Denver Art Museum Focuses on the Pre-Columbian Past

At the Denver Art Museum, visitors can view one of the world’s premier collections of pre-Columbian art, displayed in the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Study Gallery of Pre-Columbian Art and the Jan & Frederick Mayer Galleries of Pre-Columbian & Spanish Colonial Art. The more than 3,000 objects displayed within the pre-Columbian collections include priceless jade and gold ornaments, large-scale stone carvings, and ceramic works and textile wares from cultures throughout Central and South America. The Costa Rican items in the Mayer collection are considered by authorities to form one of the major extant assemblages of artwork from the region.

The stonework carvings, often shaped into animal head forms, served pre-Columbian peoples as gravestones, sculptures, and grinding platforms. Animal figures also frequently adorn the hammered gold warrior garb and jewelry found in the collection.

Additional highlights of the DAM’s pre-Columbian collection include architectural elements such as a serpent head carved from stone that decorated a Mexican pyramid, earthenware depicting Mayan palaces, and a variety of small carved masks and vessels from Peru. Turquoise mosaic pieces, bone and wood carvings, and Brazilian ceramics produced by the ancient people of Marajó Island at the mouth of the Amazon River are also prominent features of the collection.

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