Ceramics, Textiles, and Organized States

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The Sican—Goldsmiths of the Northern Coast
Contrasting with the Chimu, Sican civilization comprised a confederation of equal and independent city-states. Study the apparent Moche influence in Sican pyramid building, elaborate burial styles, and extensive human sacrifice. Observe the unique qualities of Sican art in the mastery of metallurgy and stunning ritual objects in ceramic, gold, and…
The Moche—Drugs, Sex, Music, and Puppies
This episode investigates the dramatic iconography seen on Moche ceramics. First, learn about the complex rituals and practices of modern South American shamanism. Then study images on Moche pottery usually interpreted as depicting victory in war, and indications that they actually describe an elaborate culture of shamanic healing.
The Nazca Lines and Underground Channels
The Nazca are yet another South American people of striking accomplishments. Learn about their remarkable irrigation system of underground aquifers, aqueducts, and wells, and their fine polychrome pottery and textiles. Penetrate the mystery of the "Nazca Lines," massive geoglyphs scratched into the earth, which may be the result of ritual…
The Amazon—Civilization Lost in the Jungle
Recent discoveries indicate the presence of massive ancient civilizations in the Amazon. Survey the evidence, starting with the Beni region's elaborate systems of mounds, causeways, and canals. Continue with the Peruvian and Brazilian Amazon, noting wide areas of human-enriched soil, towns ringed by moats, geoglyphs, and pottery dating to 6000…
Paracas—Mummies, Shamans, and Severed Heads
Investigate the fascinating Paracas tombs of the 1st millennium B.C., which contain richly adorned mummies, and grasp the significance of mummification. Study the elaborate iconography of Paracas textiles, the meaning of the supernatural beings they depict, and the practice of head hunting as a means to control the spirits of…
Weaving the Future
Weaving the Future is a video portrait of a unique indigenous community living in the Andean highlands of northern Ecuador. The story of the Otavalo Indians is not a stereotypical tale of "isolated people struggling to survive." Just the opposite. The people of Otavalo have successfully adapted their traditions of…
In Search of the Mayas
An introduction to the geographical area of Mesoamerican culture which gave birth to the pre-Hispanic civilizations of Mexico. Origins and characteristics are discussed: the idea of nature, communication with the gods, the complex theocratic organization and the symbolic nature of their artistic expressions. The cultures of the Olmecs, Mayas, Mixtecs…
South America's Lost Cradle of Civilization
Consider the remarkable evidence for South America as one of the true wellsprings of human civilization. Grasp the diversity of early South American cultures, from the Andean civilizations to the desert and Amazon regions; what these cultures shared; and their extraordinary innovations in agriculture, architecture, handcrafts, social organization, and religion.
Ika Hands - The Ika People of Northern Columbia
In the highlands of Northern Columbia the Ika live a strenuous and isolated life, economically dependent on small gardens and a handful of domestic animals. They are thought to be descendants of the Maya who fled from the turmoil of Central American High Civilization's warring states to the remote valleys…
Early Americas: Resources and Olmecs
Shift your attention to North and South America. These were among the last regions humans would settle, and you follow their progress from nomadic hunter-gatherers to the civilizations that would be defined by geography and available resources, beginning with the Olmecs of what is now Mexico.
Tarahumara: Festival of The Easter Moon
Shot in 1976, but never released, this film is a rare visual document of the Tarahumara - one of the most remote and isolated tribes of the North American continent. Filmed during a gathering at the mission village of Norogachic of northwest Mexico, the nomadic Tarahumara are observed celebrating their…
Chavín and the Rise of Religious Authority
The Peruvian site of Chavin marks the emergence of religion as the focus of public art. Study Chavin's distinctive architecture, with images of its characteristic "fanged deity." Learn about later religious iconography and artifacts at Chavin suggesting that it was the center of a cult that spread to other sites…