The Chilean Museum of Pre-Columbian Art (Español: Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino) in Santiago, Chile is a jewel among the world’s museums and a highlight of any trip to the country. Widely regarded as one of the best museums in Latin America, this unique establishment houses an impressive collection of artifacts from ancient Central and South America, which underscores the rich cultural and artistic diversity of the Pre-Columbian Americas. In this exclusive English language interview, James Blake Wiener, Communications Director at Ancient History Encyclopedia (AHE), takes a tour of the museum with Dr. José Berenguer Rodríguez, Curator at the Chilean Museum of Pre-Columbian Art, who explains the finer points of the museum’s history, organization, and vast collection.
Like the Central Valley of Mexico and the Andes of South America, Central America has been home to dynamic and sophisticated civilizations for thousands of years. A series of distinct cultures left behind remarkable ceramic objects, which attest to considerable wealth, intricate belief systems, and singular artistic achievements. Cerámica de los Ancestros: Central America’s Past Revealed — a bilingual (English/Español) exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in Washington D.C. — explores seven ancient regions of Central America, encompassing modern Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. Examining the vibrancy of Central America’s diverse ancestral heritage with a broad selection of objects, this exhibition also underscores the interconnectedness of Central America’s pre-Columbian peoples with their Mesoamerican, Caribbean, and South American neighbors. In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks to Dr. Alexander V. Benitez, co-curator of the exhibition and director of the Smithsonian Latino Center sponsored Central American Ceramics Research Project (CACRP), about the exceptional artifacts featured in the exhibition.