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Ancient American Art

The Saint Louis Art Museum has one of the most comprehensive and distinguished collections of Ancient American art in the United States. Spanning vast chronological and spatial ranges, the collection is comprised of more than 4,500 artworks from the Ancient Americas, including North America, Mesoamerica, Central America, and the Andes. The core of the Ancient American collection was developed through formative gifts from J. Lionberger Davis (1878-1973) during the 1950s, followed by gifts and bequests from Morton D. May (1914–1983). Mr. May's contributions comprise more than three-quarters the entire Ancient American collection.

Mesoamerican art comprises more than half of the Ancient American collection, with areas of particular depth from the earliest cultures of Central Mexico and their Teotihuacan and Aztec successors, the Zapotec of Oaxaca, and the Maya. Highlights of Mesoamerican artworks include a Mixteca-Puebla mosaic jaguar pectoral, a Maya vessel illustrating the ballgame, a wooden Aztec figure depicting Chalchihuitlicue, and a set of eighteen Zapotec architectural fragments. The Museum has an extensive collection of ceramics from West Mexico, including a detailed house model from Nayarit and a grouping of dancers and musicians from Colima.

Ancient art from North America is represented by a number of ceramic vessels from the Southwest, including a figurative Mimbres bowl and a large olla from the Ancestral Pueblo. In addition, the Museum has numerous Mississippian artworks, including a female figure ceramic vessel, a shell mask gorget, and a rare ceramic bottle depicting an underwater panther. Click here to explore additional Native North American art at the Museum.

Singular strengths from the Caribbean or Intermediate Area include a wooden Taino ritual seat (duho) and a Calima gold lime dipper. Andean artworks include a Moche fineline bottle, a Chimú silver disc with images of spondylus shells, and a Wari feather mantle.