Pre-Columbian art derives from the visual art produced by the indigenous cultures of the islands of the Caribbean, Central, North and South Americas, up until the period marked by the arrival of Christopher Columbus.
The native peoples produced a wide range of visual arts including rock and cave art, ceramics, interior murals, sculptural faces and large architectural monuments. The term “Mesoamerica” describes a cultural region in the Americas of which many pre-Columbian societies flourished. Mesoamerica is synonymous with Central America while its cultures can be divided into three phases: Pre-classic, Classic and Post-classic.
The art of the pre-Classic period, c1200 – 400, featured colossal heads of up to two meters high, in which the dominating Olmec civilisation of this period were responsible for establishing the Mesoamerican tradition of erecting large ceremonial centres. Between c200-900, the Maya civilisation dominated the art of the Classic period. Mayan art can be identified through its relief and surface decoration, which incorporated imagery and motifs to represent agriculture and fertility. The Post-classic period, c900-1580, brought colossal block-like sculptures and many figural paintings (of geometric pattern arrangements) along with masks, clay, stone and wood sculpture.
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