subsisted through hunting now-extinct giant land animals such as mastodon and ancient bison. Paleo-Indian groups carried a variety of tools; these included distinctive projectile points and knives, as well as less distinctive implements used for butchering and hide processing. The vastness of the North American continent, the variety of its climates, vegetation and landforms, led ancient peoples to coalesce into many distinct linguistic and cultural groups.
This is reflected in the oral histories of the indigenous peoples, described by a wide range of traditional creation stories which say that a given people have been living in a certain territory since the creation of the world. Over the course of thousands of years, paleo-Indian
Cacaxtla is an archaeological site located near the southern border of the Mexican state of Tlaxcala. It was a sprawling palace containing vibrantly colored murals painted in unmistakable Maya style; the nearby site of Xochitecatl was a more public ceremonial complex associated with Cacaxtla. Cacaxtla and Xochitecatl prospered 650-900 CE controlling important trade routes through the region with an enclave population of no more than 10,000 people. Cacaxtla was the capital of region inhabited by the Olmeca-Xicalanca people; the origins of the Olmeca-Xicalanca are not known with certainty, but they are assumed to come from the Gulf coast region, were Maya settlers who arrived in this part of central Mexico around 400 CE. The term "Olmeca-Xicalanca" was first mentioned by Tlaxcalan historian Diego Muñoz Camargo at the end of the 16th century; this historian described Cacaxtla as the principal settlement of the “Olmeca”, although what we today refer to as the Olmec culture ended ~400 BCE, 800 years earlier.
After the fall of the nearby city Cholula — in which the Cacaxtlecas might have been involved — Cacaxtla became the hegemonic power in this part of the Tlaxcala–Puebla valley. Warriors from Cacaxtla appear to have taken over Cholula for a time, but they were expelled by the Toltecs, its ascendancy came to an end around 900 CE and, by 1000, the city had been abandoned. The site was rediscovered in 1974 by looters, but came to the attention of archaeologists that same year. Archaeologists Eduardo Merlo Juárez, Diana Lopez-Sotomayor and Daniel Molina-Feal dedicated over six years of their life excavating the site; the first work to be done in the area consisted on clearing the original tunnel opened by the looters, Archeologist Diana Lopez-Sotomayor appointed project manager, recalled her first view of the life-sized characters depicted in the murals as an overwhelming experience. As further figures appeared on the mural, the area of excavation had to be enlarged and several constructive stages were discovered.
The first area to be excavated was the main mural, known as the "Gran Basamento", the immediate purpose of the work was to protect and secure the murals and other structures from the weather and looters. The centre of the city of Cacaxtla was the 200-metre-long, 25-metre-high Gran Basamento – a natural platform offering a fine defensive position and commanding views over the surrounding terrain; the city's main religious and civil buildings were located on this platform, as were the residences of the priest class. Several other smaller pyramids and temple bases stand in the vicinity of the main platform; because Cacaxtla's main basamento was not excavated until the 1980s, many of the original coloured wall decorations have been preserved and can be appreciated in situ by visitors to the site. Of particular interest is the fact that most of the murals seem to combine the symbology of Altiplano cultures with influences from the Maya, making Cacaxtla unique in this regard; the most famous of Cacaxtla's preserved paintings is the "Battle Mural", or Mural de la batalla, located in the northern plaza of the basamento.
Dating from prior to 700, it is placed on the sloping limestone wall of a temple base and is split in two by a central staircase. It depicts two groups of warriors locked in battle: on the one side are jaguar warriors, armed with spears, obsidian knives, round shields, who are locked in battle with an army of bird warriors. Cacaxtla conserves the oldest mural painting featuring a human figure and symbols from other cultures; these paintings portray the bird man and the feline man ruler - priests of the Olmecs Xicalancas who inhabited Cacaxtla between the years 600 and 900 AD. The bird man is associated with Quetzalcoatl, the generous deity who taught people the arts and agriculture; the feline man is associated with the rains. The Venus Temple, located underneath the roof contains two murals on two columns of two figures. On the right column, there is a male figure with a mask covering his face, he has a scorpion tail. On the left, a fragment of the other figure is visible representing a woman with a skirt bearing a Venus symbol.
The presence of Venus on the garments of the figures and their representation around both of them indicate that the murals allude to some astronomical phenomenon or calendrical data associated with the planet Venus, which at that time was related to warfare and sacrifice. The Mural del Templo Rojo is located at the Governors' Room, it is located in the staircase leading to the room, only one side is visible to the public. The other side of the staircase is not facing a public walkway, but is displayed as a reproduction in the corresponding museum building; the archaeological site is maintained by the government's National Institute of Anthropology and History and is open Tuesday to Sunday, from 8:00 to 17:30. The admission is 75 MXN on weekdays, free on Sunday for Mexican Nationals. Permission to record videos costs another $50 MXN. Another nearby site associated with Cacaxtla is Xochitecatl, a more public ceremonial complex. Xochitecatl, a neighbouring archaeological site 1 km to the west. Cacaxtla at INAH Proyecto La pintura mural prehispánica en México, UNAM Tour by Mexico INAOEP 3D models of several panels
Pre-Columbian art refers to the visual arts of indigenous peoples of the Caribbean, North and South Americas until the late 15th and early 16th centuries, the time period marked by Christopher Columbus' arrival in the Americas. Pre-Columbian art thrived throughout the Americas from at least 13,000 BCE to the European conquests, sometimes continued for a time afterwards. Many Pre-Columbian cultures did not have writing systems, so visual art expressed cosmologies, world views and philosophy of these cultures, as well as serving as mnemonic devices. During the period before and after European exploration and conquest of the Americas, indigenous native cultures produced a wide variety of visual arts, including painting on textiles, hides and cave surfaces, bodies faces, architectural features including interior murals, wood panels, other available surfaces. For many of these cultures, the visual arts went beyond physical appearance and served as active extensions of their owners and indices of the divine.
Artisans of the Ancient Americas drew upon a wide range of materials, creating objects that included the meanings held to be inherent to the materials. These cultures derived value from the physical qualities, rather than the imagery, of artworks, prizing aural and tactile features, the quality of workmanship, the rarity of materials. Various works of art have been discovered large distances from their location of production, indicating that many Pre-Columbian civilizations collected items from other cultures or previous cultures. Moreover, many societies used raw materials not available in the geographic location in which they were situated, suggesting difficulty of acquisition as a source of value. Many of the perishable surfaces, such as woven textiles have not been preserved, but Precolumbian painting on ceramics and rocks have survived more frequently; the Mesoamerican cultures are divided into three periods: Pre-classic Classic Post-classic. The Pre-classic period was dominated by the developed Olmec civilization, which flourished around 1200–400 BCE.
The Olmecs produced jade figurines, created heavy-featured, colossal heads, up to 2 meters high, that still stand mysteriously in the landscape. The Mesoamerican tradition of building large ceremonial centres appears to have begun under the Olmecs. During the Classic period the dominant Civilization was the Maya. Maya royalty commissioned artwork that commemorated their achievements and secured their place in time. Scenes depicting various rituals and historical events are embedded with hieroglyphic text to enable the viewer to identify the important figures and places instead of relying upon physical features that could be forgotten over time; the interpretation of the actions represented in the artwork goes hand in hand with understanding the decorative text, woven into the picture. Unlocking this hieroglyphic text is vital as it removes anonymity and mystery from the scenes and reveals detailed records of those who held power throughout the timeline of the civilization. Like the Mississippian peoples of North America such as the Choctaw and Natchez, the Maya organized themselves into large, agricultural communities.
They practised their own forms of hieroglyphic writing and advanced astronomy. Mayan art focuses on rain and fertility, expressing these images in relief and surface decoration, as well as some sculpture. Glyphs and stylized figures were used to decorate architecture such as the pyramid temple of Chichén Itzá. Murals dating from about 750 CE were discovered when the city of Bonampak was excavated in 1946; the Post-classic period was dominated by the Toltecs who made colossal, block-like sculptures such as those employed as free-standing columns at Tula, Mexico. The Mixtecs developed a style of painting known as Mixtec-Puebla, as seen in their murals and codices, in which all available space is covered by flat figures in geometric designs; the Aztec culture in Mexico produced some expressive examples of Aztec art, such as the decorated skulls of captives and stone sculpture, of which Tlazolteotl, a goddess in childbirth, is a good example. In the Andean region of South America, the Chavín civilization flourished from around 1000 BCE to 300 BCE.
The Chavín produced small-scale pottery human in shape but with animal features such as bird feet, reptilian eyes, or feline fangs. Representations of jaguar are a common theme in Chavín art; the Chavin culture is noted for the spectacular murals and carvings found its main religious site of Chavín de Huantar. Contemporary with the Chavin was the Paracas culture of the southern coast of Peru, most noted today for their elaborate textiles; these amazing productions, some of which could measure ninety feet long, were used for as burial wraps for Paracas mummy bundles. Paracas art was influenced by the Chavín cult, the two styles share many common motifs. On the south coast, the Paracas were succeeded by a flowering of artistic production around the Nazca river valley; the Nazca period is divided into eight ceramic phases, each one depicting abstract animal and human motifs. These period range from Phase 1, beginning around 200 CE, to Phase 8, which declined in the middle of the eighth century; the Nasca people are most famous for the Nazca Lines, though they are regarded as making some of the most beautiful polychrome ceramics in the Andes
South America is a continent in the Western Hemisphere in the Southern Hemisphere, with a small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. It may be considered a subcontinent of the Americas, how it is viewed in the Spanish and Portuguese-speaking regions of the Americas; the reference to South America instead of other regions has increased in the last decades due to changing geopolitical dynamics. It is bordered on the west on the north and east by the Atlantic Ocean, it includes twelve sovereign states, a part of France, a non-sovereign area. In addition to this, the ABC islands of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and Tobago, Panama may be considered part of South America. South America has an area of 17,840,000 square kilometers, its population as of 2016 has been estimated at more than 420 million. South America ranks fourth in fifth in population. Brazil is by far the most populous South American country, with more than half of the continent's population, followed by Colombia, Argentina and Peru. In recent decades Brazil has concentrated half of the region's GDP and has become a first regional power.
Most of the population lives near the continent's western or eastern coasts while the interior and the far south are sparsely populated. The geography of western South America is dominated by the Andes mountains. Most of the continent lies in the tropics; the continent's cultural and ethnic outlook has its origin with the interaction of indigenous peoples with European conquerors and immigrants and, more locally, with African slaves. Given a long history of colonialism, the overwhelming majority of South Americans speak Portuguese or Spanish, societies and states reflect Western traditions. South America occupies the southern portion of the Americas; the continent is delimited on the northwest by the Darién watershed along the Colombia–Panama border, although some may consider the border instead to be the Panama Canal. Geopolitically and geographically all of Panama – including the segment east of the Panama Canal in the isthmus – is included in North America alone and among the countries of Central America.
All of mainland South America sits on the South American Plate. South America is home to Angel Falls in Venezuela. South America's major mineral resources are gold, copper, iron ore and petroleum; these resources found in South America have brought high income to its countries in times of war or of rapid economic growth by industrialized countries elsewhere. However, the concentration in producing one major export commodity has hindered the development of diversified economies; the fluctuation in the price of commodities in the international markets has led to major highs and lows in the economies of South American states causing extreme political instability. This is leading to efforts to diversify production to drive away from staying as economies dedicated to one major export. South America is one of the most biodiverse continents on earth. South America is home to many interesting and unique species of animals including the llama, piranha, vicuña, tapir; the Amazon rainforests possess high biodiversity, containing a major proportion of the Earth's species.
Brazil is the largest country in South America, encompassing around half of the continent's land area and population. The remaining countries and territories are divided among three regions: The Andean States, the Guianas and the Southern Cone. Traditionally, South America includes some of the nearby islands. Aruba, Curaçao, Trinidad and the federal dependencies of Venezuela sit on the northerly South American continental shelf and are considered part of the continent. Geo-politically, the island states and overseas territories of the Caribbean are grouped as a part or subregion of North America, since they are more distant on the Caribbean Plate though San Andres and Providencia are politically part of Colombia and Aves Island is controlled by Venezuela. Other islands that are included with South America are the Galápagos Islands that belong to Ecuador and Easter Island, Robinson Crusoe Island, Chiloé and Tierra del Fuego. In the Atlantic, Brazil owns Fernando de Noronha and Martim Vaz, the Saint Peter and Saint Paul Archipelago, while the Falkland Islands are governed by the United Kingdom, whose sovereignty over the islands is disputed by Argentina.
South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands may be associate