Cover image for Pre-Columbian art
Pre-Columbian art
Pasztory, Esther.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge, UK ; New York, NY, USA : Cambridge University Press, 1998.
Physical Description:
176 pages : illustrations (some color), maps ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E59.A7 P39 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
E59.A7 P39 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



When, in the sixteenth century, the Spanish conquistadors defeated the Aztec empire in Mexico and the Inca empire in Peru, their dreams of finding treasure in the New World were amply fulfilled. What they also found was that the Aztecs and the Incas were the latest in a long line of highly civilized peoples to have occupied Mesoamerica and the Andes. In this engaging book, Esther Pasztory describes the very different cultural traditions of these two areas, placing them within their historical and social contexts. Pasztory draws on a vast range of material finds, including monumental sculpture, woven textiles, pottery portrait heads, gold masks, and illustrated codices. She reveals the effects of colonialism on the art, as well as the curious power that Pre-Columbian art has in turn exerted upon Western art, both in the development of art theory and the creation of art works.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

In the manner of previous books on pre-Columbian art, this beautifully illustrated book aims to cover the whole artistic tradition in all its variety. But where previous books dealt with the traditions separately and from archaeological, anthropological, ecological, or stylistic approaches, this book's intent is to compare and contrast the two cultures and use the artistic tradition to unlock some of the elaborate belief systems that inform these cultures. Pasztory (pre-Columbian art history and archaeology, Columbia) has written extensively on pre-Columbian art and architecture. She reveals the effects of colonialism on the art as well as the influence of pre-Columbian art on 20th-century artists. Her intriguing conclusions include speculations on the importance of technology in these cultures and on the existence of two fundamental types of ideology‘one focusing on humans and the other on the cosmos. Highly recommended as a well-written summary and introductory treatment of the subject for public and academic libraries.‘Sylvia Andrews, Indiana State Lib., Indianapolis (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

This book's condensed appearance belies its importance: it focuses on new understandings of the ideological systems that shaped political, historic, social, and aesthetic systems in Mesoamerican and Andean cultures from about 2500 BCE to Spanish conquest in the 16th century CE. Pasztory (art and archaeology, Columbia Univ.) draws on 25 years of research to reflect on historic events and their effects on artistic concepts and expressions, based largely on mythological and ceremonial belief systems. This is not a study of "collections," but an account of distinctive artistic expressions that define principal political, historic, and social periods. Major distinguishing features of the arts, which include architectural structures, stone carvings and statuary (referred to as "cosmic philosophy"), woven textiles, pottery, and metalwork, are presented and comparisons are drawn for similar time periods, covering Olmec to Aztec in Mesoamerica and Chavin de Huantar to Inca for the Andean area. Pasztory stresses that the art of Mesoamerica relates more to the world of people; the art of the Andes deals with the cosmos. Where the art is being "translated," explanations for alternative interpretations are given. A time chart designates local as well as major regional stylistic developments. Archaeological site and prehistoric empire maps; photographs of principal art objects. Upper-division undergraduates through professionals. H. H. Schuster emeritus, Iowa State University

Table of Contents

1 Mesoamerica: man in time
2 An alternative path
3 Eclectic synthesis
4 The Andes: cosmic order in space
5 An alternative path
6 The disappearance of the image