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.