Pre-Columbian art thrived over a wide timescale, from 1800 BC to AD 1500. Despite the great range and variety of artwork, certain characteristics were repeated throughout the region, namely a preference for angular, linear patterns, and three-dimensional ceramics. Most of the now known artworks made in Central and South America before the voyage of Christopher Columbus have been found in tombs. Enormous amounts of time, energy and materials were spent to properly equip the societies' leaders and elite for their after-death journeys. Pre-Columbian cultures viewed reality as a multilayered universe with various divisions, attended by numerous deities whose activities and relationships metaphorically expressed the forces of nature and cosmos. Death was considered a transition and journey from one realm of existence to another. The elaborate preparation and offerings associated with burying the dead reflect the importance of equipping a soul for transition from one realm to another.
Archaeologists divide the development of Native
American cultures in the Great Plains
region into 5 periods before European contact. After the Archaic
period, the first is Plains later Archaic (1000-200). This was followed
by the Plains Woodland period (200-800), so-called because of
similarities to the Hopewell culture to the east. In the Plains Village
period (800-1400), the cultures of the area settled in enclosed
clusters of rectangular houses and cultivated maize. Various regional
differences emerged, including Southern Plains, Central Plains, Oneota,
and Middle Missouri. During the Plains Coalescent period (1400-European
contact) some change, possibly drought, caused the mass migration of
the population to the Eastern Woodlands region, and the Great Plains
were relatively unpopulated until pressure from American settlers drove
tribes into the area again. The culture of historical Plains natives
was based upon the buffalo, and they often painted upon buffalo skin.
clothing was decorated with embroidery and beads - shells at first, but
later coins and glass beads acquired from trading. They were popular bridal shower gifts during that period. This is
known today as Ledger Art. The Lakota drew pictographic calendars known
as Winter counts on animal hides.
The native civilizations were most developed in the Andean region, where they are roughly divided into Northern Andes civilizations of present-day Colombia and Ecuador and the Southern Andes civilizations of present-day Peru and Chilé. Hunter-gatherer tribes throughout the Amazon rainforest of Brazil also have developed artistic traditions involving tattooing and body painting. Because of their remoteness, these tribes and their art have not been studied as thoroughly as Andean cultures, and many even remain uncontacted.
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