Pre-Columbian Lecture Notes




I. Two basic guiding ideas:

            1. Latin America is mix of (A) Latin European (Spanish, French, Portuguese), (B) Indian, (C) African

            2. Iberian culture dominates in terms of conquerors, language, religion, cultural patterns, humanities, etc.; from 16th century, Spanish Renaissance and Baroque are primary influence until 20th century (these balanced
ideas will dominate during the course)

II. General notes on Latin American Indians (Native Americans / Indigenous Peoples / First Nations peoples)

            1. More than 100,000,000 Indians in Latin America (2016; See: Charles C. Mann's popular and intelligent discussion of this issue in 1491 (Alfred Knoph, 2005)

            2. Indian majorities in Guatemala, Ecuador, Perú, Bolivia (2016)

            3. Strong Indian minorities in México, Colombia, Venezuela

            4. Mestizo majorities in: Venezuela, Chile, Paraguay, Central America (except Costa Rica)

            5. Native Americans in Patagonia by 14,000 B.C.E. (former traditional theory) or by 32,000 BCE (according to the current Monteverde theory)

            6. Humanities consciousness of Indians in Latin America only during last century.

III. Latin American pre-Columbian civilizations

            1. By 900 C.E., Mayas (Mesoamerica) at height of power

            2. By 1000, Toltecs (central Mexico) at height of power; Mayas shift from Honduras/Guatemala to Yucatán; pre-Inca civilizations in Andes build cities and temples

            3. After 1300, Aztecs and Incas rise

            4. Mayas and Incas had writing systems; Incas on textile knots; Mayas on codices, steles, carved stones, pottery, painted walls, tombs, temples: from Titcaca to Teotihuacan.
            5. There were major and advanced civilizations all over the Americas, from the Bolivian highlands to northern North America.

IV. Basic groups of Indians

            1. Hunting and gathering tribes: East Brazil, Pampas, Patagonia, North America

            2. Tropical forest tribes: Amazon, Brazil lowlands, slopes of Peru, Bolivia: pottery and tools but no permanent buildings

            3. Caribbean tribes: least known pre-Columbian native Americans (killed/died during first contact generation and/or merged with black African slaves)

            4. Andean civilization: Araucanians (Chile), Chibchas (Colombia), Incas (Peru, Ecuador)

            5. Mesoamerica: Central Mexico, Yucatán, Guatemala

V. Pre-Columbian humanities

            1. High value placed on craft skills

            2. Art plus engineering and design

            3. Magico-religious objects in art plus reality (prefigures 20th century Magical Realism)

            4. Culture and humanities: expression of mythic world, which dominated all life

            5. Art: human's relationship to gods; few "periods", "movements"; no constant revision, no constant change (for change's sake); decorative elements always repeated (like medieval Europe)

            6. Most Náhuatl (Aztec) and Quechua (Inca) poetry: theogony (Mexico) or theocracy (Peru)

            7. Art: image (stone or poetry) = god, = thing represented (not just a symbol)

            8. Myth is generally or mainly the only reality

            9. Result: much abstraction; little variations or interpretations (but, realism not absent)

            10. Artists = artist-priests; art practiced by initiates, priests, acolytes

            11. Art for public indoctrination, instruction

            12. Goal of pre-Columbian realism: make invisible visible (roughly akin to Spanish and Latin American baroque art)