Through February 1, 2015
This exhibition has been co-organized by the National Museum of the American Indian and the Smithsonian Latino Center.
Drawing from more than 17,000 objects in the collections of the National Museum of the American Indian, Cerámica de los Ancestros is a celebration of Central America’s diverse and dynamic ancestral heritage. For thousands of years, Central America has been home to vibrant civilizations, each with unique, sophisticated ways of life, value systems, and arts. The ceramics these peoples left behind, combined with recent archaeological discoveries, help tell the stories of these dynamic cultures and their achievements.
The early histories of Central American cultures follow similar paths. By 1500 BC, people had settled in large villages, where they cultivated, hunted, and gathered wild foods. Maize agriculture supported growing populations, and distinct forms of status, leadership, belief systems, and arts emerged regionally. Social and trade networks connected Central American communities to peoples in South America, Mesoamerica, and the Caribbean, sharing knowledge, technology, artworks, and systems of status and political organization.
Europeans’ arrival brought further changes. Native peoples have often struggled to maintain distinct identities and lifeways, or have merged with dominant cultures. Despite these changes, the legacy of Central America’s civilizations continues to resonate in their descendants’ lives and those of other Central Americans.
Cerámica de los Ancestros looks at seven regions representing distinct Central American cultural areas. These regions are today part of Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama.
Accompanied by an interactive website, a landmark publication, and a full schedule of educational and public programs, Cerámica de los Ancestros represents a pioneering effort by the Smithsonian to promote a better understanding of the creative pre-Contact cultures of Central America while engaging a new Latino audience.
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