Pre-Columbian Art Online

June 26 / 2014


Pre-Columbian Art

Free online catalog available to enthusiasts, scholars


Tucson, Arizona –June 25, 2014 – The Tucson Museum of Art announces a free online catalog Pre-Columbian Art. The catalog may be accessed from the Museum website at

Many Pre-Columbian objects are on exhibit in the Museum’s Palice Gallery of Latin American Art. This resource gives scholars and enthusiasts an opportunity to see and read about this substantial collection. For more information please visit our website or call 520-624-2333, extension 104.

The Tucson Museum of Art’s Pre-Columbian collection features nearly 600 objects including jewelry, ceremonial vessels, figurines, masks, sculptures, textiles, and feather arts. Collectively, the works represent approximately 3,000 years of history and 30 cultures spanning Mesoamerica (Mexico south through Central America, today’s Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, and El Salvador), the Intermediate Area (Panama, parts of Costa Rica,  Nicaragua, Venezuela, Colombia, and Ecuador), and Central Andean region (Peru and Bolivia). The aim of this online catalogue is to provide a widely accessible, digital resource to support humanities-based scholarship centered upon the Museum’s permanent collection and to highlight the collection’s diversity and scholarly value.

Included in this catalogue is an analysis by Dr. Alexandre Tokovinine of two significant vessels in the Pre-Columbian collection. Analysis of the imagery on these vessels entailed identifying the nature of the depicted scene and protagonists and comparing this with the available corpus of Classic Maya pottery. The epigraphic analysis includes transcription, transliteration, and translation of the readable sections of the inscriptions. Dr. Tokovinine also examined the style of the imagery and writing and identified a specific stylistic tradition.

Also included in this catalogue is an interpretive essay by Dr. Anna Seiferle-Valencia on the topic of Moche and Nazca ceramic vessels in the permanent collection. Her approach to the interpretation of these vessels, rooted in anthropology and archaeology, addresses the questions of who created these objects, how they were made, and what their iconography tells us about the cultures that produced them. Dr. Seiferle-Valenica also discusses the significance of the objects and individuals depicted in painted scenes and the connections of these representations to broader ideological themes in the Andean world. Additionally, Dr. Seiferle-Valencia contributed an informative essay on Frederick Pleasants, who donated the Museum’s first major gift of Latin American art that serves as the core of the collection. Pleasants, one of the noted “monuments men” who helped to recover the looted art of Europe, moved to Tucson in 1958 to become the first art history professor at the University of Arizona after an early career in the Northeast.

Various highlights of the Pre-Columbian collection are also featured, with images and descriptive text by Rebecca Mountain. Together these essays, images, and texts showcase a major era of the rich cultural heritage of Latin America and provide an unprecedented opportunity for researchers and the general public alike to benefit from the study of one of the most treasured collections of the Tucson Museum of Art.

This project was sponsored in part by a grant from the Arizona Humanities Council.

The Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block connects art to life, inspiring discovery, creativity, and cultural understanding through meaningful, engaging experiences. The Museum is open Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday 10:00 am – 5:00 pm, Thursday 10:00 am – 8:00 pm, and Sunday 12:00 noon – 5:00 pm. The first Sunday of each month is free. The Museum is located at 140 North Main Avenue in historic downtown Tucson, at the crossroads of West Alameda and North Main Avenue.  The Museum also includes a full-service café, five historic houses, public tours, and a Research Library.


The Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block is a private, nonprofit 501(c)(3) charitable arts and educational organization.


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