North America to c. 1500

Learn about the the early peoples and places in the Americas from Alaska to Panama. North America was one of the last continents in the world to be settled by humans. The first clear evidence of human activity in North America are spear heads called Clovis points.

The goal of the eagle warrior was to capture the greatest number of captives, who would then be sacrificed to the Mexica gods. All warriors rose in rank according to the number of captives they acquired.

Eagle Warrior (Mexica)

Codex Borgia
Thirty-three feet long, the Codex Borgia records historical, ritual, mythological, and botanical information.

Codex Borgia

Jade pectoral (with Maya glyphs), c. 1000-600 B.C.E., Olmec, Middle Preclassic period, jadeite, 10.5 x 11 cm, Mexico © Trustees of the British Museum
Jade was a prized material for the Olmec, and their carving has been found throughout Mesoamerica and beyond.

Olmec Jade

The turquoise, shell and other materials used on this mask were collected from the far reaches of the Aztec empire.

Mosaic mask of Tezcatlipoca

This rare survival of a Mesoamerican pre-Hispanic book records the life and times of ruler Eight Deer Jaguar-Claw.

Codex Zouche-Nuttall

Vessels like this are an important source of information about Maya society since few of their books survive.

Maya: The Fenton Vase

Snakes shedding their skin was a powerful metaphor for the Aztecs and is reflected in their pantheon of gods.

Double-headed serpent

Olmec stone mask, c. 900-400 B.C.E. Olmec, greenstone, 13 x 11.3 x 5.7 cm © Trustees of the British Museum
Dress for the job you want, not the one you have: could this mask pendant turn its wearer into a god?

Olmec stone mask

Olmec figurine
Olmec figurines are known for their baby faces, as well as a mixture of feline and human traits.

Olmec figurine

This vessel represents the goggle-eyed deity associated with rain and crops, critical for the agricultural Aztecs.

Tlaloc vessel

This fabulously-dressed mirror-bearer imitates the humans who performed this function in the royal courts.