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The Arts of the Americas collection includes four specialty areas: Pre-Columbian, African, Oceanic, and the Colonial and Independence periods of Latin America.

The pre-Columbian collection is considered one of the best in the United States by national experts and includes examples of Olmec, Preclassic, ritual ballgame figurines, Teotihuacan, Maya, West Mexican, Veracruz, Zapotec, Toltec, Mixtec and Aztec cultures. Click here to see highlights of the Aztlan Collection.

The African collection is currently expanding by gathering high quality examples of the Yorba sculpture tradition.

The Latin American collection highlights the artistic blending of the indigenous cultures found in Central and South America with that of Spain.

Scholar and collector Peter David Joralemon has donated an important Maya ritual ballgame object to honor Snite Museum of Art curator Douglas E. Bradley. It is a well-known sculpture from the Jay C. Leff collection of Allentown, Pennsylvania that depicts one of the Maya Hero Twins as a diving ritual ballplayer.
Late Classic period, A.D. 600-900 Maya  culture, Mexico
Mace head with diving ritual ballplayer in low relief
Late Classic period, A.D. 600-900
Maya culture
4.25 x 3.375 inches
ex col.: Wally and Brenda Zollman, Jay C. Leff
Published: Easby, Elizabeth P., Ancient Art of Latin America from the Collection of Jay C. Leff, New York: Brooklyn Museum of Art, no. 445, pp. 100-01, 1966.
Gift of Peter David Joralemon
in honor of Douglas E. Bradley
This extraordinary object combines the bold Chavin stirrup spout tradition from Peru with Olmec-like excised decoration from Mexico. For decades, scholars have speculated a connection between the Olmec and Chavin worlds because of Olmec style iconography found on Chavin works of art, and because of Chavin style stirrup spout bottles made in the Highlands of Mexico.

Junius Bird, curator of South American Archaeology at the American Museum of Natural History, New York, borrowed the bottle for an exhibition in 1961. In the owner’s catalog, he inscribed, “For Paul Tishman, owner of the finest 3000 year old house ever found in Peru. Junius Bird."

Stirrup spout bottle modeled as a house with a gabled roof
Late Initial-Early Horizon periods, 1200-800 B.C. Chavin culture, Cupisnique style, Peru, slipped and excised earthenware
Stirrup spout bottle modeled as a house with a gabled roof
Late Initial-Early Horizon periods, 1200-800 B.C.
Chavin culture, Cupisnique style
slipped and excised earthenware
9.25 x 5 inches
ex col.: Paul Tishman
Published: Bird, Junius, “Art and Life in Old Peru: An Exhibition.” In Curator Vol. V, No. 2, American Museum of Natural History, Fig. 39, pp. 188-9, 1961.
Purchased with funds provided by
Rebecca Nanovic Lin
This large diameter vessel is a simple, elegant Olmec form without sculptural ornamentation. The external walls are smooth and even, giving the appearance of having been wheel-thrown, but the coil technique was used instead, as was the case with Mesoamerican vessels until the Conquest. As an example of the ceramist’s art, it is superb.

The provenance is extraordinary because when Andre Emmerich, the most important 20th century modern art dealer in New York, sold the vessel to Dr. William Greenspon, Dr. Greenspon kept the receipt, dated November 11, 1966.
Tlatilco, D.F., Mexico
Tecomate with pigment on the interior
Early Preclassic period, 1500-1300 B.C.
Olmec culture
Tlatilco, D.F., Mexico
slipped and pigmented earthenware
6.25 x 4.625 inches
Ex col.: William Greenspon, Andre Emmerich, George Pepper
Published: Krichman, Michael and Eva Ungar Grudin, Ancient American Art: An Aesthetic View, Waltham: Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, no. 5, 1981.
Purchased with funds provided by
Lake Family and Lauck Endowments
This polychrome standing figure is an elegant expression of the human to animal transformation concept prominent in many New World art styles. It represents a shaman transforming into a falcon, while holding important fertility symbols—a severed trophy head and a snake. Its craftsmanship and size are very impressive. The maroon, brick red and orange of the costume create a lively base for other color contrasts of white, gray, brick red and black on the head and eyes. Incising between different colors of slip, found on the head diadem and brow lines, is diagnostic of the Proto-Nazca period.
Standing falcon deity transformation figure holding trophy head Early Horizon-Early Intermediate period, 200 B.C.—A.D. 200, Proto-Nazca culture, Peru
Standing falcon deity transformation figure holding trophy head Early Horizon-Early Intermediate period, 200 B.C.—A.D. 200
Proto-Nazca culture
slipped earthenware
12.125 x 5.625 x 5.625 inches
ex col.: Hans Monheim
Published: Disselhoff, Hans Dietrich, Daily Life in Ancient Peru, New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, p. 120, 1967.
Acquired with funds provided by the 2009 Museum Purchase Fund




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