IV
MEXICO AND THE ANDEAN REGION

THE ART STYLES WE ARE CONCERNED WITH HERE ARE THOSE OF THE COUNTRIES FROM THE RIO GRANDE to the south coast of Peru. This is a mountainous region, with the great chain of the Rocky Mountains continuing southward into Middle America and connecting with the Andes of South America. Mexico, Colombia and Peru have plateaus at high altitudes, fringed with mountains and narrow coastal strips on the Pacific side. In Mexico the mountain ranges descend steeply toward the west and more gradually toward the Gulf coast, turning into lowlands in southern Veracruz, Tabasco, Yucatán and in parts of Oaxaca.

Climate everywhere is affected by altitudes as well as by latitude. Mexico combines the characteristics of the northern temperate zone with those of tropical Central and South America. The highlands north and south have moderate temperatures while the coast is hot and humid. In Peru the coast is hot and dry, and in Ecuador it is a tropical jungle. The dry climate preserved the textiles in the burial grounds of the south coast of Peru, and moisture led to their destruction in Mexico.

The natural environment was favorable for grazing and agriculture; cities developed with advanced cultures, in which the arts flourished. Of the varied fauna some animals, like serpents, jaguars, eagles, lizards, crocodiles, frogs and bats, were reflected in the arts. Other species equally spectacular, like butterflies, were hardly represented, and the rich flora was largely ignored as a source for motifs in art. Vegetables like maize or potatoes were used in pottery design in Peru; it was not their natural beauty which inspired the artists, but these plants were useful to man and for that reason were personified as protecting spirits. The fact that plant and insect life were used sparingly where nature was lavish shows how subject matter was limited to certain fields. Nature was not so much a source of inspiration for design as a source of materials for the crafts: feathers for blankets, plant fibers for mats and baskets, cotton for

-157-

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Primitive Art
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 5
  • Introduction 7
  • I - Africa 11
  • II - Alaska and the Pacific Northwest Coast 60
  • III - The United States: Forests, Plains and Deserts 105
  • IV - Mexico and the Andean Region 157
  • V - The South Seas and Australia 265
  • VI - Europe and Africa: Cave Paintings, Carvings and Rock Engravings 313
  • Acknowledgments 365
  • Selected Bibliography 367
  • Index 377
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