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The South Americas

Randy H. Sooknanan

ASAG Journal

July 31, 2020

The South American region is known for its rich cultural heritage, which is manifested in its art history and architecture. We find that Pre-Columbian art and architecture in South America specifically was dominated by the Inca and other indigenous cultures. Inca architecture. With their art in particular, whilst common in the region, we cans see how buildings and adornments were characterized by large, intricately constructed stone buildings and carvings. We can look to the majestic Machu Picchu in Peru as an example. The Inca also created a vast network of roads and bridges connecting their vast empire, which extended from present-day Colombia to Chile. They were quite the architects, engineers and artists. 

During the colonial period, European styles heavily influenced South American architecture. Spanish Baroque architecture is the most prominent style visible in many colonial-era cities such as Cuzco in Peru, Quito in Ecuador, and Cartagena in Colombia. These colonial cities are known for their stunning cathedrals, palaces, and government buildings that combine Renaissance, Gothic, and Moorish styles. In all, the South American region boasts a fascinating history of art and architecture, from its pre-Columbian roots to the present-day. The region's cultural heritage is a melting pot of indigenous, European, and modern influences, creating a unique and diverse artistic legacy.

The Aztecs & Their Sun Stone

The Aztec Sun Stone (Fig 1-4) is a post-classic Mexica sculpture currently housed in the National Anthropology Museum in Mexico City. It is perhaps the most famous of works from Aztec sculpture. Its complex design and very intricate glyphic language reflect that the stone was the product of a highly sophisticated culture.

It consists of 3 separate corresponding calendars interlaced with 3 almanac systems, which are designed to be both linear, temporal and cyclical. Contrary to popular belief, it is not a doomsday clock as the Long Count glyphs portion on it actually repeat indefinitely. The Aztecs used the long count calendar to track the patterns of civilization and celestial movements to determine the future outlook of an upcoming generational cycle.

This 24-ton olivine basalt monolith measures over 3.60 meters across and is 122 centimeters thick. Its naturally greenish color, from the deposits of olivine, has faded due to element exposure. The Artifact was discovered in 1790.

Material: Basalt
Created: Sometime between 1502 and 1520
Discovered: 17 December 1790 at El Zócalo, Mexico City
Culture: Mexica
Period: Post-Classical
Location: Museo Nacional de Antropología (Mexico City)


The Aztecs & Their Sun Stone

Machu Picchu

The historic sanctuary and UNESCO World Heritage Site of Machu Picchu stands 2,430 m above sea-level, in the middle of a tropical mountain forest, in an extraordinarily beautiful setting (Fig 5). It was probably the most amazing urban creation of the Inca Empire at its height; its giant walls, terraces and ramps seem as if they have been cut naturally in the continuous rock escarpments. The natural setting, on the eastern slopes of the Andes, encompasses the upper Amazon basin with its rich diversity of flora and fauna.


Fig 5. Ashim D’Silva randomlies, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Peruvian ceremonial mask


Fig 2. Daderot, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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