South America

Masks from Lydenburg, 500 AD, South African Museum

Pottery from about 3200 bc has been found at Ecuadorian sites, but the foremost styles appeared in Peru. There, the Chavín style (which reached its height from about 800 bc to about 400 bc), with its jaguar motifs, was succeeded in the Classic period (1st millennium ad) by one of the finest pre-Columbian potteries, that of the Mochica culture of the north coast.

Molded buff-colored vases were painted in red with vivid narrative scenes; portraitlike jars were modeled in relief with great subtlety. Both had the characteristic Peruvian stirrup spout, a hollow handle with a central vertical spout. To the south the Nazca culture produced double-spouted polychrome jars with complex stylized animal motifs.

The later Tiwanaku and Inca polychrome styles were well crafted but were less dazzling. Portrait bottles were unique to the Moche culture of Peru. Produced during the 5th and 6th centuries, they were generally hand built and used a two-colored slip for the glaze. The images represented either warriors or priests. The stirrup-spout was also used on other types of jars and bottles.

  • Masks from Lydenburg, 500 AD, South African Museum
  • Chancay, Peru, 1200-1450 AD, Archeological Museum, Lima.
  • Nasca, Peru, 200 BC-700 AD, Naprstkovo Museum, Prague