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An Ancient World Revealed

Hood opens Costa Rican art exhibition

In a new exhibition, the Hood Museum of Art explores globalization in ancient Costa Rica. On view from February 24 through October 1, Globalization in Ancient Costa Rican Arts showcases the work of a society that left a rich artistic legacy in ceramic and stone.

Costa Rican tripod vessel
This Costa Rican tripod vessel in the form of a frog (1-5000 C.E., maker uknown) is on display at the Hood. Gift of Mrs. Victor M. Cutter, Class of 1930.

The exhibition presents a selection of vessels and figures that helps trace relationships between the peoples of Costa Rica and their neighbors to the north and south. In ancient Costa Rican cultures these objects were used to teach about mythology, religion, and the environment. Today, they help archaeologists reconstruct ancient paths of trade and distribution, revealing that thousands of years ago Costa Rica was already an international culture.

The early peoples of Costa Rica inhabited this small area of Central America for at least 12,000 years, if not much longer. Although they may not have traveled significant distances, their arts suggest that from 1,000 B.C.E. to 500 C.E. cross-cultural contact did play an important part in their development. By the time of the Spanish invasion in the 16th century, distinct local cultures with centers of artistic production and networks of trade were flourishing.

Although the exhibition focuses primarily on ceramic and stone arts from Costa Rica, comparative examples from other regions reveal symbolism and technologies shared with cultures as far north as Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua, and as far south as Panama and Colombia. In their great diversity, these objects demonstrate the capacity of ancient Costa Rican cultures for exchange and communication across long distances.

The exhibition is guest-curated by archaeologist Frederick W. Lange, senior cultural resource manager at LSA Associates, Inc., who will present a free public lecture on April 8 in the Loew Theater at 4:30 p.m. The exhibition was organized by the Hood Museum of Art and is generously funded by the William B. Jaffe and Evelyn A. Hall Fund.

By SHARON REED

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Last Updated: 12/17/08