New archaeological discoveries in America enable us to demonstrate the existence of societies that evolved as early as 3000 B.C. The intervening millennia have seen numerous civilizations arise and disappear again, right up to the time of the arrival of the Europeans.
The rich collections of the Cinquantenaire Museum provide a picture of that multiplicity and offer the visitor a broad survey of the pre-Columbian civilizations. Besides the items from well-know cultures, such as the Mayas, the Aztecs and the Incas, are others that demonstrate the mastery and expertise of anonymous artists from less well-known societies. Furthermore, the variety of materials on which these veritable masterpieces appear shows with what skill these artists were able to handle gold, clay, wood, stone and textiles.
The second section of the ‘America’ collection is devoted to ethnological material, originating from peoples that survived the European conquest. As the last witnesses of the traditions of their pre-Columbian ancestors, those survivors are still producing masterpieces of feather-working or totem poles that keep alive the past of their clan, whether they now live in the Amazon forest or on the Indian reserves of the United States.
Among the items that can be seen are the oldest Inuit kayak in the world, as well as the life-size, terracotta seated figure from El Zapotal in Mexico, the Mochica ceramics from Peru, the wooden Chimu figure and the mummy that gained renown through their depiction in two Tintin albums, the feather finery of the Amazon Indians and so much more.