The collection managed by this department accounts for almost half of all the pieces held by the Museum, with more than 12,500 objects from different cultural areas and periods in the Americas. Among them, the prehistoric lithics (stone tools) from both North America and Patagonia stand out for their antiquity. In terms of their number and quality, the ceramic collections from Andean and Mesoamerican cultures, as well as the intermediate area, are particularly significant, as are the Museum’s two notable codices (Madrid and Tudela).
Most of these objects come from various scientific expeditions, most notably those collected by Bishop Martínez Compañón in Trujillo (northern coast of Peru, 1782-85) or the expedition of Captain Antonio del Río to the Mayan city of Palenque, Chiapas (Mexico) in 1787.
There are also generous donations of ceramics and other collections made by private individuals such as Rafael Larco and Juan Larrea, as well as institutions such as the governments of Peru, the USA, Mexico and Colombia (such as the Cauca Valley find, known as the Quimbaya Treasure).
At the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century, the collections grew thanks to acquisitions made for major international exhibitions (Americanists Congress, Madrid 1881; Historico-American Exhibition 1892; Seville World’s Fair, 1929) and through purchases of some collections through to the present day.
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