Archive | pre-Columbian

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The Paradox of the Aztecs

In keeping with Spring, we address the theme of the cycle of life, as reflected in the art and beliefs of the Aztecs. The Aztecs are the ultimate expression of the Meso-American cultural development, and sadly the last, as with the arrival of the Spanish, it was all destroyed, by war and by the diseases they brought with them. We are now beginning to learn that the conquest of the Americas was more the result of disease, rather than the superiority of the Spanish. The paradox of the Aztecs is the contrast between the undeniably high achievement of their civilization and the brutality of their religious rites. They come from a totally different point of view from us, and their art reflects that, with its inescapable focus on human sacrifice. I find their art weirdly and disturbingly fascinating, and I’m sure I’m not alone. The challenge is to try to understand what it meant to them, rather than just our horror of it. What we do know is that this ritualized brutality was believed by […]

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An Olmec Perforator

A look at an Olmec perforator, ritual object, from about 1000 B.C. Carved of green jade and beautifully polished, with a awl like slender pointed end, with double spoon like basins at the other end, it was used in ritual blood letting. Blood sacrifice is particular to the mesoamerican world, and the Olmecs were the mother culture of this region. The Olmec sites are in the low-lying tropical Gulf regions of Veracruz and Tabasco, and are best known for the giant stone heads.

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