For thousands of years, the southwestern portion of what is now the United States and the Mesoamerican and Andean regions had been inhabited by great civilizations preceded only by the cultures of the ancient Middle East and China. The Art Institute‚Äôs holdings of Amerindian art from 2000 B.C. to A.D. 1492 are widely recognized for their exceptional quality. The collection includes sculpture, ceramics, metalwork, and textiles (which are part of the department of textiles) created by Native Americans, the inhabitants of Teotihuacan, and the Olmec, Maya, and Aztecs of ancient Mesoamerica—the geographical area comprising New Mexico, Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and parts of Honduras and El Salvador. The figurative art of ancient South American Indians, particularly those who lived in the mountainous Andean region of Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia, is well represented in the collection.

Ball Court Panel, A.D. 700/800. Late Classic Maya; Usumacinta River area, Mexico or Guatemala. Ada Turnbull Hertle Fund.